Every auction committee has a challenge. Whether they are working to set a fundraising record or seat more guests than last year, there is room to get creative. An auction’s theme can set the mood for fun while still being functional. At the same time, a theme can whew guests and tow the line with the budget.
My team works between 40 and 50 fundraising auctions a year, so I see my share of great themes. There is a staple in the theme department: Venetian. Recently I worked an event that pulled together money and banking. Both themes may inspire you as you put the polishing details on theme for your charity auction.
Using masks as centerpieces and as décor at benefit auctions: Venetian theme is a staple for charity galas
A Venice theme is popular for fundraising auctions. The imagery of the city is perhaps most closely associated with its famous canals, followed by its infamous Carnival.
As canals are harder to build into a benefit auction theme, I most often see Carnival masks. Masks are festive elements to use, easily portable, and come in a range of price points.
A gala can set the tone for a Venetian theme on invitations using masks in the design or by using the colors of Carnival, green, gold and silent auction ideas purple. Masks can then become the entire décor at the venue appearing in all these locations.
– Direction finders in a larger venue with multiple ballrooms
– Stairways and banisters
– Registration table
– The bar
– Buffet tables
– Dessert tables
– Dining tables as centerpieces
– Silent auction tables
– On stage as decorations
– Party favors that traditionally come with a stick to hold the masks to guests’ eyes
At a non-profit fundraising auction, Venice took center stage again. This time, the venue was the Ritz-Carlton and the masks matched the more upscale location. This non-profit opted to use the masks in a variety of ways. For instance, in addition to serving as decor elements throughout the venue, they were incorporated into the centerpieces during the dinner auction.
A school hosting a Venetian-themed benefit auction had both hand-crafted and purchased masks which looked lovely. Not only were they used on the silent auction tables in the transformed gymnasium, but they were also functional when used as non-floral centerpieces, made by the kids!
Charity auction theme idea: Money and Banking
Each year, one of our clients conducts an auction fundraiser roast of a well-known local figure. The theme represents the personality and profession of the one to be roasted.
In this case, the honoree (i.e. the one to be roasted) was a banker, so the theme and charity auction decor followed a button-up conservative tone, as seen in these visuals.
The invitation was sent loose-leaf, but held together by a gift (an engraved money clip) to all those invited.
Fitting of a banker, pinstriped dark blue, gray and white were the predominate colors.
The bid paddle, table placemat and an oversized bill used for decor purposes. The auction bid paddle was sponsored by the honoree’s bank. It was heavy-weight plastic in the shape of a house (because banks give home loans…). The bank’s name was on the reverse side.
Placemats used the pinstripe theme and had the honoree’s photo.
Table signs were a $100 bill on one side, and on the other listed the sponsoring company’s name.
Many $100 bills in both regular size and oversized shapes were scattered on tables.
Whether you are heading into new water with your benefit auction theme or settled on a tried and true theme, use these two examples as motivation to cover every detail and really wow your attendees this year.