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How to Get Signed Memorabilia for Charity - How Sports Autographed Memorabilia Can Be Used in Charity Fundraising

How to Get Signed Memorabilia for Charity - How Sports Autographed Memorabilia Can Be Used in Charity Fundraising

When it comes to fundraising for a charity, signed memorabilia can be a highly effective way to raise money as well as bring awareness to your cause. Just to give you an idea, did you know Babe Ruth's 1920 New York Yankees jersey sold for $4.4 million in 2012? Now while that is a rarity, there’s no doubt people are willing to pay a lot for collectible signed memorabilia from pretty much anyone that’s famous.

This also includes things like albums or concert tickets from a famous singer or band. Or even a signed movie poster of someone’s favorite actor or actress. The list goes on, but one thing is for sure, offering signed memorabilia at any type of fundraising event, most notably auction events, can be a huge boost to your bottom line.

And the best part of all of this is you can often secure these types of items for free. There are many sports figures and other famous people who enjoy getting involved in philanthropic efforts and don’t mind offering their signature to charities in order to give back and help a cause, especially if it aligns with their own core beliefs.

So read on to see which types of memorabilia work best, and ways to use it effectively to not only boost your fundraising goals, but to bring more awareness to your cause and mission as well.

Types of Signed Memorabilia Items That Work Well for Charity Fundraising 

There are definitely specific types of autographed memorabilia that will fetch higher prices at any auction, or fundraising event. Most notable are items that represent the autographer, or to put it another way, a signed baseball from a baseball player, or a signed movie poster by an actress. People enjoy collecting items that are unique, and an item that’s signed by their favorite famous person is often something worth bidding on for them.

One of the hottest items right now is sports memorability. And this can literally be from any sport, football, soccer, golf and tennis are all sports where people clamor to get someone’s autograph. From a fundraising perspective, some of the best sports memorabilia to secure would be items like signed balls or jerseys. Then other items like stadium or arena tickets, photos, trading cards, gloves or practically anything connected with the sport, once a signature is attached is now a notable collectible and can help your nonprofit raise more money for its cause.

Take for instance Babe Ruth's 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox which sold for $1.02 million in 2014. While it is signed, there is also a historical aspect to it fetching such a high price, bt it gives you an idea of how varied successful items can be. As another extreme example, Take for example the original Olympic manifesto, written in 1892 by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, sold for $8.8 million in December 2019.

With entertainment memorabilia, items like signed movie props can grab unusually high bids as well. Just imagine being given Judy Garland’s slippers from the Wizard of Oz which were sold for 2 million dollars at auction. One pair did find it’s way to the Smithsonian through a donation made by an undisclosed donor. These things do happen!

Even signed movie posters offer a chance for bidders to make a contribution. Movie tickets, signed pictures of famous celebrities, even personal items like a brush can become memorabilia if signed by the right person. And if you really want bizarre, did you know William Shatner's kidney stone was sold to a casino in 2006, fetching $25,000! The money was donated to charity, specifically to Habitat for Humanity by Mr. Shatner.

The same goes for a signed musical instrument like a guitar or even a drum stick. Think Jimi Hendrix's Guitar which sold for 2 million dollars, or John Lennon's Steinway Piano which sold for 2.1 million. Even signed Vinyl records and CDs can all be highly collectible and offer a great revenue stream for your nonprofit. Or a simple drumstick or guitar pick. The more unique or historic the better.

Then there are a host of other types of memorabilia that can do well depending on your donor base. Political memorabilia such as campaign signs and buttons, photos, and even signed political books or manifestos can do well with the right audience. And don’t forget historical as well. Old documents to old photos and even diaries, people really do love to collect things. So why not try to incorporate the craze into your fundraising and have something people actually want to bid on!

Reaching Out to Celebrities and Notable Figures and First Contact

When it comes to your nonprofit and charity work, the support of celebrities and notable figures can significantly amplify the reach and impact of your cause almost overnight. Many celebrities are already committed to specific causes or charities that resonate personally with them, and understanding these personal preferences will allow you to identify those whose passions align with your own mission and cause. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to donate some of their time in order to support your cause.

Notable names like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi and Tom Brady all all sports stars who often work with charitable institutions. Many have even pushed further and started their own philanthropic foundations for causes that have significant personal connections to them.

Take for instance golfer Arnold Palmer who started his own foundation in order to help a specific cause, children, that strongly resonates personally for him. Or the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and Oprah's Angel Network which work to improve both children’s woman’s rights across the globe. Or the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which is focused on environmental issues and wildlife affairs.

Once you have your list of potential celebrity supporters, crafting a passionate and personal appeal that speaks directly to them is your most important tool. This should not only articulate the significance of your cause, but also resonate with the individual’s values and interests on a deep personal level in order to really connect with them. They really need to feel your passion and seriousness in your appeal for their help.

This is when leveraging personal or professional connections from your board of directors, to anyone that is currently supporting your charity in any way can become extremely useful. As with anything, a recommendation or introduction from a mutual connection adds credibility and trust to your organization and you, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

Another avenue you can take if you can’t reach you preferred celebrity directly is to go through their publicist or agent. While this may take more time, if you can win their support, these people will often include your celebrity at some point because a relationship with you should be mutually beneficial. And many celebrities count on their own staff to weed out, or sift through the many requests they receive each day. So getting through the gatekeeper is just as important as getting a chance to appeal to these individuals directly.

Hosting a Live Autograph Auction Items Fundraiser

When it comes to a live fundraiser, there are definitely a few details that you’ll need to keep in mind. This starts with your celebrity all the way down to the event venue and all your guests.

Beginning with your celebrity, you’ll need to make all the travel arrangements and necessary living arrangements once they get to your event. Many celebrities are accustomed to staying in nice hotels and being chauffeured in nice automobiles, so be aware of the expenses involved. This can include first class airfare to a limousine picking them up at the airport. So make sure you have the financial investment it would take to pull of a fundraiser such as this.

The next thing you’ll need to consider is where your event will take place. Will you be looking to take advantage of the foot traffic a mall can provide, or a more intimate setting with invited guests. Again these are costs that can become considerable quickly and need to be taken into account when it comes to your nonprofit’s financials.

You’ll also need to be sure your celebrity and guests are all comfortable. No one likes standing for hours just for an autograph! And your celebrity should have everything they’d need on hand, sharpies, water and a comfortable chair are a good start. Plus the agreed upon memorabilia.

Hosting a live event can be quite successful, but it also can come with a lot of stress both on your charity and its finances. It’s best to weigh the potential financial considerations before ever agreeing to host a live event like this. Often times it can be much more profitable to host a live gala and have the celebrity as a guest and auction of a few choice personal items like a jersey or a baseball mitt they wore during an important game than having hundreds get in lines for hours just to get an autographed photo.

Charity Auctions and Raffles for Sports and Entertainment Memorabilia

Once you have a celebrity who is willing to support your charity through providing you with autographed items for your charity fundraising, it’s time to turn those items into donations. One of the best ways to do that is to host an in-person charity auction, raffle or silent auction combined with an online event so you can get as many supporters involved in your autograph auction as possible.

Just imagine anyone with an internet connection being able to join and bid on your memorabilia. And by combining social media and other traffic sources, you can seriously expand your event’s reach and potentially be seen by millions! It all depends on which platform you're using.

This is where a platform like Paybee can be extremely beneficial. Our platform offers both in-house and online galas that allow everyone with an internet connection to get involved and actually see and bid on all your auction items. Utilizing our software for hybrid events means more eyeballs at your auctions and on your items, and more bids and higher donations.

With tools like live streaming and interaction applications you can harness the power of social media to put your event on a whole other level. Just check out our free demo to see just how our unique set of tools designed specifically for non-profits can dramatically enhance any event, no matter where you decide to host it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What charity causes attract celebrity support?

Most celebrity support goes to larger non-profit organizations tackling major issues like child slavery or environmental action. Smaller charities that focus on small geographical areas or very specific smaller issues may have a much harder time getting celebrity support. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, just be aware it may take longer to garner their support.

How much money can signed memorabilia raise?

Theoretically signed memorabilia or even a simple celebrity autograph can raise millions of dollars depending on its historical and cultural significance. As we demonstrated above, just the right pair of shoes can be worth more than two million dollars.

What’s the best way to approach a celebrity?

With respect for them as a person and for their time. You want to demonstrate your passion for your cause just like you would if you were asking for any donation in person. You may not be asking for a financial contribution, but you are still asking them for their support. So always be respectful and kind and treat them they way you’d expect to be treated.


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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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