Trigger the Buying “Impulse"

Fundraising success at your event is driven by the buying “impulses” your guests feel when a purchasing opportunity arrives. How do you trigger that impulse? It can help to think about the difference between buying a gallon of milk and buying a Cosmopolitan Magazine.


How many times have you been in line at the grocery store and you grabbed a magazine because it was right there in front of you at the checkout counter?

In our new guide “How to Create Your Best Silent Auction Ever!" We talk about the mindset you need to have as an organizer about the items you choose and the mood your guests need to be in to purchase them.

If we’re forensic psychologists trying to learn the “profile” of an impulse buyer, it would help to think of the characteristics of the opposite -- the buyer with a plan.

Here’s an example: 

Suppose you need a gallon of milk.

  • You drive to the store specifically to get this gallon of milk.
  • You don’t get a cart or a basket, because all you need is a gallon of milk.
  • You go to the refrigerated aisle and grab a gallon of milk.
  • You walk to the front of the store and go to a self-checkout counter.
  • You scan your gallon of milk.
  • You put your gallon of milk on the scale.
  • You’re ready to make payment and checkout.
  • When suddenly, your eyes fall on Rihanna on the cover of “Cosmo” next to the headline “I’m open to love, but guys have to earn it.”
  • You grab the magazine, run it across the scanner, and throw it into your bag. 
  • You walk out the door with a gallon of milk and a copy of Cosmo.

Your thought process in buying these two items is totally different.

Buying the milk was the purpose of the trip. 

The sudden impulse to buy the magazine came from a completely different part of your brain. You didn’t “need” that magazine. You didn’t walk in the store intending to buy that magazine. But something about its proximity to the checkout, its cover image, it’s headline, its price, etc. triggered an impuse to buy that you couldn’t resist. In less than 3 seconds, you grabbed that magazine and bought it.

For your silent auction to be successful, you want your guests to make decisions in the “Cosmo” part of their brains, not the “Milk” part of their brains.

To trigger that, you need to offer items that can be understood immediately without any deep thought. They need to be simple, attractive and priced properly.