Picking the Right Venue for Your Fundraising Auction - Acoustics

Picking the right venue for your fundraising auction | Sarah Knox Benefit Auctions

The venue you select will make a huge difference in giving at your event. I will address lay out and such in future posts, but today I want to address acoustics. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t need the Guthrie stage or the St. Paul Cathedral to get maximum bidding, but you do need to pick a room that does not echo. If there is an echo or the sound does not carry, people loose focus or can’t hear altogether. This is so Important because if people can’t hear, they won’t bid. Period. As a general rule venues that work are: Theaters, Concert Venues, Golf Courses and Hotel Ballrooms.

– All of these facilities are designed for events like this or weddings or seminars or musical shows. I’ve done a lot of work with the Yellow Tree Theatre in Anoka – great venue for audiences of up to 250 and organizations in the northwest suburbs. For more central locations, any golf club or hotel ballroom works great because they are usually carpeted and have the capacity for a good sound system.

Venues that don’t work: Gyms (or anything covered in tile) and outside

. Many people pick a gym because they are free/inexpensive at their school, local church or community center. A good venue is worth your money. I guarantee you will loose more money using a gym than it would have cost you to rent a hotel ballroom for the night of your event.

If you have concerns or questions about your venue, feel free to contact me and I can help make suggestions for your event.

Selling Vacations at a Fundraising Auction – Success!

 I’ve talked about things to avoid when selling vacations at your fundraising auction, but there are things you can do to enhance the item:

  • Advertise –This goes for most items actually. If you have anything awesome that you plan to sell, put it in your email blasts, save-the-dates, website, twitter, facebook, and even your formal invite if you wish. This will allow people to anticipate some of the "hot" items and be prepared to bid on them night of. With Vacations, you will have several people looking for a reason to go to Hawaii, and they are looking forward to winning it at the auction. This will getting them bidding against each other, pushing the price up. I am able to get people to bid higher than they initially set out to, but it helps when they had an interest in the item to start.
  • Get airfare –This is IDEAL, but not necessary. It used to be expected when you bought a vacation at a fundraiser that airfare was included. Now, with the airlines tightening their budgets in every corner, it is nearly impossible to get a donation from them. Nearly impossible, not actually impossible. There are also other ways of getting airfare that just require creativity and asking the right people. Frequent Flyer Miles, finding a sponsor to donate them, Credit Card Rewards points, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask people!
  • Local Trips –With the infrequency in airfare donations, local vacations have been increasing in value. Trips to people’s cabins or northern resorts (during peak season) often go for just as much as a trip to Florida or Colorado. It’s more manageable for people, especially families, to wrap their minds around in the speed of an auction.
  • Double up - When a donor gives a vacation to their vacation home, always ask, "If this item starts to bring in a lot of money, would you be willing to donate 2?" In the middle of the benefit auction, it looks like it’s a last minute thing where we double it and bring in twice as much money (applause please), but it’s important to ask because you never want to put someone on the spot - trust me, I’ve know this from experience.


Selling Vacations at a Fundraising Auction – Things to avoid

 Vacations are popular items to sell at fundraising auctions! They can be very successful, but if done wrong they could be a complete disaster. Here are things to avoid:

  • Vacations with one specific week availability– remember, we want live auction items to have a broad appeal, and if the vacation is only available one week of the year (say November 3rd-10th), chances are you aren’t going to get much from it. There has to be more than 1 person available to go on this vacation. If someone donates a vacation with a one week availability, put it in the silent auction.
  • Surprising the crowd with a vacation– A vacation is quite a commitment. I have seen this work before, but more often than not, people are taken off guard and don’t have enough time to talk about this decision with their spouse and hesitate to bid when they would have probably purchased it if they knew about it in advance. If there is a truly last minute donation for two weeks to Italy including airfare – put it in the live auction. I’ll make it work, but if you know about any type of vacation in advance – advertise it! People will get excited about it and keep the bidding going up!
  • Lodging with only weeknight availability – this can just seem cheap on the donors part. I’ve seen donations from B&Bs that are only redeemable Monday through Thursday. Unless you can get a weekend, say "Thank you, but no." Trips to Disney and the like are okay, but for the most part, if people are going on vacation, they generally want to tag their weekend into it or only go over the weekend. Like many things this is case by case, but reach out to me if you are unsure. I’ll walk you through it.


How many live auction items should I have at my fundraising auction?

 Good Question. I’ve done auctions with as few as 2 items and others with as many as 80, but the best range is somewhere between 6-12.

 Don’t get so stuck on the number though, I’m more concerned about quality of items over the quantity. If you have 15 super unique items that all have a broad appeal, by all means I’m open to having 15. However, if you have 15 items and 2 of them are vacations in Mexico and 4 are tickets to local sports teams, that’s where I would step in and help you bring it down under 12 items.

 The reason it’s important not to have too many items is that the crowd gets bored. Honestly! I’d love to think that people are captivated by me for 3 hours straight, but after about 30 minutes, it all starts to sound the same no matter how funny my jokes are. Once we’ve lost their attention, we have lost their money. 12 awesome items is pretty much an audience’s limit. Let’s be honest, they’re all waiting for the bar to open back up and the band to start playing anyway.

 On the other hand, if you only have 4 stellar items, don’t stress! I’d rather have 4 great items alone than start adding in lots that won’t go for much. It’s important not to kill the momentum during the live auction by selling a dud item. It will affect the bidder’s willingness to bid on future items. If you only have 4 awesome items, I will also sit down with you and go over item suggestions and help you brainstorm where to solicit those items.

Fund-a-Need – What if no one offers to give?

This is a fear I've witnessed in my consulting process. That’s why it’s important to have a professional handling it. Professional benefit and fundraising auctioneers know how to respond if no one offers to donate the initial amount without it influencing other donors, but on the other hand they also know how to prepare so that doesn’t happen in the first place!