benefit auctioneer

Market your Live Auction Items before the Event

You must absolutely market your Live Auction items before the event. 

This may be obvious to some of you, but you'd be surprised how many events I've shown up at where the guests had no idea what was on the Live Auction that night. 

Start Soliciting your items early

One reason most organizations don't market their items is because until the last minute, they have no idea what they are. As soon as you think about planning your event and setting a date, start talking about live auction items. Brainstorm them with your team and take action on pursuing the items. 

Get firm commitments and all the details from your item donors ASAP

As soon as you think you have an item. Close the deal. As soon as you have the firm (hopefully written) commitment from the donor, get all of the details including pictures, dates, etc so you can start an item write up early on in the event planning process. The more you know ahead of time, the more effectively you'll be able to market your items during the planning process. 

Feature the items in the Save-The-Date

Because we are focusing on spectacular items that are exclusive and offer a broad appeal (see my video from Monday if you aren't sure what I'm talking about), you are going to want to tease your guests with these items from the moment they think about the event. This will help them to prepare accordingly. If they are already thinking about taking a trip in the next year, they can plan to bid on the trip in your auction.

Help them remember the items are 100% for a good cause

I welcome you to use tag lines like: 

"A trip that's for the kids, except you don't have to bring your own." 

"A dinner experience that feels as good as it tastes." 

Ths is a playful way to remind them that while they are getting amazing items, they are also supporting your organization. It's more than a large purchase. 

Share the items in your email and social media communications leading up to the event

The two weeks or so before the event, send out emails and social media posts featuring the items. You want your bidders to be thinking about these as they plan the budget for the evening. Whether you like it or not, everyone comes to your event with a budget in mind, but you can help them determine whether they will spend their $5,000 at your event or at the one the following night, by letting them know what you have to offer.

If you are sending things via social media, share it multiple times because everything moves so fast online and you don't want anyone to miss it. 

Feature them online through your mobile bidding website

Even though bidding is not available online for the live auction items, you should still list it on your mobile bidding website. Most companies allow you to have items that aren't open, but you can list a picture, description and all the nitty gritty details for your guests to view before they arrive. 

Some organizations mail out programs in advance. This can get expensive because most people forget to bring the program to your event, so you have to print twice as many. This is a great alternative.  

Keep marketing them the night of the event

Most of you know to have a clearly marked display of the live auction items where everyone can view them. While this is so necessary it still doesn't give people all the time they need to read all the details they need to make an informed decision. All of the items should be listed and described with all the details in the program as well. 

Get creative

I recommend printing the live auction items and putting them on the doors of the bathroom stalls and by the line at the bar. This is a perfect place where you have a captive audience to view the items.

Hosting a fundraising auction? Market your live auction items before your event with these tips | Sarah Knox: Fun female auctioneer for fundraising, benefit and charity events

Why this is so important: 

You want your guests to come to your event with the decision to bid so that you can leave it up to your auctioneer to get them to give beyond their budget.  

It is much more impactful to get more money out of a guest who already decided they wanted the item. They've been thinking about it for weeks and will be disappointed if they don't win it. Compare this to springing live auction items on your guests and expecting them to drop $1,000 let alone $10,000+ without any prior thought.  

Get those live auction items out there before the event, so that your guests come to the event ready and excited to bid. 

Biggest Fundraising Auction Trend of 2016

What is the biggest trend?

The biggest trend I've encouraged this year has been (drumroll please)...

Fewer live auction items.

What's happening?

For years I've been consulting my clients that that the sweet spot for number of items in a live auction has been 6-12. Usually organizations have fallen closer to 10-12 items, but this year I've changed my tune. While up to 12 live auction items may have been beneficial for raising money in the past, now the donor climate is changing.  

Over the past several years, we've seen a rise in the success of conducting a Fund-A-Need at each event. The Fund-A-Need is a sort of live crowdfunding where everyone in the room gets the opportunity to make a difference by giving what they can. Usually (not always) the Fund-A-Need happens after the Live Auction. While Live Auctions can be fun, if they run too long, they get old and you lose donors' attention. The handful of bidders interested in the items will stay engaged, but the other 95% of the potential donors in the room will be distracted and become mentally "over it." 

While you are gaining a couple thousand extra dollars by adding additional live auction items, you are sacrificing potentially tens of thousands of dollars in the fund-a-need.  This is one of those cases where time is money, almost literally.

In a time where crowdfunding is wildly popular and effective, especially with the ever growing millennial donors, it is important to do everything in our power to engage the majority of donors when conducting the Fund-A-Need.

What is the right number of items? 

This year I have been encouraging my clients to stick with 4-6 items in their live auction. This is the perfect amount to get the audience's attention and raise some big bucks with out it going too long and loosing the attention of donors who aren't bidding but could be potential Fund-A-Need donors.

My clients have seen tremendous success with cutting their number of live auction items in half. Even with only half of the live auction items, this spring has been full of record-breaking events. Fewer items means they become more competitive so the items that ARE in the live auction tend to bring in more revenue than they would have otherwise. Plus donors are still fully mentally engaged during the Fund-A-Need which means more people participate. More participating donors means more revenue for your organization. 

If you'd like to learn how to make more money at your next fundraising event, contact me via the form in my sidebar ->

Must Have Live Auction Item #5: Sports

This the post in my blog series on Must Have Auction Items for a Varied Live Auction. If you haven't caught the other posts, or aren't sure why it is so imporant to have a varied live auction, you can find all of those posts HERE or archived on my blog. Stay awhile and look around. I provide all of this information to help my clients or anyone else trying to plan their fundraiser. My goal is to help organizations be as successful as possible!  

The last type of item you should be looking for as you solicit items for your live auction is a Sports related item. 

Criteria for a successful Sports Item:

Exclusivity. Like with any live auction item, you will have more success if the item is not a dime a dozen. Signed swag is good if it is by a well-known, well-loved player who does not hand out their autograph liberally. 

Appeal. This should seem obvious, but for some people it is not. If you are receiving sports tickets, make sure it is to a GOOD game with GOOD seats. Example for all of my Minnesota friends: 50 yard line to the Vikings/Packers game.  

Open Availability. If someone in your association has great season tickets to some local professional team, ask them if they would be willing to donate tickets that the bidder can select the date. A few black-out dates are acceptable, but still not ideal. This takes a lot of sacrifice on the donors part, but it's worth asking.

Best way to get sports tickets: 

Ask your company to donate. So many companies have season tickets that they give out to clients or employees as incentives. It does not hurt them one bit to give a set to your organization to sell. If they are less than amazing tickets, sell them on the silent auction, but still ask and take those babies off their hands.

If you have questions about your sports related item or any of the other sports categories I've listed in this series, please contact me and I'd love to dialogue with you about your live auction line up. 

Must Have Live Auction Item #2: Meal/Dinner Party

These are one of my favorite things to sell ever and every auction should have one. What I like about this item is that you don't have to be well connected to have this item. You don't even need to know a chef, you just need to have someone who is willing to host a dinner party for 6-10 people and cook food and provide wine. This could be hosted at a popular restaurant or even in someone's home.

Criteria For a Successful Meal/Dinner Party Item:

Hosted by a likable person. Not necessarily a famous person. Just someone that people enjoy being around.  If you have a willing participant, but their personality is just a little choppy or hard to be around, no one will bid. 

Multiple Courses. Hors d'oeuvres, salad, dinner and dessert would be enough, but if your chef can do other courses (soup, cheese, whatever else all those extra forks are for type courses) , that makes the meal stand out more.

Wine. Must I say more? Wine or beer pairings included are a must!

6-10 people. I have found that this is the sweet spot for number of people included in successfully selling an item of this type. 4 people is too few and 12 can be too difficult to coordinate with guests.  

An Expiration Date. This is important so people actually claim their meal with the donor. Usually one year from the date of the event is a good expiration. This is also out of respect for the donor and their time. 

Examples: 

  • Chef's dinner at a highly anticipated new restaurant prior to the restaurant opening. 
  • Meal prepared by a chef featured on the Food Network (seriously, there is probably someone in your area featured on the food network) 
  • Meal prepared in YOUR home by the principal of the school. 
  • Meal in the home of a CEO of a fortune 100 company in your area with the CEO and spouse. Meal prepared by catering company. 
  • Authentic Italian dinner prepared by someone closely associated by the organization who grew up in Italy - secret family recipes. 
  • Dinner prepared by a well known local chef. 

Again, these are all just examples, but the possibilities are endless here. Just start brain storming with your auction committee and pick whatever sounds most fun to you. Contact me if you want to my professional feedback. I will be honest, because I want your even to be as successful as possible.

What To Do With Unsold Silent Auction Items

Last week I answered a common question I get from clients, "Can we sell unsold silent auction items before or after the live auction?" My answer was "NO!" However that leaves us with a conundrum: what can we do with unsold live auction items??

Lots of things!

  1. Remove minimum bids: You can decide at a certain point in the night that any silent auction items that have not been bid on, no longer have a minimum bid. It may be that for some of those more quirky donations, the valued minimum bid may have been too high to entice any bidders. If your concern is just getting those items out of your hands that night, this is the best option.
  2. FIRE SALE: Hosting an online fire sale on your organization's auction site after the  auction is a great way to manage any items that did not sell. This works with organizations that opt to use mobile bidding software. Companies like BidPal will work with you to create a specific auction site where people can register for the event, get updates and bid on items before or after the auction (if you choose to make it available). You will most likely get more revenue from this than you would with our option #1.
  3. Sell the items at an external site (like ebay or craigslist). This takes more effort, but it opens up your bidding audience to people looking for those specific items. I wouldn't take the time to do this with all the items, but if you have anything that is of higher value, but requires the bidding of specific tastes (art, jewelry, furniture, sports memorabilia, etc), this would be worth your time to try to reach those people for the sake of your organization.

If you have questions about your silent auction, I can work with you to answer those as well as things related to your live auction.