benefit auctions

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. 

What To Do With Great Items That Don't Make The Cut for Live Auction

Last week I talked about how cutting your number of live auction items in half will actually bring in more revenue. Even though you are only going to have 5-6 live auction items, chances are that you will bring in more than 6 great donations in the process.

What to do with the other amazing items. 

Items that don't "make the cut" for the live auction, will naturally go in the silent auction, right? Wrong. There are a couple of things You can do with these big ticket items. 

1. Use it as a prize in Heads & Tails or for a raffle. Back before everyone had an iPad, organizations were getting these as donations and the auction committee always wanted the iPad on the live auction. Here's the deal though. The iPad only would sell for retail value or a couple hundred dollars over. I guess it was exiting to get $700 for a $500 item, but know what is more exciting? Getting $2000 for a $500 item. By using an item with a broad appeal as a raffle or Heads & Tails prize, it was easy to engage donors to participate. Not everyone would drop $700 for an item valued at $500, but it is easy to sell 200 raffle tickets or Heads & Tails beads at $10 a piece. 

2. Have a SUPER SILENT Auction. Whoa! This one is exciting. A Super Silent Auction is run by the auctioneer (cough*Sarah Knox*cough) during the silent auction. Rather than bidders writing their number on bid cards or bidding electronically, they would call out their bidder number and bid amount to the facilitator to write on a white board. It gains quite a bit of attention in the last 5 minutes of the bidding. This is set up in the same room as the silent auction. It is a lot of fun. 

3. Set up a display for "Almost Live" or "Premier Auction" Items in the center of the silent auction area, or right near check in so it's the first thing guests see. This is good because it honors the generous donors of the items ensuring they get a lot of recognition for the items. If using electronic bidding, have this as it's own category so bidders can easily find these items. 

How to determine which items make the cut for Live Auction or not.

For this, I will refer you to my blog series I did last fall on the 5 types of items you should include to create a dynamic live auction.  Just because an item has the highest value, doesn't mean it should automatically be in the live auction. A live auction lineup needs to be curated with careful thought and strategy in order to bring in the most revenue.

If you have want to engage bidders during your live auction and throughout the rest of your event, contact me via the form in my sidebar --> 

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 #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.

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.