live auction items

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. 

The 5 Items You Need on Your Live Auction

5 items you need on the live auction at your fundraising gala | Sarah Knox Fundraising Event Auctioneer

It's important that your Live Auction has variety

If your live auction is all trips, they will not sell well. If you have 6 trips, it is unlikely there are 7-12 people in that audience who want them enough to bid them up. It's basic supply and demand. Not to mention it gets super boring for everyone involved

Here are the 5 items you should include in your live auction (in order of importance) 

1. Unique Experience

This is something they can't get anywhere else. This is super important for any crowd, but especially if you are hosting an auction for millennials because research shows (and in my experience), they are more likely to bid on an experience than on a physical item. The great part of this is that most of the experiences you can offer, require creativity and not money to produce. A couple examples that I have sold are: 

Sleepover/Lock-in at the Children's Museum. Opportunity to conduct the professional Orchestra. Unlimited access to 30+ collector cars for an entire summer. A tour of Jay Leno's private garage. Tour of a Private Wildcat Sanctuary. The opportunity to fund a refugee business. Beekeeper for a day.

2. Dining Experience

These sell so so well! People love great dining experiences. Usually the actual retail value of these are under a thousand, but they usually sell for several thousand dollars. 

You can approach this several ways. 

A Chef dinner in-restaurant experience. This is really amazing if you have a new and hot restaurant that has been getting rave reviews and reservations are hard to come by. A Chef dinner for 8-12 with wine pairings. This should a special menu created for this experience, interactions with the chef and be a very special experience. I have sold several where the guests would be in the kitchen or the wine cellar for the meal. This is a several thousand dollar item

Dinner in a prominent person's home. This experience would be if your founder or a public figure wanted to host a dinner party in their home. They could cook themselves or bring in a chef of some sort to their home. Guests love getting quality time with people who are usually quite hard to get an audience with.  

Dinner Party in the winner's home with a personal chef. This is where a chef (professional or a passionate amateur) would come to the winners home with all the food and prepare a meal for 8-12, including adult beverages, and then they would clean up. I have seen this go for thousands of dollars at small events where a teacher or board member is the chef for the night. It doesn't need to be a professional. It just needs to be a likable personality who can cook a good meal.

5 items you need on the live auction at your fundraising gala. You MUST read this before securing live auction items for your fundraiser! | Sarah Knox Fundraising Event Auctioneer

3. Trip

This could be a local trip or a fabulous dream destination. Either way, people love a get-a-way. Truth be told, local trips have been selling much better over the past couple of years. I'm based in Minneapolis and it is not uncommon for a cabin on the North Shore for a weekend to sell for more than a week long trip at a luxury villa in Mexico. 

Donated airfare is hard to come by these days, so don't let that hold you back from putting up a great trip. In my experience, the airfare doesn't bring much more revenue to an item, so go ahead and sell the trip without airfare.

My only rules for selling trips:

Must have open availability or at least flexible availability. Meaning, it is available for more than just one week out of the year. 

No Time Shares.  This falls in the same spirit as the first rule, but also they are just a pain in the neck to coordinate. No one wants to buy your timeshare. It's not a good donation. Just don't do it.

4. Sports Experience

This could be a wide variety of things. Great seats to a highly anticipated game. Meet and greet with players. If you received a ton of random sports tickets, you could package them all together in a "Year of Minnesota Sports" package. If you have signed items, make sure they are from athletes people care about. Michael Phelps signed photo = Great! A B-String Athlete who no one has ever heard of = Bad.

5. Alcohol Experience

This usually hits a broad appeal. This can also tie in with the meal experience. Brewing or winemaking experiences are fun. I've also sold many "Walls of Wine" where the board members and liquor stores all come together and donate a bottle of wine and you can sell it as a collection to the winning bidder. It offers a broad appeal which makes this a good item to start or end the Live Auction with.

DISCLAIMER: If your organization has any affiliation with addiction or you are a religious organization that does not condone alcohol consumption, this item is NOT for your group. There are so many more amazing items you can add to your live auction to ensure it is varied and engaging without including an alcohol-related item.

What do you think?

How does your current Live Auction line up compare? 

I hope this gets your juices flowing so that you can be ready for brainstorming some great ideas for your event!

4 Reasons You Have a Chatty Audience at Your Fundraising Gala

How do I deal with a chatty crowd?

This is one of the number one questions I get. The truth is that some crowds are just chatty, but in my consulting I help organizations do everything they can to prevent the distracting noise and work with them so that their program is engaging and captivating so we can prevent the chattiness in the first place. There are a couple reasons why an organization may have a chatty crowd at your fundraiser.

1. The sound in the venue is awful.

This is a real problem. In fact, I won't work with an organization that is unwilling to ensure that the sound in the room is good. If your crowd can't hear the program properly, they will not be engaged and therefore they will talk and then they won't give their money.

2. You are waiting too late to engage them.

Cocktail hours are very common and have a bit of necessity as far as logistics are concerned. Allowing people to mingle with a drink and maybe some hors d'oeuvres while everyone arrives and gets checked in and has a chance to look at the silent auction. Then you welcome them in to have the dining room and wait until every single person has eaten dinner to start the program. That is too late. You have lost your audience. They are full, drunk and ready to leave to just totally distracted.

3. They aren't your target audience.

Repeat after me: Quality over Quantity. Now, when I say "quality" guests I don't mean every donor has to be a $1,000+ donor. I mean that you should not try to fill seats for the sake of filling seats. You want everyone in the room to have some sort of connection with your organization. I recently sat in a meeting with a client and they said "...and that's why we don't give away tickets or our gala on the radio anymore." No Kidding! Your event can be a place to raise awareness for your organization, but you do not want guest who are just there for your open bar. You may not be giving tickets away to strangers on the radio, but maybe you are giving tickets away to corporate sponsors who then send their administrative staff to your event as their "appreciation" token. So, now, your front reserved table that you held for executives that you assumed had more than enough money to go around, is now full of interns and customer service representatives who just are excited to tweet a picture in font of your photo wall.

4. You are an elementary school.

This is not a problem. I actually love this. Elementary school parents tend to be very chatty. They are using their very valuable babysitter to come out an support the school where they are twice a day already to drop off and pick up their kids. They get to have adult conversations with people they are friends with and since the event is likely near their neighborhood, they plan to walk or take an Uber home. I actually use this energy and sense of community and play off it to engage the whole crowd. Yes, they may be chatty, but for the most part the crowd all knows each other and want to be in on the party. I still would work with you in advance to make sure we can engage them at the best time and ensure that your sound is loud and clear in your venue, but frankly, elementary school parents are talkers, so at that point we just need to lean into it.

Your organization's mission is so important which is why you work tirelessly to support it. I want to welcome your guests and attendees to partner with you in your mission. The first step is to get them to listen so we can engage them in your mission. If this sounds like your crowd, I would love to help you make an impactful difference towards your mission. To schedule a call to talk about how to better engage your audience, go ahead and fill out the contact form on the side bar today.

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 --> 

Must Have Live Auction Item #4: Alcohol

I will start by saying this item is not for all organizations. Any organization affiliated with addiction and recovery or even domestic violance as well as some religious affiliations may want to steer clear of this type of item out of respect for the attendees. 

With that being said, items including an experience related to alcohol usually has a broad appeal. 

Examples of Alcohol Related Live Auction Items

Wall of Wine.  This is where all of the board members or auction committee members donate a bottle of wine (some bottles will be higher quality than others) until you have a collection of anywhere from 10-50 bottles of wine, and you sell it as a package. You will want to print any higher end bottles in your program, and ideally would print all of the bottles in the program so people can see what they are bidding. It is unrealistic and much less effective to verbally list all the bottles when introducing the item.

Wine Tasting. A private and exclusive wine tasting in someone's home with a professional Sommelier. 

Private Brewery Party. Local microbreweries are popping up all over the place (especially here in Minneapolis), but a tour is not enough because really anyone can go tour a brewery. A private tasting party at the brewery for 10+ people with catering by a local food truck (or two) would be an item worth selling on live auction and would provide an exclusive appeal. 

Wheel barrel of Booze. This item is always a hit. It is similar to the Wall of Wine, except it is an actual wheel barrel filled with alcohol. Arrange the alcohol so the higher end items are showing. You could also include glasses and garnishes (olives, cherries, frilly toothpicks, etc) in with the alcohol to fully stock the bar. This is an easy item to fill because auction committee members or board members would all go together to in contributing to this item. The winning bidder gets to take home their new wheel barrel and all of its contents. 

If you have a question about any of these items or want to know if it would be appropriate for you to add one of these items to your organization's live auction, please reach out and I will give honest feedback on your live auction lineup.