Charity & Benefit Auctions
So, you’ve agreed to organize this year’s fundraising auction. Congratulations, you’re a really generous person! That’s the good news (and you probably already knew that, anyway). The other news is that you have a lot of work ahead of you!
Behind every record-breaking benefit auction is a great organizer doing her homework and making big decisions. These decisions will have a huge impact on the nonprofit you love. Here are a few things to consider on your way towards a fantastic fundraising event.
Five Components of a Record-Breaking Charity Auction
- Items. Think “priceless.” Your donors want to bid on things they can’t get elsewhere, things they could only ever get at your event. If a bidder could go out and buy that same item off a shelf or on a website, it’s not half as exciting as something that they couldn’t purchase anywhere else at any price. A one-week stay at the Board Chair’s personal Austin vacation home. Lunch with the Texas Governor. A walk-on part in the Nutcracker. Can you buy those special experiences anywhere? No. Will your bidders go crazy for them? Yes.
- Donors. The best people to bid on the incredible items you gathered are the big Dallas money people who want that priceless experience at any cost. When you get their RSVP, put them front and center where your charity auctioneer can woo them! Without the right bidders in the room, a $20,000 item becomes a $2,000 one.
- Charity Auctioneer. For a nail-biting half-hour, the auctioneer you choose will be asking your most important donors for their money. Choose wisely! The right benefit auctioneer can take the worst situation and turn it into gold. The wrong auctioneer can take the perfect situation and create a disaster. A few examples of who the wrong auctioneer might be: the local newscaster, the sports celebrity, or the Board Chair’s uncle who used to be a cattle auctioneer (anyone who will do it for free). You have a lot of decisions to make, but the person in charge of making your San Antonio nonprofit some money is the most important. Choose a full-time professional charity auctioneer. Preferably, choose one who will make you 109% more than you made last year (Andrew Bost, BAS!)
- Sound System. If you bring in the most expensive, most amazing Houston fundraising auctioneer of all time, but only the first two rows of bidders can hear him, you’ve wasted money. It happens all the time. The best auctioneer in the world can only do his job if people can hear him. A charity auction is going to be loud — it’s a party! For this reason, a charity auction also requires a sound system that is very different from any other sound system. The band’s system won’t work. The system that worked perfectly for the convention speaker in the same ballroom last night won’t work. A Benefit Auctioneer Specialist will consult with you on the right sound system so that every donor can hear perfectly.
- Paddles Up. You don’t get 100% of the donations you don’t ask for. Make sure your auctioneer asks! You have 500 people in your audience and only ten Live Auction items. How many people will walk out of the room with money left in their pockets? Paddles Up (or Fund A Need, or other names) is the fastest and most efficient way to ask your donors for donations. If your auctioneer isn’t raising as much in Paddles Up donations as with the Live Auction items (or even many times more!) you’re leaving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table.
Charity Auction Ideas and Tips
Here are a few helpful tips compiled by charity auctioneer Andrew Bost that will be helpful along the way.
- Make sure to advertise the items you plan to auction before the event. This will create enthusiasm well in advance and your bidders will walk in the door with buying decisions already made. Would you be comfortable bidding $15,000 on that trip to Tuscany if you hadn’t discussed it with your spouse first? Would you be comfortable making an on-the-spot bidding decision for your whole group of traveling buddies? Give your bidders as much opportunity as possible to make informed buying decisions prior to auction night.
- Make sure items are displayed attractively, and have strong visual appeal.
- Resist the temptation to list item values in the program on Power Point slides. Andrew will be prepared with not only item values, but record sale information as well, and will put that information to use when needed from the stage. It’s hard to bid $10,000 for an item clearly valued at $5,000 in the program. But if that same item sold for for $25,000 at last year’s auction, then bidding $10,000 is easy!
- Make sure you have the optimal timeline for your fundraising event. A successful auction and Paddles Up is all about group dynamics, you don’t want guests getting sleepy when it’s time to raise money.
- Choose a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist who offers as much consultation as you need. Not sure which items to include in your live auction? Call Andrew Bost, BAS!
Benefit Auction Components
The most successful benefit auction galas have many varied components. Each is unique and contributes to your revenue goals in different ways. Be sure your auctioneer is well-versed in the following: