- Use auction software.
- Choose your items wisely.
- Recruit an experienced team of volunteers.
- Keep detailed records.
- Advertise your items.
- Make your items the star.
- Be strategic with the auction item order.
- Make bidding convenient.
- Gamify your auction.
1. Use auction software.There’s a way you can set yourself up for charity success before planning has even begun: purchase auction software! Auction software can encompass a couple of different types of platforms:
- Auction and event planning software. With auction and event planning software, organizations can manage all efforts and data related to their events centrally, from storing event details to creating auction item records to accommodating attendees and much more.
- Mobile bidding. Mobile bidding software is a new silent auction bidding method that nonprofits can use as an alternative to bid sheets. It enables guests to peruse and place bids on items directly from their smartphones.
- Are you only using your auction software to help you plan one charity auction, or will you need it to plan multiple events?
- How many items are you anticipating putting up for auction?
- How many bidders will be participating in your event?
- Are you planning on hosting an online auction?
- Will you also need on-site event support?
- Attendees’ interests: People will only buy things that spark their interest! Study your donors’ interests and affinities when choosing your items to get a better idea of what might be the most appealing to your audience.
- Attendees’ income levels: Affinities make up only half of the equation. Just as with your major donor prospecting (//www.donorsearch.net/major-donor-fundraising-strategies/), it’s important to consider the giving capacities of your attendees. Make sure your items fit the general income level of your audience to ensure that people will bid.
- Uniqueness: Your auction items shouldn’t just be any old thing that donors can purchase online or pick up and buy off of a shelf. The best items will be those that offer the winner a once-in-a-lifetime experience (such as a behind-the-scenes peek into a movie set) or those that couldn’t be found anywhere else (like a piece of memorabilia signed by a musician or athlete).
- A recruitment team: This group of volunteers will be in charge of soliciting and securing the items for the event.
- An auctioneer: If your organization is hosting a live auction, you’ll most definitely need the help of a professional auctioneer. Because they’re so integral to the energy and success of the event, this is a good place to splurge if you can’t find one who’s willing to volunteer.
- An emcee: If you’re going the silent auction route, you’ll still need someone to make announcements and actively engage guests. A lively emcee will do the trick!
- Auction spotters: During live auctions, the auction spotters will be those who scout the audience for bids to ensure that no audience member is overlooked.
- Auction monitors: Auction monitors will walk around the room during a silent auction to make sure bidding is running smoothly. Their main duties will be answering any questions attendees have, talking up items to encourage more bids, and helping to facilitate closing the auction.
- The name of the item.
- The item’s auction number.
- A detailed description, including any restrictions (such as expiration dates for gift cards). If you’re bundling items or offering gift baskets, make note of each individual item.
- The name and contact information of of the item’s donor (if applicable).
- The market value of the item.
- The starting bid amount.
- The minimum raise amount.
- Event registration and planning.
- Mobile bidding.
- Auction items catalogs.
hosting a silent auction with mobile bidding, all of the information on your auction site will be transferred over to the mobile bidding app, so guests can view items from their phones. Advertising your items not only creates hype, but it also allows your supporters to determine the items they want to place bids on prior to the auction. If they come into your auction with an idea of the items they want, your attendees will spend less time scoping out the room and more time bidding! Takeaway: Feature your items in an online auction catalog before the event to get attendees excited and increase the chances they’ll bid.
hosting a silent, live, or online auction:
- For live auctions: Have volunteers bring items on stage as the auctioneer is auctioning them off. If it’s not possible to transport an item to the event, you can solve this problem by setting up a projector and showing high-quality photos of the item during the bidding.
- For silent auctions: Display your items on tables so that attendees can see each one. Group items by category for easy browsing, and stick to one row of items per table. Additionally, make sure to arrange tables in a way that promotes good traffic flow around the room.
- For online auctions: While you may not be able to physically display your items, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be the star of the show! Depending what type of online software you’re using, you might be able to showcase the images (from multiple angles) directly on the site. If not, you can always make sure participants have a link to your online catalog for reference.
- For live auctions: Start off the auction with some low-value items to ease people into bidding. Then, gradually work your way up. You should auction off the most popular and valuable items about ¾ of the way through the program, then wind down at the end with a few more mid-range items.
- For silent auctions with mobile bidding: If you’re using mobile bidding, item order won’t matter. Because you won’t have to worry about collecting bid sheets, you can keep bidding on all items open for as long as possible to maximize your funds. You can even open up bidding on your auction site before the event, so attendees can bid before they even step into the venue!
- For silent auctions with bid sheets: If you’re using bid sheets for your silent auction, open the bidding on all stations at the same time, but taper off closing down each. Start by closing down the category with the least valuable items first, then shut down a category every ten minutes, working up to the most popular.
- Implement mobile bidding. If you’re hosting a silent auction, you can do away with those cumbersome bid sheets and instead allow guests to place bids from their phones using mobile bidding software. Guests can even set maximum bids on certain items so the software bids for them. They’ll also receive text notifications whenever they’ve been outbid and when the auction’s about to close!
- Optimize bid sheets. While not as convenient as mobile bidding, if you’re using bid sheets, there are still a couple of ways you can make bidding more convenient for guests. Assign each guest a 3-digit bid number, so they don’t have to fill out their name and contact information every time they place a bid. Additionally, pre-fill bid amount fields on your sheets. This way, guests won’t have to take the time to do the math or wait to place their highest bid.
- Use bid paddles. While many organizations have done away with bid paddles for live auctions, your organization might still consider using them. Using bid paddles makes it easier for the auctioneer to spot bids and allows attendees to move more freely.
1. Fundraising Thermometers.
Many organizations choose to make live donation appeals at their auctions.
With this strategy, the auctioneer or emcee will ask the audience to make monetary donations to help your organization reach a fundraising goal by the end of the auction.
If you’re implementing mobile bidding alongside this strategy, you can make your direct appeals more successful by using a fundraising thermometer.
How it works is that your attendees will submit their donations in the mobile bidding app, which should have a portal specifically for accepting direct donations.
As they submit their donations, the thermometer will update in real-time.
Guests will be able to visualize how their donations are helping your organization reach its goal.
This can be a great motivator for donating, because contributions are made more tangible. Plus, guests have a time limit for submitting their donations, which really creates a sense of urgency!
2. Auction scoreboards
Auction scoreboards are another way to bring your auctions to the modern age.
These features provide guests with real-time updates on the status of auction items, so they can keep an eye on bidding from anywhere.
You can highlight popular sellers to create more urgency, or feature items that have yet to receive bids to encourage attendees to start off the bidding.
Additionally, if you’re making a live donation appeal, you can see how bids are contributing to your overall fundraising goals.
Being able to oversee the auction from anywhere heightens the spirit of friendly competition for your attendees, which often results in more bids.
Think about it: as much as we hate to admit it, we’re all motivated by a little peer pressure. When your guests can see how sought after certain items are, they’ll want to win even more!Check out OneCause’s article on how gamifying your auction can help you achieve the perfect donation appeal. Takeaway: Gamifying your auction can make donating more pressing, which is a great motivator for getting guests to give more!
While charity auctions can be difficult to plan, they can also bring significant amount of funds into your organization if planned thoughtfully. These tips should get your organization well on its way to hosting an enjoyable, profitable, and all around successful charity auction. For more useful advice on nonprofit fundraising, check out these additional resources:
- A Complete Guide to Prospect Research. Not matter what type of event you’re planning, it’s always a good idea to implement prospect research to find supporters that might be interested in attending your event. Get an in-depth understanding of prospect research.
- Top Online Giving Tools. Encouraging donors to give at events is a great way to raise additional funds for your cause. Our list of top giving tools will help you find the perfect way to accept donations at your event.
- Matching Gift Guide. Did you know that some companies will match donations like tickets to a fundraising event? Learn how you can promote matched giving at your charity auction.