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9 Point Profitability Checklist for Your Next Fundraising Auction

There’s nothing like an experienced charity auctioneer’s coaching when it comes to a high-profit fundraising auction.

Sherry Trular of Red Apple Auctions, our auctioneer expert!

Sherry Trular of Red Apple Auctions, our auctioneer expert!

And I was quite impressed with the tips that Sherry Trular of Red Apple Auctions shared with us this week in our  Highly Profitable Fundraising Events series.

(It’s not too late to get all the materials, videos, and audios of this amazing series on how to raise the most money possible out of your fundraising events. )

Here are Sherry’s top 9 Points to help you raise the most money possible out of your auction.

1. You need a great sound system.

Your sound system can totally make or break both your live and silent auction.

Your auctioneer has got to be able to command the crowd for the live auction. If your guests can’t hear her, then how are you going to be able to sell anything?

If your silent auction is not getting the attention it needs –  your auctioneer can do some selling for you. She can remind people of certain cool items that are not getting bids.

Sherry told us about some Disney World tickets that didn’t have bids, and after she announced it – people were fighting to put their names down to bid!

2. You need terrific lighting.

Great lighting on your silent items is essential.

Use can lights to emphasize silent items.

Use can lights to emphasize silent items.

Think about your local shopping mall –  when store lights are down, you think they are closed.

You can’t see silent auction items if there is no ligthing.

Candlelight creates atmosphere – but are you there to raise money or not? J

 3. Run your silent auction like a store.

Sherry says, think like Target or Macy’s. You need to display your items like a store with different departments.

This is pure business and marketing.  You are selling stuff.  Lay it out to romance the buyers.

Your average return on each item will probably be about 50-65% of its market value.

4.  Run your live auction like a high end boutique – (not everyone shops there).

This is where your wildly expensive items will go. Think Tiffany’s or Saks.

These items are not for everyone at your event – they are for only a few.

A nice display with good sound for a live and silent auction. Courtesy of Sherry Trular.

A nice display with good sound for a live and silent auction. Courtesy of Sherry Trular.

You have fewer items but your average return on each item is usually 100-130% of value.

The more expensive the item, the nicer the display should be.

5. Focus on the live auction – that’s where your big profit really is.

Live auctions are FAR less work, more profitable. They require less check out and less set up. YAY!

AND they are often the center of the evening’s entertainment.

If you are not convinced, here are some real numbers that Sherry shared from auctions she has worked. A reminder – these auctions did have an experienced benefit auctioneer running the show.

Live vs. Silent auctions


6. Seriously consider an auction consultant or an experienced charity auctioneer.

Well, if I am going to spend money staging an event, I’ll always look at the Return on my Investment.Screenshot 2014-05-23 08.47.16

So if I think I can make 50% more money from my live and silent auctions, then I think spending money on an auctioneer who knows his stuff is a smart move.

7. Plan to highlight your “Fund a Need” in the live auction.

This is where you simply ask for donations to fund a special need at your organization. Often this is where you raise the most money.

With rare exceptions, a high profit auction event should include a Fund a Need.

Sherry says that smart nonprofits line up their bigger donors ahead of time. (Find someone to start the bidding at $5k for example.)

8. Use props to entice people to buy.

For example, provide sample of deserts if you are selling restaurant gift cards.

Provide a hand mirror if you are selling jewelry.  Make the displays interactive and you’ll sell more!

9. Add a “buy now” feature at 150% of the purchase price.

Sherry says this is a huge new trend.  It’s offers the chance for an instant purchase guaranteed at a certain price.

How to set up a guaranteed purchase.

How to set up a guaranteed purchase.

And it makes it really easy for people to spend money.

–       guys like it

–       it has a far easier checkout process

–       it attracts bidders thru psychology

Now, you have some great coaching for your next event!  I bet you can make it fun AND make tons of money.

Want to make your events highly profitable?

If you’d like all the tips from all the event experts, then you can still get the complete Highly Profitable Fundraising Events series with complete audios, transcripts (available soon), videos and powerpoints:

  • How to sell out your event
  • How to get the most out of your volunteer committee
  • How to nail high $$ sponsorships
  • How to set your event up for max ROI
  • How to set up an auction for max profit

If you think these will help you raise more money, then you can purchase and download them all right now to have in your own toolbox on hand for your next event!


What are YOUR favorite auction tips? What did we miss???

Please leave a comment and let me know!



  • Jeanette Kelly

    Hi Gail, I love tip #9! We have a gala coming up with both live & silent auction items. I’m going to suggest we try a couple of items “guaranteed to go” at a fixed price.

  • gailperry

    Yup I am hearing more and more about this strategy being very very successful!