This May is “party month” at Fired-Up Fundraising.
And next week, I’m presenting my (in)famous “Turn Your Fundraising Event into the Best Party in Town” webinar on Friday June 1 at 1pm ET. Join my INSIDERS subscribers and learn how to raise more money and have more fun at the same time!
Today I’m giving you some tips about live auctions.
A couple of years ago I keynoted a fundraising conference in Tulsa, OK.
The luncheon keynote speaker was a hoot. He was a cowboy professional auctioneer who – how shall I put it? – had quite a way with the crowd.
He shared an eye-opening Top 20 Tips for a Successful Auction.
And I’ve carried around his handout all this time – I was so impressed with it.
So, with full credit to the very funny and entertaining Jay Litchfield the Auctioneer (BidLoudAuctions.com), here is his Top 20 Tip List:
1. Big Money in the Seats is More Important than Flowers.
Jay says that you should worry far more about who and how many people attend your auction than whether it looks pretty.
2. Find a Professional Auctioneer.
Clearly this point was biased from a professional auctioneer himself. But as an observer, I do think the number 1 thing a nonprofit can do to increase profitability is to have a pro at the helm of the auction.
A pro can control the crowd, get attention, play up important items, and be a real entertainer. A great auctioneer can be the life of the party at the mike, and help everyone have a blast.
Clearly they bring in more than it costs to hire them!
3. Professional Ringmen.
Apparently a ringman is someone who stands in the crowd looking for bidders.
Jay promises that these people (who can tell a head scratch from an auction bid) can make a huge world of difference to your live auction. He says “they put the zing in raising money.”
4. Advertise Your Auction Items Before the Event.
Jay says to place descriptions or a short list in the invitations or mailings before the event, so that people can plan ahead of time to purchase them at the actual event.
It helps generate word of mouth and enthusiasm for certain items well in advance of the auction.
5. Advertise Your Auction Items At the Event.
It’s very important to have a detailed list or descriptions of the items being sold in the auction – and on the tables at the event.
You need to take advantage of every opportunity to play up these items before a willing crowd.
6. Best Items are Those with an Experience or Unique Value.
You want unique items that you can’t buy anywhere else. Items of an “experience” can be priceless – far better than something with a tangible value.
What’s the experience of a locker room visit at your pro hockey team’s next game – priceless!
7. Display or Visual of the Items Being Sold.
Clearly this is a no-brainer. But the better your display, the more you’ll get for the item. If you have the actual item, you need to have it there.
8. NO Values in the Programs.
What if someone wants to pay more than the price someone suggested is the value? Most bidding will stop at the value when it’s printed in the program.
9. Plea or Gift and Silent Auctions after the Live Auction.
People may not have spent all their money on the live auction, and they can go and bid again on the file and donate to the Plea.
10. Money over Ambiance.
Bring up the house lights and kill the stage spotlights.
I can’t tell you how many auctions I’ve attended where there was very low or even no lighting on the items.
11. Great Sound System.
Rent a professional sound system or borrow one. How do they know what to spend if they can’t hear the auctioneer?
12. Build the Live Auction to a Crescendo.
Do this by having the highest priced item 3/4 o the way into the list.
13. Watch Your Event Timing.
People will begin to leave at 9pm. Larger numbers will leave at 9:30.
By 10pm, you room may become a ghost town.
14. Must Have’s For the Auctioneer.
He/she needs a great descriptive list of the items you are selling and a hand held wireless microphone.
I know this is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised!
15. Reserve Prices are for the Auctioneer’s Eye’s Only.
Please don’t print or make public the value that you have to have for reserve items or minimum prices on items.
16. No Minimum Bids by Staff.
If you have a pro as an auctioneer, let them use their own experience and decide where to start.
They probably know better with their vast experience than the staff does.
17. Selling with Reserve, WHAT??
Jay says, don’t waste your time and space selling something for someone else.
If you have to get a certain minimum for an item, it takes so much away from your profit!
18. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.
And the artist. If you’re the organizer, don’t let your own taste reign.
You never know what some people will like!
19. Script is Not Needed for an Auctioneer Pro.
I’d venture to guess that a professional auctioneer can be a lot funnier and more entertaining without a script than with one!
20. Don’t Spend Your Money on Computerized Programs.
Most of the money comes in the live auction (if it’s well done). Never forget this!
Spending a lot on the silent auction may not pay off.
Jay couldn’t stop at his top 20, so he added a few more:
- Don’t spend your money on bidder paddles.
- No noise makers during the auction.
- Get the whole family involved: school auctions are fantastic.
- Put food stations interspersed win the silent auction area.
- Be sure to have a Silent Auction Master of Ceremonies.
- Turn up the lights in the silent auction area – we are all getting a little older and most buyers need glasses. How about you?
Just like all areas of fundraising, there are some best practices that help you figure out where to take shortcuts and where you need to make investments.
Learn as much as you can ahead of time so you can make smart decisions, and raise the money you need!
What other tips would you share about live auctions? Leave a comment and share them!