Get Your Auctions Going...Going...
Organizations from local schools to national nonprofits are using auctions, both live and online, to raise needed funds and fill the gap left by shrinking budgets and dwindling funding sources. If you’re one of them, here are a few tips to help you succeed with your next benefit auction.
1. Create a plan.
Ideally, planning should start 11 months in advance of the event to make sure there’s enough time to secure a venue, recruit volunteers, procure items and organize and publicize the event. You’ll also want to put a budget together at this time. Expenses can include invitations and catalog publication, food, beverages, professional auctioneer, venue, entertainment, computer systems, sound equipment, etc.
2. Hire a professional benefit auctioneer.
They are professional moneymakers for your cause, who can boost revenue by motivating your guests to bid more. While a celebrity might do a great job entertaining and filling seats, a professional auctioneer engages the audience to drive increased bidding. Basically, they know how to ask for money.
3. Update your database.
Add e-mail addresses. While mailed invitations are an important first step, e-mail is an excellent way to send information to registered attendees or last-minute reminders to those constituents who have not yet responded.
4. Incorporate ways for guests to donate even if they cannot attend.
All event materials and invitations should include a Web site address for direct donations as well as online registration. Also consider adding an online auction -- either in conjunction with your live event or as a year-round fundraising tool.
5. Accept credit cards at your event.
You will significantly boost revenue and provide added convenience for your guests. With certain systems, you will even reduce check-out lines. Make sure to let people know ahead of time, via the invitation or e-mail, that you will be accepting cards so that they can have them out and ready to go.
6. Form a procurement team.
Soliciting items for both the live and silent portions of the auction, also called procurement, is key to a profitable event. Putting together a powerful procurement team can help ensure success in securing donations and meeting event revenue goals. Select people who have a wide circle of contacts. Much of the success of procurement is knowing the right people. Also request items via your Web site and through other e-mail communications.
7. Use event-management software.
Software that is intuitive and easy to use will assist you with all of your event planning and processes -- from procurement to check-out and everything in between -- including keeping track of attendees, creating packages, the catalog, seating assignments, bid sheets and more. And best of all, it can help you plan year after year.
8. Silent- and live-auction order is important.
Create several sections for your silent auction with staggered closing times. It’s important to provide a variety of items of different values and themes in each section. Additionally, pay attention to the order of your live auction items. According to top benefit auctioneers, the order in which items are sold can often be as important as the items themselves and can increase auction revenue.
9. Maintain a positive mental attitude.
Once your event day is here, stay positive and take a deep breath. Have confidence that you have prepared and that everything will go well. Relax and enjoy the results of all of your hard work.
10. After the event, celebrate your success.
You and your committee and all the volunteers deserve it. Take notes for next year while things are still fresh in your mind, and don’t forget to send out those all-important thank-you notes!
Peter Hoogerhuis is the vice president of marketing for Auctionpay, a Portland, Ore.-based technology company specializing in software and services to support auctions and other fundraising events. www.auctionpay.com.