Kingston’s Dazzling Dozen Tips to Plan a Superb Benefit Auction

By:  Kathy Kingston, Professional Auctioneer, Kingston Auction Company

© 2004-2010. Kathleen A. Kingston.  All Rights Reserved.

Auction success begins with careful planning long before the gavel is raised.  These key-planning tips will boost your benefit auction profit to a new level.

1.  Jump-Start Your Auction!

Begin NOW!  A great fundraising auction needs at least 6 to 11 months of pre-event planning for success.  Create an auction fact sheet and master-planning checklist with key action dates. Distribute these to all committee members and volunteers early and follow up often.

2.  Timing Is Everything.

Design a fast paced exciting event. Plan a minute-by-minute schedule or “show flow” of your entire event and stick to it.   The majority of your revenue is in the live auction, so place it prominently in your event.  Assign a Day of Auction Chair to keep your schedule on track.

3.  Location, Location, Location!

Book for a spacious venue with plenty of nearby parking.  It’s ideal to for silent and live auctions to be in same large space.  If not, make sure your silent and live auction areas are adjacent, so your guests have more time to bid and less time traveling.   Design at least two feet per silent auction item so your guests can comfortably and generously bid.

4.  Hire and Involve Your Professional Auctioneer Right Away.

Many auctioneers are booked for a year or more in advance.  Some auctioneers offer consulting services to assist you to make the most revenue for your organization. A profession auctioneer – especially one with a consultative approach — can help take the risk out of fundraising by generating more awareness, excitement and profit for your organization.

5.  Don’t’ trip over pennies to pick up thousand dollar bills!

Non-profit does not mean no profit.   Plan your fiscally responsible budget to forecast reasonable expenses so you can produce profit.    In special event planning it’s necessary spend money to make money.  Solicit underwriting for expenses to budget for auction success.

6.  Your Auction Data is a Goldmine.

Analyze your auction results from the last few years.  Who came and spend money?  What generous bidders were missing this year? What items sells best for you?  What items generate excitement and spirited bidding?  What types of items has the highest ratio of retail value to high bid? What does not sell well?  Most importantly, what is the ratio of the market value to your final bid amount?  How can you plan to achieve 100% of retail value or more?    Know your auction revenue from both the Silent Auction and the Live Auction as well as other auction revenue streams. These questions will often stimulate important planning discussions for your auction committee to lead to increase auction fundraising.

7.   Solicit High Yield Auction Items

What are the best auction items? Know what your audience wants and solicit those types of auction items. Be specific and ask your top bidders for auction ideas that they will purchase.  Procure items that generate spirited and generous bidding, solicit items that are one-of-a-kind, personal and unique.  Make sure you have auction items on which a group of bidders can team up, like dinners and exclusive experiences. Raise the bar and ask for more from donors.  Remember to create an exciting marketing and that personal word of mouth buzz before your event to maximize dollars on auction night!

8.  It’s Not About the Color of the Napkins.

Don’t get too bogged down with decorating details.  While decorations and theme are important for wonderful event, remember, it’s about raising much needed funds to achieve your mission.   Make sure all your committee members and volunteers understand the goals of your auction and how the auction profits will be used to support your organization’s cause.

9. Great Sound and Light Will Generate Revenue.

Sound and lighting are one of most overlooked areas for auction success.  If your guests cannot see and hear – they will not bid.  Hire a professional sound company to provide independent auction quality sound.  The hotel or “house sound” systems are notoriously not sufficient for an auction and you will loose money.    Your guests must be able to read the silent auction forms and catalog.   Lights UP for auction the live auction.  Your auctioneer must be able to see your guest’s eyes and bid numbers.  Spotlights on the stage will blind your auctioneer and she or he will not be able to see bidders.

10.  Your Dynamic Auction Team

Volunteers are the heart, soul and backbone of benefits auctions.  Select Auction co-chairs and all committees right away. Plan your entire year meeting schedule and make sure it is on everyone’s calendar right away.  The secret to success is to involve as many committed volunteers, board members and staff as early as possible and give them clear written communications and lots of recognition and thanks!

11.  Fund Raising IS Friend Raising.

A good benefit auction raises significant funds, increases awareness of your cause, and draws new commitment from those attending.   Fundraising auctions are wonderful events for cultivation of guests, sponsors, donors and volunteers. Connect your audience to your cause and they will bid generously.

12.  Thank You and Recognition!

Thank your donors, sponsors, volunteers and guests early and often.   The spirit of recognition and appreciation will create a dynamic climate for future giving.

13.   Give MORE that your guests expect!!!

© 2004-2010. Kathleen A. Kingston.  All Rights Reserved.