Solving a Few Common Fundraising Auction Woes


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Since fundraising events are made of different moving parts, it can sometimes be easy to overlook what is truly important: to raise money for your nonprofit’s cause. It also doesn’t help that you are working within a limited timeframe.

Solving a Few Common Fundraising Auction Woes

To achieve your goal and maximize the money you can raise for your charity, it is worthwhile to know the common problems and mistakes that you might encounter, as well as the solutions for these.

Having too much or too few auction items

Having too few items to auction off is one key mistake organizations still unfamiliar with auctions commonly commit. Your non-profit might underestimate the actual number of items needed to raise funds for the charity event.

On the flip side of the coin, you have other organizations facing the dilemma of having a glut of auction items, which make it challenging to hold the actual auction.

If you are unsure, one general rule to follow for silent auctions is 1 auction item per 2 guests.

How do you fix these problems?

If you have only a few items to auction off, and there is still time to spare, you should strongly consider taking advantage of your organization’s and individual team members’ networks to source more items. You might also want to look beyond material things and consider offering auction experiences.

It would also be helpful to get some help from companies that specialize in charity auctions. Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes can help you open up to a new world of possibilities that you would have otherwise missed.

Now, if you have too many items on hand, you will have to trim these down to a manageable number. Ideally, for live auctions, you should have somewhere between eight and 12 auction items. Auctioning more than 12 items can lead to other problems, including collecting less money during the event.

Dividing the attention of event guests

During the day of your charity auction, you might have a few activities lined up to generate interest and entertain attendees. That is all well and good.

But be careful about dividing the attention of your guests, especially when you hold a live and silent auction concurrently.

Specifically, you shouldn’t close a silent auction when you have an ongoing live auction. Doing so will only divert the attention of your guests. And eventually, you wouldn’t generate as much success for your live auction.

How do you avoid this mistake?

Days or even weeks before the event, decide when you should choose to close the silent auction. It’s either you close before or after the live auction.

The advantage of closing the silent auction before doing the live auction is that guests will have their full attention on the live auction.

If you choose to close the silent auction after the live auction, the auction master can make an announcement that will reassure potential bidders that bidding is still open for the former. This will keep bidders engaged with the live auction while allowing them to still keep tabs on the silent auction.

You might also want to use a screen as a countdown timer for the end of the silent auction.

Closing the silent auction in one go

Another common mistake nonprofits make when using a silent auction format is to shut down everything all at once.

Instead of doing the same, you should consider closing the auction in segments.

One good reason behind this is that you will be able to entice more bids by creating an atmosphere of scarcity. When your bidders recognize that there is only a small window of time to place their bids, they are more likely to compete with one another more fervently for your auction items.

Another advantage of this approach is that it allows your guests to bid on different items from the various segments. In turn, your charity stands to benefit from higher bids.

Do not make the mistake of giving bidders too much time. Instead, set a firm deadline to get more bids and narrow the focus of guests.

You should also consider using color codes for each segment to help things move along faster.

Giving silent auction bidders too much time

In silent auctions, time is of the essence. Ideally, you should get the ball rolling once your guests are settled in.

If you are holding a dinner, begin the silent auction before it starts. This will help draw the attention of guests toward your auction items.

Typically, this first segment contains the smaller or less valuable auction items. Your goal here is not to get the highest bids. More than that, you simply want to get the crowd going.

Setting the wrong schedule

You wouldn’t hold a fashion auction for people who aren’t interested in bidding for articles of clothing. Doing so shows a clear lack of understanding of who your audience is.

In the same vein, you should be careful in choosing the time and date of your charity event.

Is there a specific time or day of the week that will help you generate the most income for your charity? The short answer is none. You can hold an event practically any time or day.

What is crucial to take into account the nature of your event. For example, if golf is going to be a vital component of your event, it makes sense to do it during the daytime.

Between weekdays and weekends, the latter works for most people because they do not have to worry about work or other commitments.

However, there are a few trends that you might want to take into consideration, especially if you have a tough time booking your preferred venue for a weekend event.

For example, if the majority of your guests are full-time or stay-at-home moms, you can hold your event during a weekday when babysitters are easier to book, but you have to make sure that you hold it during the daytime. If your event is geared more toward men, hold it at nighttime when they’d be available after work.

Also, booking on a weekday means that if you have a limited budget available, you can end up saving more money for the rent of the venue, as well as for catering.

Not knowing when to wrap things up

Too much of a good thing can be bad.

End things on a high note by closing your event on time. Otherwise, your guests will start filing out of the venue slowly.

Ideally, your event should last up to four hours. If you are holding it at night, be sure to wrap things up at around 9:30 p.m.

Whatever time you do choose to close the auction, ensure that you close the silent auction before the event closes, say 15 or 30 minutes prior. This allows guests who are still at the venue to check to see if they won and pick up their item, eliminating the amount of calls and arranging for pick up/shipping you have to do post event.

If you have more activities lined up and your event has been going on for four hours, you should look for activities that can be eliminated or, at least, shortened.

While it is impossible to hold a totally seamless event, you can avoid costly mistakes by making time to properly plan and prepare for your event.


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