Live auctions are wonderful avenues to raise money for your cause. The following tips will help make sure you maximize the revenue generated in the room, and delight guests and donors alike.
Know Your Audience!
We can’t stress enough the importance of knowing your live audience inside and out. What do they love? What is their capacity for bidding?
If you’ve missed the mark on what your audience is hoping to bid for or their financial capability to afford the packages you’ve pulled together, you’ll see packages sell for well under value.
How do you know what your bidders want? Ask them! Have one on one conversations with key guests, run an online survey or invite folks to join you for a focus group with refreshments. Ask the questions and listen to what they have to say. This is also a great time to brainstorm what resources your supporters have to assist you in building your auction lineup.
Also, be sure to review your live auction package performance from previous years. There’s a story in that data just waiting to be told.
Craft and Present Your Live Auction Lineup With Intention
- Once you know what your bidders really want, and what they can afford, begin curating your auction packages. Start with a wish list, and work with your team/board/committee/volunteers to brainstorm your resources to hit the mark on procurement. Think creatively about how to connect to the kinds of packages your donors want.
- Be sure to shake up your lineup year over year. Having repeat items in your live auction each year is a sure-fire recipe for a bored audience and diminishing returns. Spice it up! Suggestion: Rather than paying thousands of dollars for fresh auction packages through a consignment agency, leverage the Mission Limelight Exchange to turn one of your older, local packages into a brand new adventure for your guests’ bidding pleasure!
- Put your live auction packages in thoughtful order. The sequence of sales is key to keeping your audience engaged and the bidding high. Auctioneers and fundraising experts like the Mission Limelight team are pros at auction sequencing
- A picture is worth a thousand words… and an auction is no exception. Create a slideshow to accompany each package as it hits the auction block. Fill your slideshow with great photos that put your item/adventure/experience in the best light possible, and include bullet point highlights. This is a perfect way to give your donors more acknowledgement, too!
- If you have a stunning piece of jewelry, a work of art or other tangible item, bring it to the stage for viewing, then get down there in the audience to show it to potential bidders. Once the bidding gets down to the last few paddles, continue to present the item to entice. Friendly banter is helpful! It’s also great to have that piece circulating the crowd before the sit down dinner. Put your gorgeous piece of bling on an outgoing woman and let her work the audience during the reception.
- Do not talk about values during the live auction or put them in your catalog. Let your auctioneer guide your audience into raising their bids and supporting your cause.
Get Your Bidders Ready In Advance
If you’re not sending out your live auction lineup in advance, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Giving bidders the chance to review your packages at leisure, to follow links to lodging, restaurants, experiences and more gets them ready to bid big. For those packages that include lodging for multiple couples or families, your bidders can talk with others who aren’t attending your event to come up with a bidding cap and strategy together, rather than being unprepared at the event.
Additionally, use this opportunity to give your package donors a shout-out, and your guests ways to connect with the services and products they provide.
Send an email with photos and links out to guests about 10 days before auction night. Which brings us to…
Gather Your Bidder Information BEFORE The Event
This can be a challenge, but the more bidder contact information you can capture before the event, the smoother check in will be – which can make or break bidder mindset before they even hit the auction hall. Having contact information in advance also allows you to send key information, like the live auction details, to all guests before the big day. You can also communicate around dietary needs, share weather updates, suggestions about attire and more.
Create the Right Environment
Consider all of the elements of your bidding environment.
- Lighting: Make sure you bring the lights up during the auction, so your bidders can easily follow along in their programs, and – more importantly – so the auctioneer and bid spotters can easily spy bids and keep things moving.
- Sound: This is absolutely crucial to success. Your bidders must hear the auctioneer and MC clearly over the ambient sounds in the room. Oftentimes, your sound team will simply turn up the volume to drown out the sounds of talking and eating. Don’t fall into this trap! Go for clear, well-balanced sound that blankets the whole room equally. Making poor sound louder creates audio hot spots and will annoy your bidders. If you can work it into your budget, hire an audio/visual team that specializes in auctions. It will pay off in spades. Ask your auctioneer for hints and tips.
- Room Temperature: If it’s stuffy or blasting cold, your audience is thinking about their comfort, not about your auction! Be sure your venue knows your temperature preferences, or make sure you know how to adjust on the fly.
- Guest Noise: Minimize guest distractions and noise by keeping the live auction flowing fast. The auction should be as equally entertaining as anything else on deck that night. If you have excessively loud tables, it can be helpful to place a volunteer or a bid spotter near that table to give them a gentle eye or reminder. Your auctioneer should be empowered to bring things to a friendly halt whenever the noise level gets too high, inviting everyone to take a pause and re-engage.
- Keep Centerpieces Low and Tables Uncluttered: Let your guests see each other and the stage – and let your auctioneers see your guests easily!
Mission, Mission, Mission
What, more than anything else, will get your audience bidding above value on your packages? Your mission! You’ve brought together a group of people who have varying degrees of knowledge about the work you do. Incorporate your story everywhere you can. Some suggestions:
- Place an infographic or annual report in your program with easy to digest bites about your mission and success.
- While guests are waiting in line for check-in, give them something to read about your work. Place posters on the wall or on easels along the length of the line.
- Work factoids into your silent auction tables. For every 4-5 silent auction packages, put up a table sign with a “did you know” statement or compelling fact/figure. Create “aha!” moments all through your event.
- Tell your story during the live auction program. If you aren’t already doing a fund-a-need, or paddle raise – start now! This mission-based part of your program is absolutely essential. Partway through your live auction, take a break to tell your story in a moving, heartfelt and concise fashion. This could be a live speaker who has benefitted from your work, a partner who sings your praises, or a well-produced video that shines the light on your mission and those you serve. It is important that this part of the program remains tight. It should take between just 5-7 minutes. You want your guests on the edge of their seat, and thinking with their hearts about how much they are ready to support you. At the end of your mission presentation, everyone is ready to give and grateful for your service.
For more valuable tips and tricks on event based fundraising, become a Mission Limelight user! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.