10 Tips for a Successful Auction Fundraiser | Online, Silent, or Live Auctions
By: Donna Pokowitz of SchoolAuctionManager.com
Want your best cha nce at building a successful auction fundraiser? Include these 10 tips and you’ll be well on your way!
1. Set a Goal and Make a Plan:
Start your auction off with a monetary goal in mind. From there, you can determine how many items you’ll need to bring in to reach that goal. Keep in mind, it’s unlikely you’ll get 100% of their value at auction. The standard rule of thumb is about 50% for online and silent auction items and 75% auctioneer-sold items. Don’t fo rget to deduct your budget for expenses. Then, create a solid auction plan that will keep your so licitations committee going until you reach your goal. Consider adding mobile bidding to your silent auction, which can up your profits by 10-30% over traditional paper-run auctions.
2. Get the Best Auction Items: Consider your audience an d try to get items they will love and want to buy. Gift cards to popular shops and restaurants almost always go for full value or higher. Items with broad appeal do best; furniture and jewelry that are very “taste-specific” are harder to sell. Review what sold well last year and get more. Don’t waste time on items that didn’t sell well. Consider asking those donors to buy an ad/sponsorship instead of donating an item. They still show their support and get the promotional benefit.
3. Get the Buyers There: Whether you are running an online auction or a live event auction, you’ve got to get the bidders to the auction. To do this, you need a well thought-out promotion and marketing campaign that begins well before your auction begins. Use social media, send out save-the-dates, invitations, put details in newsletters, etc. Your goal is to get people excited about your event and interested in participating. Another great way to accomplish this is with a great auction website to showcase your auction items and talk up your event .
4. Promote Your Auction Items: This goes above and beyond just promoting your auction and highlighting your best items. Make sure that your online catalog has great images and feature-packed descriptions that make people want to buy. Sell the item and sell the donor that gave it to you. Find good writers on your team and let them be factual, consistent, and creative. At the live event, merchandise the items for maximum appeal. Packaging, lighting and accessories will showcase your items to make them more appealing.
5. Timing is Everything: An online auction shouldn’t last more than a week. However, you can start promoting it up to a month in advance to get people excited and looking forward to the event. To keep things exciting, you might consider opening and closing the bidding on items at different times. A short bidding window will give people a sense of urgency, plus, everyone bids on the last day anyway! With a live event, keep the evening moving along, because after the food, drinks and socializing starts to slow down, people will leave. Close the auction by 9-9:30 pm and then let the socializing continue for your night owls.
6. Easy Does It: When your guests come to your event, they want it to be easy... easy to find items they are interested in, easy to bid, easy to checkout, and easy to leave. Make sure your online catalog is organized in a way that makes your items easy to find. You can do this by choosing the proper categories. It’s much easier to understand a category called “Restaurants” than “Eat-it-Up”. At your event, pay attention to the flow and staging of your tables. Use signage to guide and direct your guests to the locations where you want them to be and tell them what to do when they get there. Using technology, like smartphones, iPads, and computers for mobile bidding and checkout eliminates the wait lines. Think easy!
7. It IS easy being green: Save money on things that are no longer necessary. Everyone uses email and smart phones, so consider sending invitations electronically. No need for a printed auction catalog: put your auction catalog online! Don’t bother buying bidder paddles when a sticker with a bidder number adhered to the back of the evening’s program will get the job done. Eliminate bid sheets, pens and stacks of file folders and use mobile bidding! The goal is to make the most money possible for your fundraiser, so save wherever you can.
8. Hire Professionals: If you are holding a live auction, hire a professional auctioneer. A good auctioneer will pay for himself. The auction will progress more quickly, bids will be maximized and guests will be entertained. Before you hire your auctioneer, make sure you get references and attend one of their auctions so you can see them in action. Make sure they have the right personality for your event. Also, if you are featuring entertainment or a speaker, make sure you get people that are good at their job and match your theme and audience. They will definitely reflect on the spirit of your event.
9. Make it Fun: People come to the event because they want to have fun. Make it fun. You can do that with a cool theme, great food and drinks, an overall party atmosphere. Help people make friends, socialize, and enjoy themselves. No matter how formal your event, you can still find ways to make it fun. The more fun people are having, the happier they feel, and the looser their wallets become. The way your attendees feel when they leave your event will influence whether or not they choose to attend next year. Perhaps cap off the evening with an inexpensive party favor or sweet treat as they exit to end on a high note.
10. Sell more, Make more: Consider selling advertising and sponsorship opportunities on your auction website and at your live event. This can bring in extra money for your fundraiser. Donors will give more to get more in return. Plus, potential donors that don’t have items that would sell very well or who provide a service might be willing to support your event with an online ad that links to their website, or recognition at your live event.
Bonus Tip: Respect Your Volunteers: Volunteers are just that. Never treat them like employees. When you recruit them, provide them with a clearly defined job description and honor it. They are there to help because they care. Treat them with respect and appreciate their contribution to your organization. Thank them at every turn, recognize them on your auction website and in your program. They are patrons, friends, and neighbors. Under the best of circumstances, they become even better friends and even more loyal supporters after your auction, perhaps even future leaders.
About the author:
Donna Pokowitz, Owner/CEO | School Auction Manager
A wife and mother of two sons, from Nashville, TN, Donna has been an actively involved parent for over 18 years. She has served as both leader and volunteer on many school projects. Utilizing her skills as a marketing professional, and experience as a volunteer, she developed School Auction Manager. School Auction Manager is a web-based auction software solution providing parent volunteers with an easy-to-use tool to more effectively manage their school’s online, live, and silent auctions.
Through the School Auction Manager blog “Cool School for Parents”, receive a free auction planner to help you get started on your next auction!