7 tips for hosting a successful fundraising auction

Photo by Ophir Saruisi

Silent and live auctions can be great ways to raise money at a fundraising event. In Ontario, you do not need a licence for these auctions, unlike raffles and lotteries which require a licence from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. It can be hard to determine what type of auction you should hold so below we a few suggestions as well as 7 tips on how to make the auction a success! 

When determining the type of auction to hold, you need to first think about what items you will be auctioning. High value and one of a kind items often do better in a live auction whereas lower valued items typically do better in a silent auction. For example, a signed Maple Leafs jersey paired with a pair of tickets to see a game would be a fantastic silent auction prize. To make this into a live auction prize – you’ll want ice level seats and something to add to the experience such as a meet and greet with one of the players or the chance to meet with the broadcasters before the game. The items we have seen sell for the most money at a live auction are typically experiential and are not sold to the general public.

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of event you are hosting. Silent auctions work best when guests will be mingling at a cocktail party rather than something that is mainly a sit down event. This is because more guests will have the opportunity to walk by your silent auction items multiple times and can bid more than once on their favourite. Live auctions take up quite a lot of time so work well when guests are seated at a dinner. It is not normally a great idea to interrupt a DJ, band or other lively activity to run a live auction because it cuts up the flow of the event and often loses your guests’ attention.

Tips for hosting a successful silent or live auction

1. Get help to secure items – cold calling is not usually the most successful way to gain fantastic items. Solicit the help of other staff and event committees to ask their connections for items. Companies are much more likely to give amazing packages out as auction items when being asked by a friend or loyal customer.

2. Know your audience – when thinking about what types of items you should go after, think about your audience. Don’t secure a whole load of sporting tickets if most of the guests in attendance are not big sports fans.

Photo by Amy Vee Photography 

At Dr. Jane Goodall’s birthday, there was a live auction for 4 original chimpanzee paintings (they use painting as a therapy for some of the rescued chimps). These were the PERFECT items for those in attendance – people who love and support Dr. Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute’s work with the chimps.

3. Communicate – sending out an event reminder email to your guests? Let them know about the auction and some of the great prizes they could purchase. This ups their anticipation and primes them into being ready to make a purchase.

4. Positioning your items – Don’t hide your auction items in a corner. Place them where guests will be forced to walk by them. For example, on the way to the washrooms, bar or main food source. For highly valuable items, it is a good idea to have security or to have signage indicating each item, with the actual items locked away until the end of the evening.

Photo by Amy Vee Photography

5. Timing – make the live auction start time appropriate to the event. Guests need some time to get comfortable at an event, see their friends and have a few drinks before they start to think about the auction. Live auctions should not be held right at the end of the evening either as you may miss some guests with early departures. If the event includes dinner, we always schedule the auction to take place during the dinner in order to have the most captive audience possible.

6. Speaker – this one is only for live auctions, but you want to make sure you have a fantastic auctioneer. This means someone who gets the crowd excited and energetic, is able to sell your items and increase those bids. Often someone who is also somewhat funny is a good choice. Think over your options carefully – or better yet, hire a professional. The auctioneer can make or break the success!

7. Make sure your starting bid is tailored to your audience – don’t have items and starting bids that the majority of your guests cannot afford. This will turn the auction into one where only a select few are bidding and everyone else is a spectator. This will not bring in as much money for your cause. Know your audience!

Raising money is tough! Here at All Wrapped Up Events, we have fundraising & event experience from top ranking Canadian charities. Give us a call today to get started on your next fundraiser.

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