Planning for Success: Auction Tips for Non-Profit Organizations

Holding a charity auction can be a daunting experience, regardless of whether your non-profit organization has limited or vast experience. With so many variables coming into play, the margin for error can be high.

Fortunately, you can bank on the experience of other organizations to avoid potential pitfalls and increase your auction’s chances of success.

If you are planning on holding a charity auction, here are seven helpful tips you might want to try.

Planning for Success

1. Give careful thought to your auction items

To a large extent, the success (or failure) of your charity auction hinges on the things that you put out for auction. But how exactly do you choose items that appeal to your target donors?

There are a few critical factors that you need to take into account.

  • First, consider what your target donors’ interests are. The more that the items you auction appeal to your donors, the more likely that the auction will be competitive. For example, if your target audience is comprised mostly of people from the younger generations, auction experiences are the way to go. Don’t overload your auction with sports items if your crowd isn’t into that sort of thing.
  • Second, consider the income level of your donors. Simply put, the items that you auction off should be within the price range that your donors can afford.
  • Third, give careful thought to your auction items. Part of the appeal of bidding for an item is its uniqueness. And if your donors can buy the things that you auction off from a brick-and-mortar or online store, you are sure to face an uphill battle.
  • Finally, you need to create a competitive bidding environment. That can be achieved by creating a seller’s market where there is a limited number of auction items. A ratio to think of is one item per wo guests.

2. Build your team

A successful charity auction requires a cohesive team working in front of and behind the curtains. Simply put, you cannot rely on your organization’s resources alone. You will need help from volunteers and specialists.

For starters, you will need a few members who will help you solicit auction items. For live auctions, you will surely need an auctioneer and an emcee. Auction spotters and monitors complement the work done by the auctioneer by overseeing the bidders.

Ideally, the volunteers you enlist for help should receive ample training and instructions, especially if you are going to use software for your auction. This will enable them to guide the bidders through the auction process.

3. Keep everything organized

Whether you have a few auction items or several, it is a good idea to keep detailed records of these. But what exactly should you record?

Ideally, each auction item should have a record which includes its name, an auction number, description, name of the donor, market value, starting bid amount, and the minimum bidding target.

Make sure to assign somebody to perform this task. This person should make a record every time your organization receives a donation. It would also be beneficial to create a master list of all the auction items.

If a donor is bringing the item or certificate on the day of the event, make sure you keep track of that so there are no misplaced items.

4. Put a spotlight on your auction items

Generate excitement for your fundraiser by promoting your auction items on different platforms, from brochures to your social media accounts to email blasts.

Start as early as possible, even if you do not have a complete list of items up for auction or if you are still negotiating with auction consignment companies. Once new items come in, you can add these to your catalogue.

Apart from generating excitement for your fundraiser, advertising your auction items helps potential bidders to plan out their bids.

Don’t advertise too early. At most, blast out the items two weeks prior. You want your supporters to know it’s happening, but not forget about the items. Ensure it stays fresh in their head.

5. Display auction items prominently

During your fundraiser, your auction items should be displayed prominently instead of being hidden somewhere in the venue. This allows potential bidders to see exactly what they can bid on. Of course, how you present your items will depend heavily on the type of auction you choose.

For a live auction, it is ideal to have a team member to bring it on stage before bidding commences. If this is not possible, you can use a projector to show the item on stage. Videos are also a great way to showcase experiences and trips for a live auction.

For a silent auction, you can organize auction items into categories to facilitate ease in viewing. Pay attention to how you organize the display tables to enable ease of movement of bidders.

For an online auction, make sure that you take photos of each item from multiple angles. Provide as much information as possible in the description for each item.

6. Pay attention to item order

When you are auctioning items off, you cannot proceed without any sense of order. If you auction items off randomly, you risk losing the attention of potential bidders. Conversely, if you plan the auction properly, the bidders will become excited.

But how exactly do you do that?

For a live auction, it is best to start the ball rolling with lower-priced items. After that, you can move on to high-value items during the middle of the program. From there, you can close the auction off by highlighting medium-priced things. Try having your most expensive and most interesting item near the end, but not directly at the end.

If you choose to hold a silent auction using bid sheets, it is highly recommended that you start all bids at the same time. Spread out the items so it is a diverse display. Don’t put each category next to each other. Bidders will get disinterested. Same goes for a mobile auction, number the items however you like on the platform, but spread the items out for display.

7. Make it easy for your donors

As much as possible, you should eliminate barriers to the bidding process. Otherwise, potential donors may be put off. The more convenient your bidding process is, the higher the likelihood that the revenue could increase.

For silent auctions, consider using mobile software where donors can use their own phones. If you are planning on using bid sheets, consider using a system where donors can use bid numbers instead of asking them to give their names and contact information over and over again.

For live auctions, make sure that you provide bidders with bid paddles.

Don’t hesitate to ask help from the professionals

Whether you need a professional auctioneer or a company to help you acquire items to auction off, asking for help from specialists is by no means a sign of weakness.

With all the things that you need to plan and prepare, getting as many helping hands on board is vital for success.