auction planning

How long should your auction be?

One of the biggest challenges facing fundraising auctions is determining how many lots to do in the live auction. Too many lots in your auction and you run the risk of boring your crowd, or - worse yet - making them feel like you've bled them dry. Too few, and you leave money on the table.

“How many lots should we do?” is the question most asked by new clients in planning meetings. And, though we hate to answer a question with a question, the answer is: “How long do you want your auction to be?” This sounds sarcastic, but really what we mean is, “how many minutes long do you want your auction to be?”

Every event has its own unique culture. What is right for one event is inappropriate for another - including the length of the auction.

We average three minutes to describe and sell each individual lot, and it takes about two times that for a successful fund-a-need (not counting videos, testimonial, etc.). This makes for easy math: want a 60-minute auction? Do 19 lots, plus a fund-a-need.

The real underlying question still remains, how long should your auction be? How much of your attendees’ time should you utilize to help you achieve your philanthropic goals of the evening? It is our belief that if you are going to spend the time and energy to get everyone to come together ostensibly in support of your organization, that you are entitled to ask people to focus on financially supporting you for at least 30 – 45 minutes.

But every event has its own unique culture, and every community has different tolerances for fundraising auctions. Does your auction include an awards ceremony? Is it a luncheon instead of a gala? On a Thursday night instead of a weekend? 700 attendees or 150?

These are all variables that impact how long your auction should be. The key is that the length of your auction should be a good fit with the culture of your event, and stay true to the amount of money you need to raise. Be strategic in your planning, and don't be afraid to spend a significant amount of time asking attendees to support your cause. It is why you bothered to get them together, after all.

The most exciting auction lots of 2015

Our annual compendium of the most exciting auction lots we saw at fundraising auctions is back, with a whole new list of creative and engaging items. This year we saw the Warriors become the hottest Bay Area sports team; on the court and on the stage. Chefs continued to be the rock stars of the fundraising world, as food-related lots continue to get more and more creative.

The Taylor Swift tour was so popular, we saw packages of tickets to her concert succeed at six different events across the nation. This year, we had so many lots to choose from, we opted not to limit it just to 10, and instead included the 15 lots we thought would best serve as creative examples.

As always, the goal of sharing these isn’t to get you to replicate them. The goal is to inspire you to create your own stellar lots, so we can include them in our next best-of list!

So without further ado, here are our most exciting fundraising auction lots of 2015, presented in no particular order.

Six Tickets to U2 and a Meet and Greet with Bono. Seriously!!

What can we say? It’s a U2 concert with five of your best friends. Oh and you’ll hang out with Bono beforehand. Enough said.

Conditions: Concert date is May 19th, 2015 at the SAP Center in San Jose.

Visit the Set of Modern Family and Lunch at the Fox Commissary

Watch an actual episode of the award winning show “Modern Family” being filmed on the set of 20th Century Fox Studios.  See the Emmy and Golden Globe winning actors and writers create one of the most popular sitcoms on television, and get a chance to meet some of the cast in person.

Enjoy lunch at the legendary Fox Commissary, home to stars ranging from Rita Hayworth to Mel Brooks and many more.  Arrive via Southwest Airlines, (your certificate is good between any two cities within the Southwest Airlines system in the continental US and expires 4/1/2016).  Stay overnight at Hollywood’s favorite luxury hotel, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, and be transported to and from the lot in a chauffeured town car.

Golden State Warriors Honorary Player Experience and Owners' Suite

Give your child the experience of being introduced alongside the Warriors starting lineup as an honorary player! He or she will be part of the team huddle, tour the Warriors locker room and receive a Warriors jersey of the player of their choice. Then, enjoy exclusive use of the Owners suite to watch the game with 18 of your closest friends and family!

Restrictions: Honorary player experience limited to 2 people; children must be between 8-16 years old. Owners suite includes 16 seats and 4 standing room tickets for a maximum of 20 people. Mutually agreed upon game; game exclusions apply. Non-transferable.

Behind the Scenes of “Check Please!” with Leslie Sbrocco

Behind-the-scenes of "Check, Please! Bay Area" in the KQED Studios for a group of four: watch a live taping, get tours of the studio, and meet our emcee this evening, Leslie Sbrocco. Leslie is one of the 100 most influential people in the wine business. She has won a James Beard award, three Taste Awards, and three Emmy awards.

She’ll welcome you in to the KQED studios and give you a VIP tour of the studio. Then you’ll get to watch the live taping of the show and meet the cast and crew. Afterwards, head over to the Mission Rock Resort for a lovely lunch.

[Note: Leslie was the emcee of the event, and did a fantastic job of establishing relationships with people long before she took the stage. Her lot sold spectacularly well because people were supporting her as much as the organization.]

Taylor Swift!

Winners gonna bid, bid, bid!

Where is The 1989 World Tour touching down on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 7:30 PM? The PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC. Who will be the biggest fans in the audience? The winners of this wonderful package which includes six tickets to see the fabulous Taylor Swift in concert.

Guys' Beer Bus III: I Left My Liver in San Francisco

Back for a liver-smashing third time, the Beer Bus! We've done the North Bay. We've done the East Bay. Now we are going across the Bay. Join us as we visit some of the finest breweries in San Francisco... and on a friggin' limo bus that has beer in it. Yeah, you read that right. A limo bus, with beer, taking you to places that make beer, to drink more beer! Oh, and that's not all. All winners get a year-long membership to the Hillcrest Dad's Beer Club, which includes FREE BEER during our monthly gatherings. So what are you waiting for?

Top 20 guys, bidding starts at $200/guy.

The Buster-Hug! By Jared Emerson

Jared Emerson doesn’t just paint people, he captures moments on canvas, live! Right before your eyes, at our event, Jared Emerson will capture one of Giants fans’ favorite moments: the Buster hug! 

For SF Giants fans, few moments are as memorable, or as endearing, as the BusterHug that closed out the 2014 World Series run. Sure, Buster’s given hugs to other pitchers, but few were as emotion filled as the hug he gave Bumgarner in 2014. You’ll get to see Jared paint it live, and then you’ll have the moment forever on your wall.

[Note: Art is usually a challenge to sell in a fundraising auction. This piece was created in real-time by the artist, and the subject matter was custom-chosen by the organization in advance. The artist wanted to do a different image, and the event was steadfast about wanting the “Busterhug”. It sold for $11,000 – twice!]

Stop, Hammer Time!

Internationally known, award-winning artist and entrepreneur M.C. Hammer has invited you, your friends or colleagues for the experience of a lifetime. Take this unique opportunity to gain one-on-one access to an outstanding performer and icon, to discuss technology or entrepreneurialism, or for the best dance lesson you could ever hope for.

Hammer skyrocketed to fame in the 90s, and has had an incredible journey ever since. From the start, he has constantly worked to reinvent himself, his sound, and his interests. In addition to being a multiple Grammy award-winning and chart-topping musician, M.C. Hammer has initiated several business ventures in music, technology, and often both. The knowledge he has gained during the past decades is the result of a unique perspective and interesting experiences. Don’t miss out on what he has to share.

If you’ve always wanted to learn to dance like a hip-hop idol or yearned to discuss business and technology with an innovator and risk-taker, don’t miss this first-ever offer to the ISTP community. Bond with M.C. Hammer in a small group while he teaches you to cut a rug like a super star, or invite him to share his incredible professional journey with you and your company for a lunch discussion or seminar.


• 1 hour of time with MC Hammer to discuss business, technology, or dance lessons

• Offer good for individuals, small or large groups—depending on the chosen activity

Backyard BBQ with Jeremy Affeldt

16 guests will join San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt for an afternoon BBQ featuring some of Jeremy’s favorite dishes. Larkin Street youth will co-host, helping prepare the feast and also ensuring that Jeremy never uses a knife! Grab a tasty plate, sip a cold brew, and chat with Jeremy about baseball, Larkin Street, and life. Hosted at the San Francisco home of Larkin Street board members.

 To be held on a mutually agreeable date with Jeremy Affeldt.

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible

Thanks to South Bay Ford, one lucky bidder will have the opportunity to have their designated driver take them home in his/her brand new Ford Mustang convertible! Ford has completely redesigned the iconic Mustang for 2015 inside and out. The sleek new aggressive profile is reminiscent of the true “muscle car” that the model was born from 50 years ago. This car is a quintessential example of the South Bay lifestyle and perfect for commuting around town or whisking a new graduate off to college.

The ingot silver paint with black convertible top gives it a classic look and will turn heads at every corner. The also redesigned 300hp 6-cylinder engine is designed for pure performance, yet still has impressive 20 city / 30 hwy MPG. Also sporting the select-shift automatic transmission, Ford’s revolutionary Sync audio system, and rear backup assistance, this is a car that puts you in the mood for performance. This auction is all-inclusive: includes the car, tax & license fees.

[Note: We don’t usually recommend selling a car, unless it is donated and is an exciting vehicle. This convertible Mustang met both requirements.]

Rockin' with Linkin Park

SoCal rockers Linkin Park became one of the most successful bands in the world by combining elements of hip-hop, modern rock, and atmospheric electronica into their music. Their popularity is exemplified by the band’s massive online presence. They are the biggest band on Facebook with over 63 million friends and were the first ever band to garner over 1 billion views on their YouTube channel.

Linkin Park is known for having a sound that has evolved as their career progressed. From high-energy alternative rock like “One Step Closer” and “Faint” to modern classics like “In the End” and “What I’ve Done” they have always delivered the goods resulting in over 60 million albums sold worldwide.

Whether you are a Linkin Park fan or just a music fan, this opportunity brings a truly unique experience to create a lifetime of memories. Linkin Park has invited us to a “studio experience” for 10 guests. You will get to hang out with members of the band and get a tour of their Los Angeles recording studio where they are recording their new album.

Transportation will be provided by private limousine, and the winner will take home a guitar signed by the band. Winner(s) could choose to purchase additional guitars to have signed by the band during their studio visit.

Hog Heaven

Hunt for the big hogs and learn the art of charcuterie. Game on for a first-class pig hunt on the legendary Rockpile Ranch, rich in history that includes notorious outlaws from the Jesse James gang. Spread across 10,000 acres of unspoiled Sonoma County wilderness with steep hillsides and rocky, remote terrain, this famous ranch is a sportsman’s paradise! You’ll kick back with your hosts as an expert wild game hunter and ranch caretaker prepares a late afternoon cowboy steak supper.

Then as the sun fades, head out for your big game hunt from a Jeep as you tour this magnificent property with Pacific Ocean views. Your pig will be cleaned and dressed, and cut, so you can enjoy it when you get home.

Plus, learn the art of charcuterie with a hands-on lesson from Italian Michelin Star chef, Stefano Masanti, who will teach you to make sausages, salami, pancetta, coppa and two different types of lardo from a heritage pig from Regusci Winery! And of course, it wouldn’t be a hunting trip without Scotch, cigars, and storytelling around the campfire to round out the day: “You shoulda seen that boar I wrangled bare-handed!” you’ll boast under the sparkling Sonoma stars. Settle in for the night at the rustic Rockpile hunting cabin and doze off reminiscing of days past when life was a little simpler.

Special Forces Day for Two with Gryphon Group Security Solutions

Over the last 14 years, Gryphon Group has trained over 30,000 American Warfighters, Special Operations Personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force & Marine Corps as well as Federal Agents from 12 Federal Agencies in specialized combat training.

Now it is your turn to experience this incredible training experience with a day-long program at Gryphon Group’s Fort Bragg Combat Training Center. The successful bidder can choose from one of two full-day programs: Anti-Terrorism Driver Training or Anti-Terrorism Weapons Training. Participants must be ages 18 & up.  Donated by Gryphon Group Security Solutions.

Game of Thrones

Do you love the Game of Thrones? Do you love fine wine and great food? Have you ever experienced all three together? The lucky winning bidders will have a once in a lifetime experience enjoying dinner with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin in the elegant home of our board president. Chef Andrew Cooper, of the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, will be in the kitchen. Some of Napa's greatest wines will partner with the evening's masterful menu.

It’ll be the first George R.R. Martin dinner where everyone lives happily ever after!

San Francisco Giants Gotham Club Dinner, wines, and a game for four with Rich Aurilla and Dan Kosta

Here’s your chance to see behind the scoreboard! Located inside the out-of-town scoreboard, with unique views to the Field and McCovey Cove, this venue features a stunning bar and a private dining area. A private, members-only entrance along The Portwalk grants members direct and easy access to The Clubhouse and inside the ballpark.

Former San Francisco Giant Rich Aurilia and Dan Kosta will host dinner for four guests at the exclusive Gotham Club featuring wines by Kosta Browne and Red Stitch.

After dinner, head down to the ball park and enjoy the game! Includes transportation from Sonoma County to the game.

Mutually agreeable date.

Peanuts Movie Exclusive Two Ways! Private air to Premier in Los Angeles AND private screening in Santa Rosa!

For the first time ever, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang we know and love from Charles Schulz’s timeless Peanuts comic strip will be making their big-screen debut like they’ve never been seen before in a CG-animated feature film in 3D.

First, you and three guests will have an exclusive experience at the Peanuts premiere in Los Angeles on Sunday, November 1st. Travel in style on a Cessna Citation jet, and enjoy overnight accommodations, and limo transportation from your hotel to the premier!

Next, you and up to 80 guests will experience a private screening of the Peanuts movie at the Charles M. Schulz Museum! Bring your child’s class or your family and friends for a fun-filled day including the movie, root beer floats, and chocolate chip cookies, followed by a tour of the Schulz Museum.

The Ultimate Buy-a-Seat Dinner - Four Top Chefs and Exquisite Wines

Join your fellow food and wine connoisseurs in this inaugural, once-in-a-lifetime dinner prepared by four San Francisco culinary icons.  With numerous Michelin Stars, James Beard Awards and Relais & Chateau acknowledgements among them, chefs Nancy Oakes, Gary Danko, Tyler Florence, and Yigit Pura will cook together for the first time ever!  This not-to-be missed dining adventure would not be complete without extraordinary wines from California and France.  When the chefs are not preparing this unprecedented collaborative menu for you, they will join you at the table where you can get to know them and hear their fascinating stories.  Enjoy amazing food, spectacular wine, and possibly make some new friends at the same time!

Only 10 seats will be sold in multiples of two to this extraordinary dinner. Bidding will open at $10,000 per couple. 

Wine pairings will include:

  • 2006 Roederer Cristal
  • Marcassin Three Sisters Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2004 Leflaive Chevalier ‎Montrachet
  • 2002 Comte de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes
  • 1986 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
  • 1996 Chateau Lafite Rothschild
  • 1997 Chateau Lafite Rothschild 
  • 1989 Chateau d’Yquem

If you wish to bid on more than one pair of tickets, indicate how many pairs by holding up that number of fingers