charity auction lots

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.