fundraising auction ideas

Register now for October 25 East Bay workshop

Registration is now open for our upcoming East Bay fundraising auction workshop: Raise More, Right Now: Advanced Fundraising Auction Strategies
This in-depth fundraising auction workshop will be held on Tuesday, October 25th at the Lafayette Veteran’s Memorial, in Lafayette, California. It is presented by Stellar Fundraising Auctions, Beth Sandefur Events, Greater Giving and The Lux Productions. 

This in-depth, highly interactive workshop will provide you with advanced strategies to raise more with what you already have. Learn how to get attendees to commit to supporting you before they arrive, new techniques for marketing your auction, new revenue enhancers that encourage spending, and more. Session topics will include:

  • Storytelling for your mission
  • Creating successful auction lots
  • Revenue enhancers, beyond the raffle
  • Strategies to refresh your silent auction
  • New technologies to stretch your audio visual budget
  • Marketing your auction

Hands-on mobile bidding session
Many organizations are looking for information about the most buzzed about trend in events: going mobile. This workshop session will include an overview of Greater Giving’s Mobile Bidding and Storefront functions. We’ll discuss how mobile bidding impacts your event and how you can incorporate raffle and other multi-item sales into your event using storefront.

Expert roundtables
The workshop ends with a 1-hour series of small group sessions with each member of our expert panel. We will break into groups by organization type, and spend an hour drilling down on the topics that matter to you most. Ask questions and get answers that are relevant to the needs of your specific event with experts in the field of fundraising auction planning, implementation and performance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - the Veteran's Memorial in Lafayette
9:00am – 3:00pm
Check-in begins at 8:30am
Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Click here to register.

Creating desirable packages for your live auction

Procuring enticing packages is one of the most challenging aspects of organizing a fundraising auction. Solicitation committees often get hung up on comparisons to other events and focus on the lots they see doing well at other fundraising auctions.

And while there is value in learning from one’s peers, we never encourage our clients to focus on specific auction lots. It can be frustrating, and it seldom yields results.

Relationships are the biggest selling auction lots.

Relationships are the biggest selling auction lots.

For example: I’ve sold “Breakfast with Bo Derek the morning after the auction” for over $20,000. This was wonderful for the event that had Bo as a supporter, but it is useless to the rest of you reading this right now (unless you are good friends with Bo as well).

Instead, we encourage our clients to focus on the types of lots that sell best and then work to find the most desirable packages in each of those types. There are three levels of desirability across all types of auction lots: Retail, Access, and Relationship:

  • Retail is the ground floor of desirability in an auction lot. If your attendees can find a price for it online, they’ll bid accordingly. There are types of auction lots that do fine when sold as straight retail, such as trips. Generally speaking, however, it is the least desirable.
  • Access denotes an experience bidders could not enjoy otherwise, something that is not available through retail channels. Lots that offer access engage your crowd to spend more, and make your auction more memorable. 
  • Relationships are the hottest selling lots in any auction we do. “People support people” is one of the oldest adages in fundraising, and nowhere does this prove more true than onstage. Relationship lots offer access to a “celebrity,” and the definition of celebrity varies.

Creating attractive packages for the live auction is one of the most crucial elements of the pre-event planning we consult on, and one of the areas upon which we focus the majority of our consulting. As such, we’ll be discussing this and brainstorming desirable auction lots in person at our upcoming workshop: “Raise More, Right Now: Advanced Fundraising Auction Strategies.”

Stick to your timeline

There is a tendency to adjust the timeline of an event mid-event if things aren’t proceeding as planned. Usually it’s because people aren’t bidding on the silent auction with as much fervor as the silent auction chairs had envisioned. They want to keep the silent open for “an extra 15 minutes, to give people a chance to bid.”

Unless there has been a major incident that is preventing attendees from getting to your event on time, don’t alter your timeline. Especially if your timeline has been published in the catalog or elsewhere at the event. The timeline for the evening is the one element that you actually have control over; hopefully you established it strategically.

Altering your timeline can have serious repercussions across the rest of your event. It can throw off the timing for dinner, it delays the start of your live auction, and ultimately it costs you money. More than that, however, altering the timeline can aggravate your crowd.

I emceed a silent auction conducted via mobile bidding recently, hyping items and announcing closing times. The event chair opted to keep the silent open for an extra 15 minutes, to “give people a chance to bid from their seats at dinner.”

When I took the stage to announce that the silent auction would be open for an additional 15 minutes, people actually booed! Their expectations had been set, and they were ready to move on with the evening. They didn’t want to have to spend any more time protecting their bids, they were ready for the next phase of the evening.

This crowd recovered and didn’t hold this decision against me or the organization, thankfully. But all it really takes is for you to piss off one of your big bidders to negatively impact your event.

Strategically craft your timeline, publish it, and stick to it. Your crowd will be happier, and your event will be better for it.

Save the date: Sonoma and Marin fundraising auction workshop

We are bringing our popular workshop, The Top 10 Ways to Make your Next Auction More Successful, to charities serving Sonoma and Marin counties. Save the date for Wednesday, April 13th, 2016, at the Inn at Marin. 

"By far the most useful auction workshop I’ve attended because it offered concrete steps for how organizations can improve and because it was focused on sharing information rather than pushing products." 

-Deb M., Aurora Theater

In conjunction with Greater GivingBeth Sandefur Events and Sound Expressions, Stellar Fundraising Auctions presents Auction 101: The Top 10 Ways to Make Your Next Auction More Successful.   This interactive workshop is designed to give your auction team useful tools to help with your next fundraising event.

The workshop will take place from 9am – 3pm on Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 at the Inn at Marin in Novato. Online registration will be available through Greater Giving soon.

Whether your event is in two weeks or twenty, this highly interactive workshop will provide you with proven strategies that will help you maximize the philanthropic potential of your crowd.

Session topics will include:

Fine tuning your fund-a-need pitch

Finding hidden lessons in your auction data

Brainstorming ways to enhance your auction lots

Messaging: sell the cause, not the party

Streamlining check-in and check-out

Making your auction sound great

We will also offer a hands-on session for organizations looking for information about the most buzzed about trend in events: going mobile. This workshop session will include an overview of Greater Giving’s Mobile Bidding and Storefront functions. We’ll discuss how mobile bidding impacts your event and how you can incorporate raffle and other multi-item sales into your event using Storefront.

The day will conclude with expert roundtables: we'll break into groups by organization type, and then each of our experts will rotate through each group, focusing on the topics that matter to you most. This is the chance for you to ask questions and get answers that are relevant to the needs of your specific event with experts in the field of fundraising auction planning, implementation and performance.

"Really good overall workshop...I left with some good information and takeaways and people that I will follow up with to try and create the best auction possible."

Save the date for Wednesday, April 13th, 2016, and stay tuned for more information on registration.

Don't over-combine sports packages

One commonly held misconception in the world of fundraising is that more means more. The tendency is to add to an auction lot until it is bursting at the seams with value. And while it does make sense to round out packages, there is a point at which adding more to a package does not result in a higher sale price.

Nowhere do we see this proven more consistently than with sports packages. All too often an organization will take all of their various sports donations and put them into one mega-package, only to see it sell for the same as just one of their experiences would have on its own.

For example, one year a client had a behind-the-scenes experience with the San Francisco Giants for four people that sold for $3,400. The next year they decided to add 49’ers tickets, Sharks tickets, Oakland A’s tickets, and Stanford Football tickets to the same Giants package. The combined mega-package sold for…$3,600.

Would these people overpay to see the Oakland A's? Don't bet your auction on it.
Would these people overpay to see the Oakland A's? Don't bet your auction on it.

Sports fans are often rabid – the word “fan” is derived from “fanatic” after all – but about their team or their favorite sport. Just because someone is a baseball fan doesn’t mean they are necessarily a football fan or a basketball fan and so on. Combining a bunch of experiences that they aren’t necessarily interested in into one auction lot doesn’t change their perception of value.

Put another way, if a buyer is willing to spend $3,000 on a Giants experience, adding a bunch of other games for teams they don’t care about isn’t going to magically increase their maximum bid. And it certainly isn’t going to maximize the potential of your donations.

Furthermore, the hope that the different sports fans will bid each other up doesn’t yield results, either. Each fan has their own perception of value for the single component they are interested in – which is always less than the value of the package as a whole.

If you have a bunch of different sports experiences donated to your auction, do you and your donors a favor and keep them separate. You’ll make more money, make your donors happier, and you might even get some valuable data on your bidders’ sports preferences.