fundraising auction success

The pre-event marketing that will change your event’s bottom line

If you want your fundraising auction to succeed, you have to market your auction lots in advance of the event. Pre-event marketing can make the difference between an average and a spectacular auction, and different forms of marketing yield varied results.

We often see events focus on methods of broadcasting instead of leveraging individual relationships. For example, we see lots of events focus on publishing the live auction catalog on the Internet or sending it out via hotsheets, email, and social media.

These all have value and are a valid component of any pre-event marketing campaign. However, the most important element of an auction’s success is much more direct: reaching out to individual bidders in person, by phone, or email.

The most successful auction chairs and committees invest time and energy identifying potential bidders for specific auction lots and contacting them in advance to interest them. The most successful auctions have at least two individuals committed to bidding on specific lots in advance.

It is incredibly valuable if you can line up two bidders for each and every lot in advance of your auction – but it’s also an unreasonable amount of work to demand for a longer auction. The truth is it doesn’t have to be done on every lot in an auction, but should be done on a few select lots, including:

  • The first two lots in the auction; they set the tone for the rest of the auction. 
  • Any lot that has an exceptionally high value; or is more valuable than any lot sold at your auction in the past. 
  • Trips with set dates or extended trips that require air travel. 
  • Buy-in parties/events.
  • Art and jewelry
  • Unique access that pertains to the tastes of someone you or the committee knows.

In each case, we are aiming to create momentum, avoid dead-air, and insure that challenging lots are successful in the heat of the moment. The first two lots, for example, set the pace and tone for the rest of the auction. Art and jewelry are the most challenging items to include in most any fundraising auction, and if we must have a certain piece or art or jewelry in the auction, it is important to make sure it succeeds.

The expectation put on these bidders isn’t necessarily that they must commit to bidding until they buy. We are looking to them to get the bidding going; and hopefully drive up the price. If your pre-committed bidders wind up becoming so interested in a lot that they vigorously bid on it and win, fantastic! But it’s not the expectation. At a certain point, we have to trust the process of an auction, and any momentum boost makes that process more successful.