What are the key components of a profitable benefit auction? Let me share my top six. I call them “Kathy Kingston’s Six “R’s” of a Fundraising Auction”. You have to have the right focus which is fundraising; the right people; the right items; the right auctioneer; the right logistics and planning; and the right fun.
So here is what I mean about the right focus. I mean focus on the fundraising aspect as opposed to only the social or entertainment aspect. This means making sure all of your guests know before the auction and during the auction exactly where the money is going. So if you are focusing on a school auction and you want to get more scholarships or start a computer technology lab at the school it is critical that you have signage, that your board members are capable of talking about your new project, and that you have your auctioneer and the people who make remarks from the stage tell the crowd where their funds are going to make such a difference in the school.
The second “R” is people. How do you attract and retain and engage people of means and influence who care about your cause? This in my estimation is one of the most overlooked areas because you can have great items but if people don’t have the capacity to bid on them and support you generously you won’t be maximizing your opportunity at the event.
The third “R” is your great high yield auction items and by this I mean items that are matched to your audience for their wants and needs. So as opposed to going out and getting any old kind of items think strategically about who is coming to your event and exactly what they want. Here are some examples of good auction items that sell well. People love unique adventure, experiences, travel, dining, wine (if it is legal in your state), and sold out concerts. You have got to engage your top donors and your sponsors and your top bidders from previous years and ask them and study your data. So that is a little bit about getting the right item.
The next “R” is the right auctioneer. Now, all auctioneers are not created equal. Auctioneers who specialize in fundraising are professional benefit auctioneers and they are uniquely trained to work with you ahead of time, to help you understand how to maximize fundraising as well as to be able to run an exciting profitable auction that utilizes all of the different revenue streams that we need in a modern fundraising economy. The right auctioneer doesn’t cost you any money; you only make money with a professional benefit auctioneer.
The next “R” is auction logistics and planning and design. Having the right audiovisual equipment. Having the right lighting. Making sure that you communicate with the caterer about the schedule of the evening and when your food is coming out. Making sure that you have the right timeline. Many people are leaving earlier in this economy than they ever have at auctions so positioning your timeline so it is exciting and it has momentum and the fundraising is earlier than you would ever expect will ensure your success.
The last “R” is the right fun. Do you know that 92% of people who go to auctions in the United States go for a number one reason, and that is fun? That is from the Morpace study that was done by our National Auctioneers Foundation. People who are having fun at auctions who are engaged in the cause give generously. So make sure that you add in those revenue enhancers that are fun and interactive and really keep the spirit alive and the energy.
When focus on fundraising, people, items, auctioneer, logistics, and fun are all merged that is the recipe for a record-breaking fundraising auction!