Spread out. Use round tables to create great flow for more silent auction bidding.

Best Ways to Lay Out Your Silent and Live Auctions for Fundraising!

Does money literally walk out of your auction venue? Do you make it easy for your guests to support you? Do you create the most profitable way to set up your physical layout of your silent auction area and the physical layout of your live auction area?

In order to maximize fundraising, you must intentionally design your benefit auction venue and specific layout – every time. Let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects that is often is overlooked and unfortunately costs untold thousands of lost revenue at fundraising auctions. Now, granted, everyone has a different physical location, and you may change venues, it’s vital that you custom and adapt to each venue, each year for each auction.

First and foremost,  KNOW THAT YOUR PURPOSE IS TO FUNDRAISE- not hold a wedding reception!  Form follows function. Remember that the set up for a benefit auction is incredibly unique.  You can always improve your venue layout so you can raise more money and improve your guests’ experience!

YOU are in charge of how your charity auction venue is set up. No matter what any vendor, event planner, banquet captain or caterer suggests for set up, you are in the one-day business of raising the most funds possible. First of all, your caterer/event planner will want use your prime fundraising real estate –that is the center of the room– and place some buffets, large food displays, an ice carving or a big bar exactly where YOU need to place your top silent auction items. Don’t do it!  Communication early and often is the key. Make sure that your vendors are part of YOUR TEAM and understand how they can support you!

Here are some important Silent Auction Layout Techniques: When you evaluate your silent auction area make sure that you look at how many dollars a square foot you are going to make and how many dollars a minute you are going to make. Then look at the layout and say what is the best place, the most visible place, and that is where your silent auction should go and many times this is the middle of the room. I know this sounds funny, but it’s like the old “1950’s bingo days approach” to put the silent auction all around the outside edges of the room.  Don’t do it! This old-style silent auction layout creates what I call ‘the silent auction congo-line’ and the line just keeps going around and around. You guest get into a trance and get in line and do not bid ie…yikes!  Instead I advice my clients to create PODS that capitalize on the best spaces in the room.  Combine the four following elements into a POD:  Auction Items, Mission Messaging, Food, Bar.  Remember to place the bars and the food stations on the outskirts of the room. Guests will always find the bar and the food. Own your auction venue space so you can maximize fundraising!

Here are examples of vital Mission Messaging to display in your Auction Venue: It could be a poster with a beautiful image and a quote from a participant, it could be a plasma screen monitor that has a video running or images of your programs and your services so that everywhere people go they really understand where their funding is going to be supportive.  Your guests need and want to know how their bidding and contributions can transform your mission.

Design the auction room so that you can be what I call “happily intrusive, that is create a good physical flow so that guests can easily move through the silent auction with ease of bidding and movement.   Avoid creating giant gaps around your silent auction. Set it up so there is room to move around but there is not this “feeding trough” around the hors d’oeuvres or the bar. When this happens, then your silent auction is relegated to the outskirts and bidding diminishes. In short, make your silent auctions items the stars of the venue!

Raise the most money when all guests are seated for your Live Auction!

Here are some key Live Auction Venue Set Up Techniques:  For live auctions it is very important in the layout that everyone — every single person have a seat. If you allow guests to stand – they do not become engaged in your inspiring program, their feet get tired, they talk and then they leave. Remember you can not fundraiser when your guests are gone!  Seats for everyone.

So, when you evaluate a venue make sure that every single person can be seated or you might consider a larger venue. My favorite seating style is round tables. Whether you have a sit down dinner (it might be an 8 or a 10 top) or an food station fundraiser, round tables allow guests to interact and to see each other bidding.    Also create equal seating styles. Avoid mixed seating where some people are high and some people are low or maybe some people can just stand. That is not conducive to raising money because in this economy there are several places in the live auction where you absolutely must rivet your guests to understand from a first person testimonial, a story, or you may have a montage of impact statements from program participants. You want every single person to be able to hear that and if they are standing up they are not paying attention – so everybody has to be seated.

Set up your live auction display in the front of the room so that people can see those items. I also suggest that you have a big screen so that you can display your live auction PowerPoint slides that have a picture, a bullet point description, and your donor so that your audience can focus on what is for sale.

Also, place your stage and Auctioneer on the longest wall in the venue. This will allow your Auctioneer and your speakers to be as close to as many people as possible.  (If you place your Auctioneer on a short wall – he or she will be the farthest away from your guests in the back.)

Enjoy this specific techniques to raise more money with an intentionally designed layout for your benefit charity auction, so you can raise more money at your next fundraising auction.

If you are in need of advice on how you can layout your benefit auction, please feel free to contact me 603-926-1919 or kathy@kingstonauction.com

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