5 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions

How to avoid commonly overlooked and easy to fix mistakes at benefit auctions, fundraisers and galas.

By: Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

Mistake #1: Leave Money in the Room

THE most expensive mistake you can make is using a volunteer amateur auctioneer. Why risk it? Retaining an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer can increase your net auction profits from 20% to over 300% immediately. Uniquely experienced and dedicated to maximizing fundraising, a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost — it pays!  

Mistake #2: Dont Ask for Funds

It’s financial suicide not to properly conduct a profitable Fund a Need Special Appeal. Let’s face it, not everyone wants or needs a live or silent auction item. Create this opportunity for everyone to contribute to your great cause at a level that is meaningful to them. Ignite generosity with a well conducted, inspiring Fund A Need that that can literally double your live auction profits in just 10 minutes!

Mistake #3: Offer Too Many Auction Items That No One Wants

This catastrophic calamity will insure that you lose thousands of dollars. First, be sure to match your auction items to the unique profile of what your auction guests really want. Second, less is more. Reduce the number of auction items and focus on fewer unique items that produce bigger results. Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest – items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences the are unique to your supporters. And remember to consider adding consignment items to complement your donated items to add excitement and dollars.

Mistake #4: Plan a Party and Forget Fundraising

An epic error is to plan your auction fundraiser like it’s your social soiree, business function or even worst a wedding. Focus first on fundraising – not your centerpieces, variety of wines, entertainment nor the color of tablecloths – all which raise zero dollars. Remember, your charity auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. You simply can not afford to lose precious dollars or support in this new economy. Strategically design your benefit auction to emphasize your unique mission and how your donors can make a difference. Proudly promote your cause and emphasize that the reason “Why We Are Here” is to raise funds so that your guests can change lives and improve your community.

Mistake #5: Bore Your Audience

The quickest way to loose money and momentum at your benefit auction is to sedate your guests with a string of talking-head long speeches.  Just say No BS. (No Boring Speeches!)  Insist on a few well placed brief inspiring remarks that emphasize first person testimonials and your success stories. Capture the hearts and wallets of your guests and showcase your cause and your transformational results.

Do you have ideas and solutions for other benefit auction mistakes? Feel free to email me to add to the conversation, kathy@kingstonauction.com

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Warm Thanksgiving Wishes

On full display a wild tom turkey struts through Kathy’s backyard
Photo Credit: Kathy Kingston

Warm Thanksgiving wishes to you and your loved ones.

Kathy Kingston

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Fast, fun, profitable – THE GOLDEN PADDLE Raffle

A top question I’m asked is, “How can we raise more money?” This is often followed by, “What about adding some revenue games at our fundraising auction?” Extra revenue generators can become a profitable and cherished part of your fundraising auction event. The best part is, they exponentially increase the fun factor too.

At many fundraising events, there’s often a wide socioeconomic mix. Many guests who attend don’t want, don’t need, or can’t afford to bid on a big-ticket auction item. But they do want to contribute and participate, and to have fun, too. By strategically placing a few carefully selected additional revenue activities into the event, an organization can engage everyone at a all levels.

That’s why I love The Golden Paddle. Here’s how it works.


The Golden Paddle energizes your audience, is a lot of fun, and gives a winning guest an immediate cash allowance that inspires lots of excitement, fun and increased bidding.

The winner has up to $10,000 in credit that must be used during the live auction and/or fund-a-need. The organization keeps the cash.

It’s a raffle. For Golden Paddle, a limited number of tickets are sold. Most commonly, 100 tickets are sold at $100 apiece, for a total of $10,000. The winner is drawn immediately before the Live Auction with great golden excitement and a drum roll of course.

Create a special big “golden paddle” that golden volunteers bring to the winner. Each time your winner waves that golden paddle, your room erupts with excited increased bidding! Coach your auctioneer to have fun too.

Volunteers sell Golden Paddle tickets during the cocktail hour. The key to success if recruiting and training the RIGHT volunteers who are gregarious, love to sell and love your mission. The goal is to promote and sell all 100 tickets during this very short period of the cocktail reception so that you achieve the $10,000 mark before the live auction. (If you don’t sell all 100 tickets, you offer a credit of what amount you raised. There is some magic to offering $10,000.)

The benefit of the Golden Paddle is that your winning ticket holder is given a credit for the amount sold in Golden Paddle, which to be used in the live auction, fund-a-need, or both. That way you as the organization keep the cash and the winner has the credit to use in the live auction and fund a need.

Important note: The Golden Paddle is a raffle. Be sure to check your state raffle laws and always secure a raffle or gaming permit.

The Kathy Kingston Disclaimer: Less is More!

Be strategic and preserve your guests’ energy and generosity for your main fundraising—your live auction and fund-a-need. As you think about additional income producing activities, pick just one or two for your next event. After you use them, let them rest and try a few new ones. By rotating revenue-generating activities each year, you can keep things fresh. Then these interactive activities will continue to grab your guests’ attention and produce significant additional revenue year after year.

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Make Your Auctioneer Your Coach

Benefit Auction Consultant Playbook for Success!

How will you catapult your fundraising auction to the next level?

Learn from the pros. Hire a coach.

Hire a Benefit Auctioneer Consultant.

Pre-auction consulting may make the difference between having a nominally successful event and triumphantly setting a new fundraising record. Pre-auction planning helps nonprofits increase their revenues by ensuring time efficiency and saving volunteers and development staff from burnout.

The most valuable thing a professional benefit auctioneer can bring to an organization is expertise and ability as a consultant. A pro will give you fresh, profitable ways to take your auction to the next level.

A benefit auction consultant is an invaluable advisor who helps you design an exciting memorable fundraising event to boost your bottom line and to drive donor engagement. As early as possible, months prior to the event, a skilled and savvy auction consultant can provide expert advice on powerful revenue ideas, capitalizing on new trends, leveraging donor and bidding psychology, energizing your program, communicating the impact of your mission and adding fun and pizazz.

Consulting is a game changer for success. That’s why I’m teaching a new workshop” Consulting for Benefit Auctioneers to bring greater value to their nonprofit and school clients.  www.BenefitAuctionConsulting.com

Hire a seasoned fundraising auctioneer who can also serve in a consulting role, you’ll be surprised by what a difference his or her counsel can make. Fundraising auction consulting topics can range from basic auction logistics to advanced donor cultivation strategies. If you’d like to find a fundraising auction consultant, feel free to contact me. kathy@kathykingston.com

One of the most important aspects of consulting is the positive long-term relationship between a nonprofit organization and a benefit auctioneer. Year after year, you can work together as a team to continue to create great signature events and break fundraising records.

Professional benefit auctioneers can consult on goal-setting, budgeting, branding the mission, creating master calendars, procuring high-yield items, knowing what sells best, and creating the optimal selling sequence.

A professional benefit auctioneer can also guide your audience development and cultivation, lighting and sound, silent auction displays, stage layout, catalog ideas, marketing, fund-a-needs, show flow, and motivating and training volunteers. He or she can help you coordinate the spotters and organize professional auction bid assistants, as well as design and lead interactive revenue activities.

Your auctioneer is your fundraiser event’s quarterback, but an auctioneer who offers consulting can also be your strategic coach, year-round. He or she can be by your side between seasons to keep you motivated, refine your skills, point out weak spots in your strategy, and help you overcome every obstacle. A benefit auction consultant can strengthen your organization’s team and take your fundraising and organization to the next level.

Learn from the pros. Retain a benefit auction consultant. That’s the playbook for success.

Professional Development for Benefit Auctioneers: As a Benefit Auction Consultant, you will empower non-profits to raise more far more funds, increase awareness and goodwill plus those turn auction bidders into loyal long-term donors  –  and that’s your unique power and expertise you bring to your nonprofit clients!

Consulting Workshop for Benefit Auctioneers  December 3 and 4, 2018
Registration and details:  www.BenefitAuctionConsulting.com
Early bird rates end September 17, 2018.

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3 Secret Summer Fundraising Auction Tips

It’s August – your magic time for fundraising.

NOW is the perfect time to turbo charge your live auction and find new donors. Summer is chock full of vacations, special trips, unique experiences, get-togethers and back-to-school activities. So while you, your board, committee members, volunteers and staff are enjoying the rest of summer, be sure to ask for live auction items and invite friends old and new to your fundraiser.

Here are your 3 August Fundraising Action Items

  1. Procure high profit live auction items now

Think about it, you’re enjoying fantastic summer trips, unique experiences and get-togethers. Ask yourself: would this experience match our auction guests and donors? So, activate your auction procurement team and board now. Now is the perfect time to go to the owner and ask them to donate to your auction where you just spent money!

  1. Personally invite generous guests now

This is the time of year where we spend a lot of time with our friends and families and meet new people. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about how much you care and support your great cause with others. Be sure to activate your gala committee and your Board of Directors and staff to invite guests who are passionate about your cars/mission and who can be generous in your live auction and Fund a need.

  1. Share your passion for your cause now

In these wonderful late summer days, where you meet so many new people, share your favorite inspiring story that showcases impact of your organization. Remember the first rule of fundraising: “People give to people for things they care about.” Your enthusiasm is contagious, so capitalize on this special summer time to engage more people around your cause and to invite them to your fundraising auction gala.

I would enthusiastically like to hear from you with your ideas and questions.

If you’d like to take your benefit auction, gala and fundraising events to the next level and while attracting new loyal donors, feel free to contact me: kathy@kingstonauction.com  603-235-1196.

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