Your Six “Rights” for A Profitable Benefit Auction In the New Economy

Here’s my ‘Throw Back Thursday’ article. The insights are as valid today as they were in October 2011. I hope you find it valuable and share it with colleagues and friends.

By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

Join Kathy: A Higher Bid - NEW Book-Tour Seminars Seattle, Santa Rosa and Portland

Join Kathy: A Higher Bid – NEW Book-Tour Seminars Seattle, Santa Rosa and Portland

I’m often asked: “What are the right components of a profitable benefit auction — especially now in this volatile economy?” Let me share my top six: I call them “Kathy Kingston’s Six “R’s” of a Fundraising Auction.” To raise more money in this new economy you really need a symphony of six success factors: the right focus which is fundraising; the right people; the right items; the right auctioneer; the right logistics and planning; and the right fun.

The first “R” is having the right focus- on fundraising! By that I mean concentrate on the raising money as opposed to only the social or entertainment aspect. This means making sure all of your guests know exactly how you are using the funds and what benefit and results you their support will achieve. Here are some tips: include compelling photos, quotes, and table tents that show your guests all about your services and programs.   Remember, your Auctioneer is your ambassador – be sure to expect her/him to talk about your mission during the live auction and fund a need from the stage – so write up inspiring talking points for your auctioneer to help you. During the Silent Auction and dinner, encourage your board members to talk about how your great cause is transforming your clients and community.

The second “R” is the right 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 the right 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 shows and 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. Then ASK – year round solicitation is imperative now.

The fourth “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 consult 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.

ballroom good lightingThe fifth “R” is the right auction logistics and design. Here are a few key areas: Secure the right audio-visual equipment and right lighting. Making sure that you communicate with the caterer about the schedule of the evening and when you need food to be served. Make 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 research from the MORPAC 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, your audience engaged and generosity inspired!

When you focus is on the RIGHT mindset for fundraising, guests, auction items, auctioneer, logistics, and fun — that is the right recipe for record-breaking fundraising auction success!

If I can help you, your board, colleagues and friends, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at 603-926-1919 or

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