Everything is Bigger in Texas: How to Execute a Big Board Auction Strategy

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the bravado, attitude, and swagger. This attitude is brought into the event space with a different kind of auction that encourages bidders to look each other in the eye and dare someone to bid against them.

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There’s no anonymity. You know exactly who you’re bidding against and are standing right next to them as you place your next bid.

Included in the Texas auction tradition are: Big Boards. Big Boards are large white boards with a list of special auction items specifically for the big board that are auctioned off with a crowd surrounding the board.

BUT you don’t have to be in Texas to add a Big Board to your upcoming auction.

Let’s dive into the details about the what, when, and how of this strategy—either in-person or online.


Big Board Mechanics

Think paper bidding in silent suctions but bigger.

Big Board is at its best when it’s treated as a fast-paced, interactive, and daring auction with bidders all gathered in one space.

Items are typically mid-level items: bigger than the silent auction items, but not quite as big as the live auction.

Once your procure all your Big Board items and its event night, make sure to:

  • Showcase item baskets or photo displays near the board to attract even more attention.
  • Set up your large dry-erase board with item names listed, along with spaces to write in the bidder numbers and names.
  • Introduce the host and get the crowd excited.
  • Start bidding. Guests crowd around the board to place their bids, often egging each other on and daring other guests to outbid them.


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When To Use a Big Board

Any ticketed event, auction, or gala is perfect for Big Boards! Big Boards offer something for everyone. Are you:

  • Looking for a unique activity for your onsite attendees in a hybrid event, your VIPs for their pre-event cocktail party, or to keep the fundraising going in an after-party?
  • In a small community where everyone knows someone and likes that friendly competition with the neighbor?
  • Ready to transition your audience from paper to mobile bidding but want an exciting fundraising element to get people online?


Take Your Big Board Online

You can absolutely do your Big Board electronically! If you have a virtual audience at home as well as in-person, this is a must.

Use your mobile bidding software to have guests bid on the Big Board using their phones.

  • Put the Big Board items in their own category.
  • Show only those items on your OneCause scoreboard.
    • For in-person viewers: Have the scoreboard projected on a screen in the venue.
    • For virtual viewers: Display your scoreboard virtually during your live-streamed program or pre-event entertainment.
    • For a hybrid approach: With multiple volunteers at the Big Board, you can have guests bidding in-person and bidding at home at the same time.  A volunteer places the bids from in-person guests electronically, so all bids are placed via mobile bidding. Another volunteer records the highest bids on the Big Board to inspire in-person guests to place bids. Use your scoreboard to track the current bids and high bidder names.
  • Close Big Board items electronically, just like you would your silent auction.

Taking your Big Board online still allows the competition to heat up—it’s hard not to!


Closing the Big Board

There are 3 ways the Big Board typically closes:

  1. Auctioneer close: Most often, auctioneers will close out the Big Board. They may close it at the end of cocktail hour before everyone moves into the ballroom or after the program has ended and guests have placed their final bids in the silent auction.
  2. Live Auction Pre-Bidding: The Big Board can also be used for pre-bidding in the live auction.  The highest bids on the Big Board at the end of the cocktail hour become the starting bids in the live auction.
  3. End of Live Auction: Pull the Big Board on stage at the end of the Live Auction to be closed with the audience watching, maybe even throwing in some final bids to the auctioneer or volunteers.

Typically, the Big Board has a “last man standing” feel—the last person to place their bid before leaving at the end of the night wins.  As with any auction, clearly communicate the end time to your guests.


Final Tips & Tricks for a Successful Big Board Auction

Ready to execute a Big Board auction strategy? Take a look at these tips from OneCause fundraising experts:

  • Personality matters! Your most engaging, outgoing volunteers are at the Big Board.
  • For auction integrity, only volunteers accept and record bids. Guests do not write their own bids.
  • Black markers work best with writing and erasing bids constantly throughout the event.
  • Designate someone to take a picture of the board as soon as it’s closed for your records.

Wrapping Up

Have fun with it! Guests really get into it and love the break-away from typical auction traditions.

Whether you choose to go electronic, use it for a hybrid event, or for your next VIP reception, a Big Board can warm up your crowd for your program and drive proceeds on those mid-tier items.

Guest Author:


Kristin Sickle
Consultant & Event Manager