Live Auctions in a Hybrid Event: 7 Key Questions to Consider

As we’ve learned from 2020, how we engage bidders and execute auctions isn’t going to be the same as it once was.

Specifically, one thing is clear: having strategies to reach donors both virtually and in-person will be a fundraising necessity. This is where hybrid fundraising comes in.

One of the key elements and biggest revenue drivers of a fundraising event, the live auction, can be as successful in a hybrid event as in a traditional in-person event.

Our consulting team asks customers these key questions when planning a hybrid live auction. Keep reading to get all the answers to the top 7 questions to consider for hybrid live auctions.

Where is your primary audience?

In this case, will your expected top bidders be in the ballroom or at home bidding? When you are making decisions specific to the live auction, be sure to:

  • Keep your primary audience in the forefront of your mind.
  • Make it easy for them to participate.
  • Have everyone (in-person or virtual) bid on their phones, or
  • Use onsite proxy bidders to place proxy bids from virtual viewers.

What is the latency on your live streaming platform?

Test this with your A/V company (if you are using one). The user’s cellular service or WiFi can impact their experience too.

  • Plan for a short delay with your live stream.
  • If you have bids coming in electronically – make sure everyone gets a chance to place their final bid before closing.

When are you going to open bidding?

We recommend opening all items early, at the latest on event day, for two important reasons. With all items visible,

  1. Bidders won’t need to refresh their screen when the auctioneer moves onto the next item.
  2. Opening bidding early generates higher bids as there’s already activity when the program begins.

And when you’re ready to close your items, your messaging should still reference the live experience of an auctioneer closing each item one at a time.

What will your minimum bids & minimum raises be?

Discuss this with your auctioneer, when deciding on minimum bids and raises, consider:

  • What were past bids on similar items?
  • Is this a popular item with your audience?
  • Does the uniqueness warrant a higher starting bid or raise?

You might consider reducing the minimum raise slightly to keep more people bidding but utilize your auctioneer’s expertise and recommendations.

How long do you want your live auction to take?

Remember in a hybrid event, you will have virtual attendees who can simply walk away from the screen if it takes too long.

We had seen a trend of smaller auctions during COVID-19, and that trend continues into the new hybrid world.

  • Keep the live auction short – less than 15-20 minutes.
  • If you have more items, scatter live auction throughout the program (telethon style)
  • Add multi-media, photos, or captivating  min-videos to avoid virtual fatigue.

With OneCause Mobile Bidding, you can always move items to a “Super Silent” category rather than lengthen the live auction.

Do you have items that are attractive to a wider audience?

One advantage of a hybrid event is that virtual attendees can bid from anywhere!

  • To engage both audiences, mix in items that appeal to everyone.
  • Consider risk-free travel items that allow you to offer travel packages or unique experiences.

How are you going to promote your live auction?

While historically some organizations hid their live auction items from view until event day, we highly recommend promoting early and often.

  • Ask your ambassadors to promote their favorite item on their social media.
  • Use video of a travel package on your fundraising site
  • Weave in descriptions of each item into your emcee’s script.
  • Make sure your live auction is featured on your fundraising site.

For more promotion & marketing tips, check out our Event Marketing Guide.

Wrapping Up

Hybrid fundraising has gained momentum as a way to bring fundraising events to both live and virtual audiences, but a key hesitation nonprofits experience is how to execute the live auction in a hybrid format.

Don’t let it be a barrier! Think of it as the “best of both worlds,” blending fundraising best practices and technology to create seamless giving experiences – anytime, anywhere.

We’re here to help guide you through the world of hybrid fundraising. Check our comprehensive hybrid fundraising guide here.

Guest Author:

Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson
Consulting Manager