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To participate in the auction, each bidder must pre-register at check-in on the night of the event. They'll each receive a unique bidder number and a bid paddle with their number on it, which they'll use to place bids throughout the live auction.
Once guests are settled at their tables, the auctioneer will open the program by announcing the first item. Volunteers will either bring the items onto the stage for guests to view, or an image of the item will be displayed on a projector behind the auctioneer.
The auctioneer will start the bidding on each item at the starting bid amount. As with silent auctions, the starting bid is set at around 30-50% of the item’s market value. The starting bid dictates the minimum amount that the first bidder can bid.
While there are other ways to facilitate live auction bidding, bidders will most commonly bid by raising bid paddles to get the auctioneer's attention. Once spotted and prompted by the auctioneer, the bidder will call out the amount they wish to bid.
Bidding must start at the minimum bid amount. While there’s no official minimum raise set, the auctioneer will generally guide the minimum raise amount by calling out increments based on bid activity.
The bidding for each item remains open until no more bids are placed. Bidding on that item will close, and it will be sold off to whoever placed the final, highest bid. The winner is up to the sole discretion of the auctioneer.
By placing a bid, the winning bidder has agreed to buy the item at the stated amount and assumes full risk and responsibility. Make sure guidelines are clear from the start, so bidders know what's expected.
Live auctions are fast-paced and often imperfect. To make quick decisions and keep up the pace, it will be the auctioneer's sole responsibility to settle any disputes and have final say over all proceedings.
Planning a live auction has many components, and expenses can quickly add up.
You’ll need to set a clearly defined budget to make sure that the event doesn’t break the bank.
Additionally, you’ll want to decide on a fundraising goal.
This will help you determine how many items you need to auction off and at what amount you should set your starting bids.
Live auctions require many hands, and you’ll need a dedicated and diverse team to help the event planning process run as smoothly as possible.
Not only will your organization need to form a team of staff to help oversee planning, but you’ll also need to recruit lots of volunteers to ensure that the event itself goes off without a hitch.
With a large, devoted team on your side to help with every step of the event, your auction is sure to see success!
Of course, if you want to host an auction, you’ll need items to auction off!
Although the items you procure will depend largely on what donors are willing to give, it can be helpful to brainstorm about what items might appeal most to your donors. That way, you can send your procurement team out to look for the items that will be most profitable.
If you’ve hosted an auction in the past, and you kept detailed records, you can look back on previous years to see which items were the most popular sellers.
You might also want to consider featuring consignment items, which are big ticket items that you only have to pay for if you sell. They work particularly well for live auctions, where each item receives solo time in the spotlight.
Now, have your team go out and start soliciting!
About 9-6 months before your auction, you should pin down a date and location.
When deciding which venue to book and when, think about how many people will be attending, the ambiance of the event, and your supporters’ general availability.
For live auctions, your organization should ideally find a venue with a stage so that the autioneer has a place to run the show and guests can clearly see the items. There should also be plenty of seating (or room for tables and chairs!).
The auctioneer will be the ringleader of your live auction. They’re the person who will run the program by introducing the items and scoping out the audience for bids.
In other words, they’re one of the most important parts of your auction, so choose wisely!
Seeing as the auctioneer’s role is so specialized and integral to the success of your auction, your organization might want to consider hiring a professional.
Need help finding a great auctioneer? Check out: https://www.onecause.com/fundraising-partners/
Now that you have all of the essentials for hosting a live auction in order, it’s time to start telling supporters about your event!
You’ll first want to compile a guest list. When thinking about who to invite, consider the size of the venue and who in your donor base has the capacity to bid on your auction items.
Then, start sending out invites! If you’re using event planning software, you can sell tickets online to provide supporters with more convenience.
Make sure to include the link to your online ticket page when you send out invites so that donors who want to attend can RSVP “yes”!
Giving guests a taste of your amazing auction items ahead of time is sure to get them hyped up about the event!
If you’re using auction software, you can set up an online auction site to serve as an auction catalog.
By featuring your catalog online, you can continuously update it as new information and items become available. You’ll also cut down on all of the fiscal and environmental costs associated with printing.
You can even open up online bidding in advance to raise even more money!
Congratulations! It’s now the day of the event and most of your planning is over.
The day of your auction, you and your volunteers will want to get to the venue well before the event starts to set up. Here are some of the major tasks you’ll likely have to complete:
During this stage, make sure you also have volunteers appointed to each task and that everyone is clear on their responsibilities.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to enjoy your event!
Your auction will probably unfold a little something like this:
Once all the guests are gone, break down your setup, clean up the venue, and celebrate a job well done!
Your event might be over, but you’re not done quite yet!
It’s important to track your performance, especially if you’re going to make auctions a recurring staple of your fundraising events.
The most robust auction and event planning software will allow you to generate a wide variety of reports that will give you detailed insights into your auction items and bidders.
Next year will be even better!
Of course, you can’t host an auction without an event space to host it in! Book an appropriate venue 9-6 months before your event.
You’ll have no way to fundraise at your auction if you don’t have items to auction off! All charity auctions need a range of amazing auction items to see fundraising success.
The auctioneer will be in charge of running the show. Thus, they’ll be essential to the energy of your event. Your organization should consider hiring a professional to fill this role.
Auction catalogs are great for creating hype and will play a huge part in helping your organization promote the event. If using auction software, you can create an online catalog by setting up an auction site.
Spotters will be the volunteers who help the auctioneer scope out the audience for bids to make sure none are accidentally overlooked. You’ll also need a team of volunteers to cover more general event-day tasks.
Bid paddles aren’t technically necessary; there are certainly plenty of other ways that the audience can bid during a live auction. However, using bid paddles makes it easier for the auctioneer to spot bids and allows your guests to speak and move around more freely.
Event programs highlight contributors, provide a schedule for the night, and overall orient guests with your event. Print them out beforehand, and make sure you have extras to accommodate any last-minute guests.
Before the program, do a check of your sound system to make sure your audience will be able to hear the auctioneer. As much as it can be tempting to turn the lights down to maintain the ambiance, keep the audience well-lit, so it’s easy for the auctioneer to spot bids and the guests to see the items.