Auction events can be tricky if you aren’t prepared. Here are 10 tips to make sure that you are ready to put on the best event possible:
1. Start Planning Early
To secure a good venue, recruit volunteers, procure items and organize and publicize an auction you need to be planning at least 11 to 12 months ahead. If you are looking for companies to donate, you may need to ask them even earlier, so make sure you’re doing your work early. It will pay dividends in the future.
2. Have Clear Objectives
Outline your auction objectives, set clear financial goals, create a budget and establish a timeline of tasks. By planning ahead, you can accurately determine how much you'll need to raise through auction revenue to reach your goal, and you can set in motion the steps needed to get there.
3. Get Help
Don't do it alone. Establish a dedicated committee and divide up areas of responsibility including procurement, sponsorship, decorations, entertainment, speakers, registration, volunteer coordination and so on. You want people who know people, have time, work hard and follow through.
Respect your committee members' time (stick to meeting agendas and conclude on time), communicate goals and motivate your team.
4. Procure Items
It’s really hard to have an auction without anything to sell. Make sure your procurement team is full of people who are friendly and persuasive with large circles of influence. Find out who knows whom and then ask early, ask often, ask everyone.
Seek unique items and experiences that money can't buy.
If you don't get an answer, keep trying! If you get a "no," ask someone else. If you get a "yes," ask if the donor is willing to donate two.
5. Build Your Audience
Now that you have the auction items to sell, you need people in the room to buy them.
You want to attract the right number of people who have the capacity to give, will enjoy participating in your auction and are connected to your cause.
Promote your event early and often.
Ask people from your organization or some of your donors to become table captains responsible for filling one table each.
Call and personally invite guests who attended and gave generously at last year's events.
6. Secure Sponsorships
To help underwrite the costs of an auction, ask companies or individuals to sponsor event components such as the silent auction, the printing of the catalog or the dinner. This can be a cash or in-kind donation.
Offer tiered sponsorship levels and benefits so potential donors can choose from the options depending on how much they want to give and get in return.
Once a company has donated, make sure you recognize them publicly. This will show them your gratitude and will hopefully bring them back next year.
7. Plan a Fun Party
Make your auction a unique, memorable and fun event. Treat your guests like guests by truly taking care of them. It should feel like a night out instead of an obligation.
Entertain them. Surprise them. Wow them. They'll be sure to come back next year – and maybe even bring some new guests along.
8. Make a Special Appeal
Everyone at your auction is there to support your cause. Maximize their giving by presenting a specific need that will appeal to the majority of the audience.
Sometimes called "Fund an Item," "Fund a Need" or "Raise Your Paddle," this gives guests the chance to make a tax-deductible donation to the cause.
Remember, you raise more than money at your auction. You also raise awareness for your cause.
9. Use Professional Tools
From hiring a professional auctioneer to purchasing auction software, you can greatly benefit by using existing resources.
An auction database can help you track registration, auction items, sponsorships, table seating, guest purchases, donations and more. It can also help you turn over the information in an organized way to us for donor recognition and financial reporting purposes.
10. Give Thanks
Do it quickly, do it frequently and make it personal. Send thank-you notes to guests, volunteers, sponsors, donors and vendors. A little appreciation will go a long way to ensuring next year’s event is successful.
Putting together an auction event is hard work, but doing it right will pay major dividends in not only funds raised, but also donor engagement. And an engaged donor will help you expand your organization’s reach further than you’d be able to do yourself.
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