3 Ways to Boost Donations at Your Fundraising Auction: Start with a Professional Live Auctioneer

3 Ways to Boost Donations at Your Fundraising Auction: Start with a Professional Live Auctioneer

Over the years, Getaway2Give has partnered with hundreds of charitable organizations across the United States to support their efforts to increase charitable contributions for worthy causes. We focus on charitable fundraising auctions, and our hands-on experience has taught us strategies guaranteed to generate the highest revenues, especially when you hire a professional live auctioneer. Now you can benefit from what we’ve learned! Putting in place the following three best practices at your next charity fundraising function will consistently reward nonprofits with skyrocketing sums.

Hire a professional charity live auctioneer…

A live auctioneer who has experience working with charitable auctions is your most valued partner in planning a successful fundraiser. Expect to pay between $2,500 and $5,000, or up to $10,000 in major markets. But the return on your investment is usually significant. A professional auctioneer can easily put an additional $50,000 to $100,000 into your contribution coffers. Before reading on, take a listen to Adam Capes, President and Chief Idea Officer elaborate in detail the importance of hiring a professional charity live auctioneer.

Still not convinced? For a moment, imagine your auction as a major surgical procedure – brain surgery, for example. Naturally you wouldn’t settle for the cheapest surgeon or a ‘free’ surgeon; you would seek out the best surgeon regardless of cost. But the charity mindset is that everything must be donated, and they too often make the mistake of trying to get an auctioneer for free. This is unfortunate, because ultimately if you take the cheap brain surgeon approach with your auction, it will likely die on the operating table.

So, just as you budget for an event space, food and banquet service, entertainment, valet parking, you should budget for an experienced live auctioneer. He or she is probably the most important person in your auction room! The saying that it takes money to make money is as true in the nonprofit sector as it is in the business world.

Live auctioneers are fabulous at getting a crowd excited and engaged in bidding. Most charities vastly underestimate people’s ability to give, and I cannot tell you how many times auctioneers have started fund-a-need bidding at a higher level and doubled and even tripled donations.

Why raise only $10k when you could increase it to $25k?  You don’t get something that you don’t ask for… and auctioneers know how to ask and receive.

Choose high-appeal charity auction items…

Selecting the right items to put in the room is critical to an auction’s success. This means knowing and understanding your audience; the items must match audience desires. It also means making sure you have a good mix of very unique tangibles and intangibles – items that most people would not ordinarily buy. Signed sports memorabilia, travel packages, exotic vacations and adventure tours fit the bill.

While you may get some great items donated for your charity auction event, don’t make the mistake of merely taking whatever is donated and then filling in gaps with consigned items later. Acquire the biggest and best consignment auction items you can. This will build momentum for acquiring similarly priced high-ticket donated items – the kind that will create buzz and encourage people to attend your event.

Acquire the biggest and best consigned auction items you can – the kind that will create buzz and encourage people to attend your event.

Think about it: If I’m a board member who owns a vacation home, I’d much rather donate to an event that is offering a vacation on a private island or yacht than one that is auctioning free car washes and dental hygienist visits.

Vacations and travel packages typically generate the highest bids at a live charity fundraising auction. Everyone loves vacations! They are a cherished time in the lives of most major charitable donors, who appreciate getting away to a special place and giving to a worthy cause at the same time. Since it’s rare for high-bid items to be donated, go for the gusto! Commit to vacation packages through a reputable, established company that specializes in consignment travel. Their trips are usually available to sell multiple times at a single event, so be prepared to accept multiple bids on them!

I don’t think any charity board or auction planning committee starts off believing they can gross $160k from a single item. But I know of one event where a week-long Costa Rica stay was consigned and sold 16 times at $10k each. “Build it and they will come” really does apply!

Invite the right crowd…

There’s a fallacy that you should focus your fundraising gala guest list on those who have shown they care about your cause. Actually, there are two types of donors. There are those who believe in the cause and are happy to write a big check because they are moved by the mission. These donors often give to the fund-a-need.

Then there is a subset of donors who come to charity events prepared to purchase things they want or need, knowing it will also benefit the charity. These donors are attracted to your event because they want to buy one of your consignment travel packages, for instance, with the satisfaction of knowing it contributes to your cause. Many organizations gain huge contributions from individuals who are not connected to the specific cause at all. Your guest list is not complete without inviting these prospective donors.

Huge charitable contributions can come from individuals who are not connected to your cause at all. Your guest list is not complete without inviting these prospective charity donors.

`A final thought…

When these three success factors are in place – the right people in the room, the right items and a professional live auctioneer – at Getaway2Give we’ve seen charities successfully raise more than $100k in about three minutes in a live auction. In one instance a private yacht trip was sold for ten people, and another charity sold a stay on a private island four times!

You can do this, too. Don’t underestimate the buying power of your donors. Push the envelope!