10 Tips for a Running a Silent and Live Charity Auction
1. Choose the right date for your silent and/or live auction
Choosing the right date for your auction is critical. Most auctions are held in either the spring or the fall. Summer is not a good time to hold a major event since many guests may be vacationing. Winter is also considered a bad time of year as many are preparing or recovering from the holidays. Fall is normally considered the best time of year to hold an auction because many of your guests are beginning to get into the holiday shopping mood and may find that what you have to offer is on their shopping list. Weekend evenings are the most popular time to hold auctions since most auctions last well into the night.
2. Pick the right auctioneer for your live auction
You have two choices, a professional auctioneer or a volunteer. This decision generally comes down to the following considerations. A professional auctioneer will charge for their services. However, they will auction more gifts faster and for more money. A professional auctioneer can auction approximately 75 items in an evening, at 20-25% higher than an amateur auctioneer. If you are running a small auction, you may want to use a volunteer. It might also make sense to use a volunteer if you have someone in your organization that has a great personality and is known by many of your potential guests. Best of all, they are free. However, volunteers can cause the evening to run very late and ruin the opportunity to get guests to return to future auctions.
3. Use the most effective strategy for acquiring gifts for both your silent auction and your live auction
Teams provide the moral support necessary to approach a potential donor. Additionally, using teams helps ensure that the paperwork is completed properly. When setting up teams, pay attention to personal dynamics. Certain team members will be more comfortable asking donors for gifts than others. These individuals should be teamed up with team members who do not necessarily have this talent. Also, this allows teams to share the workload by allowing the more reserved person to take on tasks which are more suited to them (documentation, collection of the gifts, etc.).
4. Obtain tangible gifts for both your silent auction and your live auction whenever possible
Many businesses, especially restaurants, will offer to provide you with gift certificates instead of actual gifts. Focus on local businesses that can donate tangible items. You should not turn away businesses that can only provide gift certificates, but they should not be the focus of your campaign. Tangible gifts create a very exciting auction night environment. Just imagine an auction with no actual gifts, but rather just a bunch of gift certificates lying around on a silent auction table. Secondly, a gift certificate is only going to bring in the amount on the certificate, or unfortunately, sometimes not even that. A tangible gift is much more likely to bring in a value that exceeds its real value.
5. Know what to put in your “Auction Packet”
The auction packet is given to guests when they arrive. Some of the items you should include in your packet are:
- The auction program
- Addendum to auction Catalog
- Organization fact sheets
- Auction rules
- Payment options
- Silent auction table closing times
- Drink coupons
- Raffle tickets
- Flyers for other upcoming events
- Auction paddles
6. Close down the silent auction tables properly
Closing down the silent auction can be a bit tricky. There may still be several bidders bidding on the same item right up until the closing time. To prevent a situation that is perceived as unfair, it is important that the table be closed at exactly the time advertised. It is a good idea to announce the closing of table at prescribed intervals before, such as 15 minutes, 5 minutes, etc. This helps to get interested bidders to enter their “best and final” offer before the time for bidding expires. It is also helpful to close different sections of the silent auction at different times, to allow your volunteers time to pick up all the bid sheets quickly.
7. Take advantage of other opportunities to make money at your auction
Admission fees, the sale of beer, wine and cocktails, raffles, door prizes and the sale of advertising in your program are a few of the ways you can augment your auction revenue.
8. Send out invitations for your auction
If you are lucky enough to have a database of your members or guests from previous auctions then you can send out formal invitations. The design of your invitation can range from very simple to very elegant. Your should mail them approximately 90 days before your event to make sure your guests have not already made other plans for the evening. You should also develop a plan to send out reminders at periodic intervals to those who have not sent in their RSVP. Remember, RSVPs also tell you who has declined, which reduces the number of reminders you need to send.
9. Know the laws regarding silent and live auctions and stay out of trouble
Fundraising events create tax consequences for the guest and the organization hosting the event. According to the IRS; “A donor cannot claim a tax deduction for any single contribution of $250 or more unless the donor obtains a contemporaneous, written acknowledgment of the contribution from the recipient organization.” Also, “A donor may only take a contribution deduction to the extent that his/her contribution exceeds the fair market value of the goods or services the donor receives in return for the contribution; therefore, donors need to know the value of the goods or services.
10. Use checklists to make sure everything goes smoothly
- Room reservation checklist
- Room setup checklist
- Refreshments checklist
- Sound system checklist
- Check-in checklist
- Check-out checklist
- Raffle and door prize checklist
- Silent auction checklist
- Live auction checklist
- Auction cleanup checklist