November 27, 2023
Nonprofit Technology & Fundraising Blog
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So you’ve decided to hold a fundraising event: a dinner, a gala, perhaps a sports tournament or 5K race. Every successful event requires an ambitious revenue goal.
How do you plan to meet that goal?
You’ve got the essential revenue streams: ticket sales, sponsorships, a pledge drive or fund-a-need campaign… Have you considered a charity auction?
In today’s post, get details on the 3 different types of charity auctions and tips for deciding which is right for your event.
If you’re brand-new to the world of charity auctions, here’s a quick overview of what we mean.
A charity auction is a popular type of nonprofit fundraising stream in which nonprofits collect donations or consignment items to sell off at the event. Auction items need to be valuable, high quality and highly sought after to successfully garner bids. Donors are given the chance to place bids in a silent, live or online auction, typically within the context of a larger fundraising event.
The highest bidder takes home the item, and your organization collects the proceeds. It’s that simple!
To maximize your chances of success, it’s imperative to select the auction format that best complements your event. Here’s a quick rundown on the 3 most popular types of charity auctions.
Silent auctions are auctions with items displayed on tables for guests to browse. People are given bid numbers to place bids on sheets of paper or electronically (using their phone or tablets provided). To increase value, many nonprofits bundle smaller donations into larger packages; think “Date Night in a Basket” with a restaurant certificate, movie tickets and pizza for the kids packaged together.
The silent auction is a good way to kick off a larger fundraising gala or dinner, since it gives guests something to do once they’ve arrived and gotten a drink in hand. It’s also the appropriate time to sell relatively lower-valued items – say, $1,000 and under – compared to a live auction.
For help procuring high quality, unique auction items, download the free eBook, “An Introduction to Procuring Quality Charity Auction Items.”
In a live auction, a benefit auctioneer presents about 7 to 12 premium, big-ticket items one at a time for guests to bid on. Donors place bids by raising their bid cards at certain amounts. While everyone should be paying attention to the live auction, the items should be so valuable that only a handful (say, 10 percent) are able to actually participate and bid. The environment is more competitive than a silent auction, and thus typically yields a higher return per item.
At large-scale, sophisticated events, the live auction is often the entertainment highlight of the night. Ideally the auctioneer will spark “bidding wars” and friendly competition – that’s great news for your bottom line! Some smaller or more structured events, like a golf tournament, will auction off just a handful of items. Plus, benefit auctioneers often facilitate the special appeal, or “fund-a-need”, in addition to the live auction, which makes hiring a professional auctioneer well worth the cost.
You may be familiar with auction websites like eBay, and an online charity auction works similarly. It’s essentially a digital silent auction. You procure donations and no-risk items that supporters of your organization can browse, then bid on and pay for online. Items can be shipped to winning bidders or, in the case of vouchers and certificates, sent electronically. You’ll want to invest heavily in the security of your site, so bidders feel safe inputting contact and payment information into the online auction.
Since there’s no “peer pressure” element and it all takes place in the digital world, online auctions tend to rake in the least amount of sales. However, they’re much easier to host and take up very little actual space. Plus, it’s a fun way to engage supporters who aren’t in your geographic location – all that’s needed is an internet connection to support your cause from anywhere in the world!
With the right items presented in a professional, sleek online auction medium, you can raise significant revenue with less resources required for setup and fulfillment.
The best auction for your event depends on the event type, as well as the amount and caliber of items you’re able to procure.
You might combine two or even all three types of auctions. You can also try different ones throughout the year and see what is best for your supporters.
Bottom line: The best thing you can do is mix things up. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always gotten. So if you’ve never tried a charity auction, it could be the game changer that takes your fundraising events to new heights.
Author Bio: Summy Lau
This post was created in collaboration with Summy Lau, Fundraising Editor at Winspire. Winspire provides exciting, unique travel packages for charities to use in fundraising auctions and raffles, with no upfront cost. Summy brings extensive experience in nonprofit development, event fundraising and publishing to Winspire’s weekly blog, Winspire News. Click here to sign up for semiweekly articles, tips and guides designed to help nonprofits meet and exceed their revenue goals.