Live & Silent Auctions

It’s a Science and there are Formulas!

Create an “environment of giving” through effective event lighting, video, quality sound, appropriate music, table arrangements and room layout.

Make sure that everyone is aware that this is not just a party but a FUNDRAISER! The objective is to make a financial impact for your cause.

Businesses open to make money, think of your event as a business. The better it’s organized, the better the results.

Wireless bidding is great, and it is the future for auctions. BUT it can be expensive, and the location must have enough bandwidth to accommodate the system!

A sit down dinner is the best live auction you can have; it’s a captive audience that can focus on your cause and what’s going on in front of them.

Yes, you need a catalog.

Everything must start on time. From the social hour to the dinner, the speeches (time is money – keep them short), and most importantly the live auction. 2012 statistics show that guests are leaving events 45 minutes earlier than in previous years. Start early, stay on schedule, and end early.


Silent Auction

The silent auction gives everyone a chance to participate in your event, and gets them in the bidding mood for the live auction.

Everyone should have a Bidder Number- Never use their name or phone #.

Silent auction tables should close at staggered times. Tables increase in value as they close. The last table has the fewest items but the highest dollar value.

By saving the “Best” silent table for last you are prepping your guests to get ready to bid in the live auction!

Use a “SUPER BOARD” or “ALMOST LIVE” table for those items that just missed being live-this is your last table to close.

All silent auction items should be displayed in a way that’s easy to find and easy to bid on. No tables in hallways, no bad lighting or hard to find locations.

How items are displayed is crucial to maximizing your profit. Overcrowded tables make items difficult to find with their corresponding bid sheets, in other words you’re losing money!

All silent auction tables should always close BEFORE your live auction starts. Keep your audience focused on the live items coming up!

Use your projection screen to post closing times (in addition to the times posted at each table).

The average attention span is only about 7 seconds. Keep your descriptions simple. Use bold titles that make it clear what the item is. Use bullet points for item details.

Never turn down a donation. Inexpensive items are be placed together to create enticing gift baskets.

Use visual aids for gift certificates. Spa treatment; have the spa menu. Family Dinner basket; have menus for each restaurant card enclosed!

Do not set identical items next to each other.

Use your auctioneer to help enhance the silent auction item. Have them announce anything not bid on and what looks like a good deal. This will to help create energy for the silent auction.

Lighting your room/tables – if it’s dark they can’t see, if it’s hard to find they can’t bid. And don’t forget-Don’t overcrowd your tables!

All auction items should be numbered and the bidder sheets should have the corresponding number on it. Provide a BUY IT NOW option at 10-20% over the value of the item.

Remember: You make your money from all the under-bidders driving the price, you collect the money from your highest bidder.

Science & Formula:

35% of your fundraising dollars should come from your Silent Auction portion.

Formula: 1 buying unit = 1 couple or 1 individual

Formula: 1 couple or 1 individual = $500-$1000 in spending on average.

Formula: 300 people attending = 150 Buying Units

Formula: 150 Buying Units = approximately 150 silent auction items…..Believe it.

The average couple or individual is only interested in 5-6 items. That does not mean they are successful in winning 5-6 items, they will only be bidding on 5-6 items.

The more silent items you have the more people you will need at the event.

Formula: Total Silent Auction 1.5 hours = 8-10 minutes max in-between each closing table.

Formula: On average 6-8 inches between each silent auction item bid sheet. Do not overcrowd your tables.

Formula: When your MC or auctioneer announces that a specific table is closing, your patrons need to be able to identify where that table is in under 5 seconds

Each table should be easily identifiable- Each section with a different color and easy to read large print of the closing time for that table

Formula: Opening bids should be 40% of the Fair Market Value (FMV) of the item.

FMV is the actual retail value of the item. 95% of your items will sell at 70% of their FMV

Formula: Bid increments should be at standard auction intervals of approximately 10%, and should be pre-printed on your bid sheet. For example: $50, $55,$60… $250, $275, $300, etc.

Live Auction

The live portion of your auction will account for 2/3 of your overall value.

Live auctions are all about the bidding power that you have in the room.

****If you don’t get the right bidders it doesn’t matter what you have in your auction****

Make sure you have the people who can afford to purchase your live items, and that the expensive items don’t outnumber the bidders who can afford them! It’s important to match your items to your bidders’ ability to purchase.

Load me up with information about your cause, life changing stories, who benefits, and are there people in the room who have benefited from your mission? Let me know! With the mic’ in hand and your information I can bring the money that you need.

Your Live Auction is part of the Entertainment.

Use your bidder paddles for extra fundraising. Sell the space on the back of the bidder card for advertising.

There should be a Live Auction Display of upcoming items, with descriptions and photos, in a high traffic area. This display is moved to the auction floor just before the dinner, and before the auctioneer starts the live auction portion of the event.

Best sellers for your LIVE auction:

  • Unique Experiences
  • Items with Emotional impact
  • Trips/Cabins/Mini Vacations
  • International Trips
  • Items YOU would buy!
  • Something 100% of your guests would like to own

Live Auction should start with your least expensive item so that everyone will have a opportunity to bid (creating energy!)- Peak in the Middle with the best and most expensive (here are your 20% that can afford to bid) and slowly end again with items that everyone can raise their paddle for, to keep that good feeling of being part of the event!

Do not save your most expensive item for last, bidders will hold their money to buy what they are hoping for, if they are not successful then there are no additional items to bid on.

Science & Formula

65% of your fundraising dollars will come from your Live Auction.

Seat your strongest bidders from past auction up front, close to the stage.

Only 20%-30% of your attendees will be able to afford the Live Auction items.

Formula: Although there are exceptions, the general rule is a maximum of 12-15 auction items.

Formula: The live auction averages 3-5 minutes per item. You should have no more than 12 items. This results in 45-60 minutes of auction time and includes your Paddle Raise (also known as Direct Appeal).

Formula: Dinner: Each course takes approx. 20 minutes. Most dinners have 3 courses = 60 min = your entire live auction with talk time included.

Live Auction should ALWAYS be during dinner (captured audience) everyone is ready to leave after dinner.

People are leaving events 30-45 minutes earlier than in previous years. Start early and end early.

Have something for everyone in your live auction. Each guest has a chance to raise their paddle and feel as though they have made an impact for your cause.

Start with an emotional item.

Start low, peak in the middle, end low.

Have an EXCELLENT sound system in place. If your bidders can’t hear where the bid is they will not bid. I can’t say enough about the importance of sound. Event provided sound systems will not suffice!

Number your live auction items in the catalog and on your PowerPoint so everyone can confirm what item is currently up for auction.

Bidder cards- yes you need them.

Bidder card numbers: a minimum of 3“ high, and easily readable from a distance

Project a photo and large font bullet point description on a large screen to highlight each live item, and place the screen where everyone can see it.

Good lighting is a must in order to see the bidder cards, but low enough light to see the projection screen.

Don’t have similar items back to back; 2 amazing trips, or 2 dinner experiences – these should be separated.

Paddle Raise, Fund-A-Need( there are many names for this) is held during the live auction and after the peak item in the Live auction.

Raffles should be pulled after the live portion of your auction. It keeps people in their seats. (It’s a captured audience!)