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08 Sep 2017

How To Organise A Silent Auction To Fundraise

Organising a silent auction can seem like a huge responsibility, especially in times where fundraising is crucial in supporting the work of charities during an event.We are living in a giving generation, and there is no better time to get involved and organise a silent auction to aid your fundraising! Whether you are an experienced event manager, new to a role in fundraising and event planning or perhaps a volunteer helping out in your free time, we’d like to share with you a few helpful tips on where to begin, things to consider, and most importantly, how to make your fundraising event a huge success with interactive silent auctions!

STEP ONE: CHOOSE YOUR CONCEPT

Events come in all shapes and sizes, there is no right or wrong, but it needs to be right for you!

Before you start thinking about canapes and dessert options (although hard to resist), the first step in organising any event is choosing your concept; what type of event you are planning and what you want the guest experience to be.

Fundraising can take place in a variety of formats. Many charities work up to one large scale gala dinner which will be the pinnacle of their fundraising calendar. Other charities focus on smaller events taking place throughout the year, building up smaller amounts raised in each event. The most important thing to remember is, do what is right for you and your audience.

Here are a few fundraising formats that you could adopt:

  • Gala dinner
  • Award ceremony
  • Golf day
  • Pigeon clay shooting
  • Luncheon
  • Races

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STEP TWO: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The next step is choosing a suitable venue. This again ties in with your event concept and guest demographic.

It is important to consider the size of the venue. You don’t want to cram your guests into a small space leaving them gasping for air, but on the other hand, you don’t want to spend the whole evening walking from wall to wall to meet each of your guests.

Many venues will be more than happy to meet with you and to schedule a site visit should you show interest in booking an event with them. Make sure before you arrive you are prepped with detailed questions to seek answers to. You will usually meet with an experienced venue manager who will know the space like the back of their hand, so utilise their knowledge and ask for their advice.

Another thing to consider is the exact location and how easy it will be for your guests to get there and back. Venues in towns or cities are well equipped with parking facilities and taxi services, however, if you plan on taking your event a little off the beaten track you will need to consider your guests transport as a priority. You can find a directory of amazing fundraising event venues near you here.

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 STEP THREE: PROCURING AND SELECTING AUCTION ITEMS

There are a variety of ways in which you can manage a silent auction. Before the use of technology, many people chose to run silent auctions using a traditional pen and paper format. Although still an option, companies such as Givergy are able to offer a slick and sophisticated tech alternative which can make the donation and bidding experience more engaging and competitive.

Selecting the right auction items is extremely important and can make or break your fundraising efforts. Again, consider your guest demographic. Who are you guests, how old are they, are they predominantly male or female and do they have any common interests? These are all questions you should ask yourself before setting out to source your items. The best way to source your silent auction items is to reach out to the masses, whether that be your database of supporters or a committee. This is an effective way to get an amazing array of auction items for free. Another option is to reach out to companies, restaurants, organisations etc. and see if they would be willing to offer a prize. You won’t always be successful, but often when it’s for charity it will be considered.

Another great option is sourcing your auction items through a dedicated auction item supplier. There are a variety of companies such as Givergy who offer a fantastic selection of prizes that you can slip into your auction, whether it be to top up or a whole package. Learn why taking on a third-party auction items can help you maximise your fundraising efforts, here!

Another thing to remember is the number of auction items you are going to include. In many cases, more is not always merrier and from experience, you want to use the number of guests in the room as a guideline to how many you should include. 10% of your guest attendance is the recommended amount of auction items to include and so, for a room of 250 guests, aim to have around 25 auction items. Enough to give a good selection, but not too many as to discourage any competitive bidding.

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 STEP FOUR: RUNNING YOUR SILENT AUCTION

You have made it this far, and this is where you get to sit back and relax… but no, not just yet!

The promotion of the silent auction during the event is key to the success of your fundraising. For online silent auctions, we recommend you open up the pre-event website to your guests up to two weeks in advance. That means that even those not attending can participate and contribute to your cause, as well as it gets the bidding and competitive nature started early.

When it comes to the day of your event, if people are reminded and encouraged throughout the event, they will bid more regularly. The most important thing to consider is an excellent MC or compère who can make announcements and updates throughout the event, plugging your auction in as many creative ways as possible! An initial introduction is crucial and then a variety of updates at key moments throughout the event should do the trick. You may also want to consider creating an auction item display to help bring your silent auction to life.

Using fundraising technology to facilitate your silent auction is a proven way to get more bids. It’s important to ensure that your guests will able to place bids easily via a dedicated tablet or their own smart phone, the easier the technology is to use the more bids you will generate. Additionally, invest in a fundraising platform that will produce real time updates for your guests on winning bids, thus driving competition throughout the event, inevitably raising you more funds!

Incentivise… Another great way to encourage bidding activity is to incentivise. Something as simple as offering the table who have made the most bids a free bottle of wine could see your figures increase dramatically!

Get emotional… with all of the entertainment, food and socialising, it is sometimes easy for your guests to forget that they are there for a reason, to support the cause. Whether you choose to do this at moments throughout the event, or at one pinnacle point, make sure you bring the message back around to the cause and the reason why their support is so important.

Wrap it up…All good things must come to an end and the important thing to remember is your auction close time can have a huge impact on those final bids. If there is a moment during the evening, after dinner where your guests are likely to be getting up and dancing or socialising, you’re best to wrap the auction up before this point as once they’re up, that’s that! A final countdown can be helpful, so have your MC give a 10 minute, 5 minute and 10 second warning, drawing attention to auction items getting the most interest. This should see a final flurry of bidding activity.

At the end of the auction it’s always important to thank your guests for their participation. An announcement of the total amount raised coupled with it displayed on the fundraising thermometer on a leaderboard can be a nice way to conclude the event and an opportunity to flag any important notices about payment. If you can, try and collect as much payment at the close of the event. It avoids any lengthy chasing up post-event and discourages any ‘regrets’ from over indulging on the wine!

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If you’d like more detail on maximising your fundraising efforts through a silent auction, request a consultation with one of our fundraising experts!

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