To Bid or Not to Bid
Myth or fact? Silent auctions will soon be a thing of the past…
A fact is that many clients are choosing to not include a silent auction in their event plans. This year, though, the Guthrie Theater bucked that trend by incorporating a silent auction into the Guthrie Gala for the first time in several years.
The Guthrie’s silent auction at the June event featured just over 40 personally solicited, desirable packages which raised over $45,000. Key to the success of this first-time auction was a highly-motivated, well-connected committee of passionate volunteers who were smart and strategic about the items they solicited.
This month we examine common auction myths to reveal current trends and best practices in silent and live auctions, as well as the fund-a-need or direct giving moment. We are delighted to feature our good friend Dane Lundahl from Auction Harmony who provided the content for this newsletter.
Auction Myths Debunked
One of our favorite vendor partners is Auction Harmony, a Minnesota-based registration and auction technology company. Following the Guthrie Gala this summer, an event we partnered on, I sat down with Dane Lundahl, Vice President of Business Development at Auction Harmony, to glean his insights on how to maximize the results of night-of fundraising.
Here are common myths that Dane and his team are frequently called upon to dispel:
- Myth #1: Silent auctions are going away.
The fact of the matter is silent auctions are time intensive. On the flip side, auctions also provide entertainment value for guests, and a well-curated silent auction can raise significant revenue. A current trend is smaller auctions featuring carefully selected packages. Also, many organizations are diversifying the fundraising taking place during the reception to include activities such as raffles, wine games, and mystery boxes.
- Myth #2: The longer your silent auction is open, the more you will raise.
No matter when you close your silent auction, there are people who will say you should have left it open longer. Auction Harmony recommends a silent auction be open no longer than 90 minutes or two hours. Regardless of how long your auction is open, a significant percent of the bids won’t come in until the frenzy when it is announced that your auction will be closing in X number of minutes. For most items, once the bidding reaches the value or close to value, the bidding will taper off or stop altogether.
- Myth #3: Opening up bidding before the start of your event will raise more money.
There is no data to support that your auction will perform better by opening it earlier in the day or even a few days before the start of your event. In fact, the auction experience during your event will be more positive and encourage more engagement if your guests are the ones involved in opening the bidding and driving up the selling price of the items.
- Myth #4: Online auctions are a great way to conduct an auction to increase participation and dollars raised.
Setting up an online auction is very time intensive, and few organizations experience a good return on investment. It takes a lot of effort to drive people who aren’t already connected to your organization to participate. Auction Harmony’s recommendation is to focus your auction efforts on providing the guests at your event with an exciting line-up of desirable auction items that are exclusively available to those at your event rather than investing in an online auction.
- Myth #5: There is no need to display all of your silent auction packages if people can view the items on their phone.
With the integration of auction technology, a mistake is to decide to display only some or none of the packages. Auction Harmony recommends that even for non-physical items such as gift certificates for experiences, that there still be at a minimum a sign for each package on display in your reception. Most guests still like to view the physical display of items before transitioning to bidding from their phones. At events supported by Auction Harmony, 70% of bids still happen on the tablets displayed with each item with 30% of bids happening via phones.
- Myth #6: The more live auction items you have, the more money you will raise the night of the event.
The trend is smaller live auctions with very premium items that will generate lots of excitement in the room. Most signature night-time fundraising events in the Twin Cities market are featuring 3-6 live auction packages. There is only so much “big money” in the room the night of the event, so having more items doesn’t automatically translate to more revenue. In fact, organizations often raise the same or more when they reduce the size of their live auction. At most events, the live auction happens right before the fund-a-need and serves as a vehicle for generating energy going into that special giving moment. A long live auction can actually zap energy in the room by dragging out the program before getting to the most important fundraising moment of the night.
- Myth #7: If you are using technology for your fund-a-need, bid paddles aren’t necessary.
You will raise more money if your guests have bid paddles. Significantly more excitement and momentum are generated in the room when the auctioneer is able to acknowledge each guest participating by calling out their bid number rather than simply thanking a lot of hands that are raised in the air.
- Myth #8: By stating and displaying a fund-a-need goal, guests will stop giving once the goal is reached.
There is no evidence that giving in the room will stop once a stated fund-a-need goal is reached as long as your messaging around this most important giving moment of your event is strong. The video or speaker component that happens right before the auctioneer makes the invitation to give is the most important messaging of the night, so it is critical that significant time is invested in crafting this messaging.
Happy 125th Anniversary!
Ann Plans is honored to be part of helping Episcopal Homes celebrate 125 years of enriching lives and building community with older adults. Today, Episcopal Homes serves 1,400 elders in St. Paul with a commitment to providing whole person wellbeing programs. The “Homecoming” fundraising celebration will take place on Friday, September 20 at the Minnesota History Center, and will feature the premiere of a one-act play capturing the history and culture of this special community.
Myth: Labor Day weekend is intended for working. With summer winding down, school starting, and fall events just around the corner, we hope you fill your holiday weekend with fun and relaxation!