Getting the Right Bidders to Your Benefit Auction

Michael Faith

Creating a Culture of Giving

When planning your biggest fundraising event of the year, it is imperative you develop your donors, invite the right people and cultivate them before, during and after. Great events don’t just happen. They require thoughtful planning and relationship-building with partners, volunteers, board members, and donors.

Many groups spend most of their time considering decorations, design, procurement, and theme – all fun and important topics. However, if you don’t have people in the room who care about you and your work, have the ability to make a donation, and who want to donate that night – then all your careful planning won’t pay off.

It’s important to create a culture of giving surrounding your event—one that inspires attendees not only to say they support your mission but to demonstrate that support. It all starts with how you think about the event and how you present it to others. It may be social, celebratory and fun – but above all, it’s a fundraiser. So be sure to communicate that clearly. Avoid calling it a “celebration” or an “awards ceremony” if it is indeed, first and foremost, a fundraiser.

Personalized Outreach

Carefully consider your ticket price and event items to match your attendees – or craft them to build the audience you want to attract. Work closely with your table hosts and key donors, encouraging them to invite guests who are willing and able to bid high and bid often! The easiest and fastest way for your supporters to get others excited about your organization is to share their own stories of involvement. First-hand accounts of how volunteering added meaning and value to their lives are inspiring. Having videos, handouts, and social shares ready for your supporters to pass on to others can also be helpful in drumming up support.

Your board of directors should be your hardest-working and most loyal champions. Ask them to fill the room with willing donors by hosting tables. Confirm your board’s commitment to attend, and if they can’t or won’t host a table, suggest they try to sell 8-10 tickets to friends or colleagues instead. They could also bring one or two like-minded couples who they believe would be willing to open their wallets. You may need to prepare scripts for board members to use when asking folks to attend.

Another group to solicit is your tried and true friends and fans. Try long-time donors, people who attend the event every year but don’t host a table, or simply people you know who would do anything for you! Ask them if they would be open to bringing another couple who can donate like they can. Usually, your donors will be happy to do it and it’s much easier than filling an entire table.

Finally, consider your current vendors. Are there people you do business with who might be excellent guests or sponsors? This is a great question to ask board members, committee members, and volunteers. You never know where these conversations will lead, but they can often yield surprising results. Most people love to help but you’ll never know unless you ask!

Irresistible Items

Making sure you have the right bidders also means having the right items. Spend time during the planning phase checking in with your donors about what they’d love to bid on, or what they think guests might like to bid on. Reach out to donors once you have procured the items and tell them about it! This is also a great opportunity to host a brainstorming party to identify best-selling item trends and find out exactly what your crowd wants.

Build Excitement

Most importantly, develop a comprehensive communications plan to get attendees fired up pre-event. For many live auction items, people need to plan in advance for trips and major expenses, and if they know the details, they can decide beforehand when and how much to bid.

And be sure to spend plenty of time prior to the event communicating your impact and mission. Make it clear to your donors exactly what type of work they are supporting. Fill your event with heartwarming and engaging mission moments to inspire giving that night. Communicate throughout the event that the work you do is only possible because of donor support and continue weaving your mission into the entire program and auction.

Maintain Contact

Last but not least, devise a post-event follow-up plan to thank donors and keep them excited about the work you do all year long. This will get them ready for next year! Oftentimes these simple thank you calls can lead to next year’s event committee volunteers – or better yet – auction package donors. Plus, this is a great way to get board members involved in your fundraising efforts. Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, shared these statistics on board member thank you calls from her research: donors who received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift gave 39% more the next time they were solicited than the other donors who did not receive a call. And after 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

For more great tips on procuring the right donors, contact us today. We can’t wait to work with you!

auction teamMarquam Auction Agency