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December 2, 2016 Optimizing Fundraising Potential with the Live Auction Order

We’ve heard clients say they want to have all of the high valued items placed at the end of the live auction to “keep people there”.  Other clients want to start off with these items to “get the crowd energized”. Does the live auction order really make any difference?  You betcha!

As a professional fundraising auctioneer, I will have many questions to ask of the client as I plan for the live auction order.  I need to know if the client is conducting an appeal/fund-a-need, how many live auction items are being offered, whether the event is a seated dinner or a heavy hors d’oeuvres scenario, how many guests will be attending, etc. Here are how the answers to these questions play an important role in the live auction lineup.

If you are conducting an appeal and have 10 items or less I recommend placing the appeal at the end of the live auction.  It’s best practice to begin the live auction with fun, exciting, but lower-valued items in order to set the momentum of the auction and allow guests who may have never attended a live auction the opportunity to see how it works. It also allows guests time to become emotionally engaged.  Now that we have everybody’s attention we begin offering higher-valued items, ending just before the appeal with an item that is both high-valued AND exciting. This structure works best to keep the guests’ attention when heavy hors d’oeuvres are served (instead of a sit-down dinner).  Even if no appeal is to be facilitated this is still the optimum line-up.

I’ve conducted the appeal at the beginning of the program with great success.  The challenge I’ve found in offering the appeal before the live auction is in warming up the crowd (as well as the auctioneer).

In a sit-down dinner scenario with 15 live auction items or more, I suggest placing the appeal 60% of the way into the live auction.  Professional auctioneers call this method the “bell curve”.  Here again we are beginning with fun, exciting, but lower-valued items, building in value quickly.  At 60% of the way through the live auction the appeal is conducted.  With this structure, the maximum number of guests are in the room AND you are at a high price point. This provides a natural transition to asking for high dollar levels in the appeal.  There will be a lot of energy in the room at the conclusion of the appeal when you start the second half of the live auction off with another fun, exciting item to re-establish the momentum of the auction.  I recommend offering your less desirable items AFTER the appeal.  My reasoning here is that often guests will leave after the appeal for one reason or the other.  You don’t want those high-valued items at the end of the auction with fewer guests left in the room to bid on them.

Work with your professional fundraising auctioneer to ensure you are placing the live auction items in the best order to maximize your fundraising potential.

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