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5 Step Timeline For Planning a Flawless Benefit Auction

Posted by Jeff Cova

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Having a benefit auction is a great way to connect with members, expand your reach and boost fundraising efforts. But executing a successful benefit auction is a difficult task, even for the most experienced Development Director. These tips are a good start for establishing a timeline and ultimately throwing an amazing event.

Plan Early
Starting 9-12 Months Out

For Nonprofits who host an annual auction benefit, planning for next year’s event starts immediately as soon your event concludes. Follow suit by starting 9-12 months ahead of your event. Here are some to-do’s to start with:

  • Decide on size and theme of event
  • Research, price and visit potential venues
  • Determine budget parameters
  • Research entertainment
  • Research sponsors and create a target donor list

Event Fundraiser Sponsorship Kit

Get Help
 7-8 Months Out

Going it alone can be a recipe for disaster. Form committees and lean on volunteers or interns to help you with busy work. Don’t be afraid to reach out to Benefit Auction Specialists for their expertise. If you've never consulted with a professional auctioneer, set up a few meetings to see what they have to offer.

At 7-8 months out, you should be on track to begin the following:

  • Form a procurement committee dedicated to acquiring benefit auction items
  • Determine Charity Board Member involvement
  • Confirm venue and celebrity involvement
  • Finalize budget and book vendors

Procure Items
At Least 6 Months Out

Attention-grabbing procurement items are key to drawing donors. Unique, big-ticket items like a vacation or special experience, such as a trip to Cabo San Lucas or tickets to The Emmys in Los Angeles, can attract fierce bidding. At the 6 month mark, it's advisable to begin the following tasks:

  • Build your Procurement Team
  • Develop an auction item Wish List and a Procurement Plan

Read Next: "Secure Better Auction Items: How to Host a Procurement Party"

  • Prepare an Auction Procurement Packet with procurement letter & forms
  • Create and distribute a press release and “save the date” communication; include some of the big-ticket items to pique attendee interest
  • Begin the process of contacting VIP guests and make sure these individuals are aware of items up for bid

Free eBook: Intro to Procuring Quality Charity Auction Items

Plan Early
3 Months Out

Your attention to detail throughout the process of planning your event will reduce your stress level and help you stay organized. Keep hard and electronic copies of invitation lists, vendor receipts, agreements, procurement letters & forms, etc.

With only 3 months until the event (it'll be here before you know it!) make sure you've completed or are close to completing the following:

  • Recruit volunteers needed for the event
  • Create initial guest list
  • Obtain event insurance
  • Finalize security needs and event footprint
  • Confirm method for collecting Credit Card donations

Manage Stress Levels
Final 1-2 Months

The event date is closing in! The closer you get to an event, the more chaotic planning can get. Allow your busy schedule to fuel your passion. In the last 1-2 months, reach out to your team and drive them to stay on schedule. Stay positive, stay engaged, and don't let the little stuff get to you.

Before your event, make sure you:

  • Finalize the program script and guest list
  • Take inventory of auction items and label appropriately
  • Finalize seating diagram
  • Print signage

The day of the event, all your hard work will pay off. With a well-organized event, compelling speakers and interesting auction items, donors are sure to have a lot of fun. Relax and enjoy yourself! If you've done your job and followed these 5 steps, everything will fall in to place.  

After the event, follow up with anyone who donated or purchased an auction item to thank them personally for their contribution.

Good luck!

Event Production, Nonprofit Communication, Time Management
Jeff Cova
Jeff Cova
Jeff Cova, President of Winspire, Inc., has over 17 years of experience in the Nonprofit and fundraising industry. Prior to Winspire, Jeff worked for 5 years as the Director of Development at Cal State Fullerton before co-founding a company specializing in producing charity auctions for Nonprofits where he successfully produced the auctions for 250 of Southern California’s most successful fundraising events. In 2008 Jeff founded Winspre with the goal of helping non-profits across the country increase their event fundraising revenue and identify new fundraising sources. Jeff and his team at Winspire have helped over 12,000 non-profits to date.

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