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Supercharge Your Charity Event: Include a Benefit Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth

Winston & Winnie go to a Benefit Auction

It’s no secret that hosting a large event once or twice a year is a great way for Nonprofits to increase awareness and raise money. The possibilities for these special events are endless; you can host a golf tournament, dinner gala, variety show, musical performance, bake sale, fun run or walk, car wash, festival, a wine/beer tasting party, or any other exciting event that brings in a large crowd.

It’s a simple equation: The bigger the event, the larger the crowd; the larger the crowd, the more money you bring in. Unfortunately, a bigger event usually means higher upfront costs, so it’s important they turn out successfully. Furthermore, large crowds are great if you have a high ticket price, but what about getting these guests to spend more money at the event?

One of the most effective ways to bolster the scope of your event, attract more potential donors and get those supporters to spend more money at the event is by incorporating a live or silent benefit auction.

Adding an auction to your fundraising event not only gives your guests another reason to open their wallets, it gives them something to do while they’re socializing. It adds excitement and provides additional entertainment. It also gives you something else to talk to your guests about while you’re doing the requisite meet & greets. Discussing the auction items gives you an easy tie-in to the fundraising component of the event without any awkward requests for direct donations in person. In the business world we refer to this as the “soft sell”.

Let’s face it—attendees often need an incentive to contribute. While you’ve tried your best throughout the year to reach your supporters and get them to donate, sometimes all it takes is an incentive – like an incredible looking trip to San Francisco & Sonoma Valley - to pique their interest and get them to pull out their checkbooks.

Adding benefit auctions items to your event is easier than you think. You can choose to have either a live or silent benefit auction, but keep in mind that live auctions typically bring in more money. Live auctions are better suited for events where you have a captive audience, such as a dinner gala or a show of some kind. Silent auctions are better fit for events with less structure where guests spend most of their time milling about and socializing.  

For live auctions, it’s a good idea to have the auctioneer or emcee take the stage at some point during the event when enthusiasm is highest, such as after cocktail hour or at an awards ceremony. An auction can serve as an addition to a big attraction or show, or it can be showcased as the main event. In any case, it is crucial that during the event, attendees are made aware of when and where the auction will be taking place. The host should clearly direct guests’ attention to the items being sold so no one misses out on the action!

Silent auctions, on the other hand, should happen throughout most of the event with items neatly displayed on tables throughout the venue with clearly marked bid sheets. Don’t crowd the items on to the tables; give each one enough space so that it doesn’t get overlooked. It’s worth renting another table or two to accomplish this. Also, just like with a live auction, the host should repeatedly direct guests to the tables to check on their existing bids and the keep bidding. Just because you’re having a silent auction doesn’t mean it needs to be silent! Make sure your emcee is comfortable on the mic and actively engages your attendees throughout the event.

If you’re considering adding a live or silent benefit auction to your next big event, follow these 7 Best Practices to make the night an even bigger success. You can also sign up for a free event consultation to speak with one of our professional Event Consultants who specialize in putting on effective live and silent auctions.


Winspire Communications Director

About Ian Lauth

Ian Lauth has been working to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue since early 2012 when he was hired by Winspire to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes. You can also find Ian on .

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Fundraising, Event Production, Competition
Ian Lauth
Ian Lauth
With an extensive background in marketing development and content design, Ian’s role at Winspire is to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue. Ian serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Winspire News, creating and managing blog content, newsletters, eBooks and other resources for Nonprofit fundraising professionals.

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