The planning stage of most successful fundraising events began 6 months to 1 year or more in advance. With hundreds of details to manage leading up to the big day, it's no wonder missed opportunities and mistakes end up costing so many charities thousands of dollars in revenue each year.
The more organized you are, the greater return on your investment.
Today we're proud to present part two of our 6-part series all about pre-event to-do's with benefit auctioneer Stephen Kilbreath. Curated from decades of experience running benefit auctions, Kilbreath shares what you need to do, when you need to do it.
Auction Checklist Series
We developed this mini-series to guide you through the process of planning all the details for a complex fundraising auction event.
Part 1: 10 to 12+ Months Out
Part 2: 7 to 10 Months Out
Part 3: 5 to 7 Months Out
Part 4: 3 to 5 Months Out
Part 5: 1 to 3 Months Out
- Establish committees. Oftentimes it is best to have one or two people ('Auction Chairs') in charge to make decisions. But certainly those leaders need committees. Committee members are dedicated, passionate people who understand both the charity's mission and the point of the fundraiser. Common committees include Live Auction, Silent Auction, Fund-a-Need, Sponsorship, Registration, Promotion and more. Fill committees with people who have personal strengths in the roles they are assigned. Click to learn .
- Host a procurement "Wish List" Party. Time to start procuring items for your auction. The most successful teams are able to procure mindfully: getting the right items to 'wow' your guests and capture high bids. A procurement "wish list" party allows you to brainstorm creative auction items, then lay out a strategy to make the most of your team's limited time and resources.
- Finalize your marketing plan. How are you going to get the right people at your event: those who will not only buy a ticket but give more at the event? Go through your invitation list. See who was at your event last year - then get them back at your event this year.
- Send save-the-dates. Develop save-the-date cards as soon as you have the date and venue finalized. For graphics, choose an event theme and logo, then set up an event-specific website to direct people on the save-the-date and other marketing materials. Get practical tips for designing a charity auction save-the-date here: .
- Consider auction software. How do you plan to keep track of all the items you are collecting for your event? Is your event small enough that this critical task is manageable through Excel or Google Sheets? If not, investing in auction software may be a savvy move. Auction software allows you to manage hundreds of details related to auction items; host online auctions and event websites; replace paper bid sheets with mobile bidding; store attendee information and more.
- Secure sponsors and underwriters. You need items, and you need guests, but you also need event sponsorships and underwriting. An event sponsorship helps offset general event expenses, while an underwriter pays for all or a portion of a certain expense (think printing auction catalogs, hiring a band, or using exciting travel packages in the live auction).
- Hire a professional audio/visual company. At a fundraising event, the benefit auctioneer 'paints a picture' of auction items with their voice. Speakers and videos create the emotional impact needed for a successful fund-a-need. Pump-up music energizes the crowd and facilitates smooth transitions. Fact is, faulty sound equipment can kill an auction. We highly recommend investing in a professional sound company. Look for one that will do a walk-through and give what you need to make sure your event is heard clearly by everyone in the room. For more, read .
- Hire other entertainment needs. It's a good time to look at hiring a band, DJ or other entertainment. Try securing a professional photographer and/or photo booth. High quality photographs enhance both the guest experience and caliber of next year's promotional materials.
Have less than 7 months until the big day? Hosting a biennial event with more than 10 months to go? Keep in mind the checklist is meant to be general guidelines for what needs to start being addressed earliest in the process. It can be adjusted based on how much time you have remaining, or your specific type of event.
We hope this list is helpful as you begin preparing fully for your event. Stay tuned to Winspire News over the next few weeks, as this is just the first of 4 more checklists we can't wait to share. Finally, be sure to share these articles with your entire committee so everyone is on the same page.
Special thanks goes to Stephen Kilbreath, a 25+ year benefit auctioneer based out of Seattle, Wash., for sharing his auction timeline checklist. To check out the full webinar he recently hosted with Winspire, "3 Ideas to Maximize Revenue from Your Benefit Auction," click here.