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How Many Auction Items Should I Put in my Fundraising Event?

Posted by Ian Lauth

How Many Auction Items Should I Put in My Charity Fundraising Event?

When hosting a live or silent auction, one of the biggest mistakes a Nonprofit can make is presenting too many auction items during the event. You may think having more items means raising more money, but the reality is presenting too many elements all at once can actually overwhelm an audience.

When it comes to charity auction items:
Quality is always more important than quantity.

If you’re hosting a live or silent auction fundraiser this year, keep these considerations in mind when choosing how many items to offer your guests. 

Size of audience

How many people will be attending your event? A good rule of thumb is to divide your guest list in half to get a more accurate estimate of the number of attendees who will actually participate in the auction.

By splitting your guest list down the middle, you are factoring in the tendency for couples to bid together and establishing a more realistic number of donors with the actual spending power to buy big and help you reach your fundraising goal. That’s not to say that you should have exactly one item for every two people at your event, but this gives you a better starting point for determining the scope of your auction item offering.

Size of venue

Overcrowding your event space will make browsing and shopping difficult and overwhelming. If you are working with limited space, it is better to cut back or be more aggressive about bundling auction items instead of trying to stuff everything on to a few tables.

Keeping your venue’s capacity in mind, plan out how many tables you will need to present your silent auction items (leaving at least 1-foot of space for each item). There should be enough room between auction tables so that attendees can easily move around, socialize and place their bids during the fundraiser event.

Read Next: "Silent Auction Spacing: What to Do When You Run out of Room"

Live vs. silent auction

If you’re pairing a live auction with your silent auction, keep in mind that you will want far fewer items presented live onstage and they should be big-ticket items only. In most cases, live auctions should present 7-12 items at the most.   

Presenting your guests fewer auction items that have a higher value and will sell well is always better than offering too big of a selection.

If you find that you are stuck with too many small auction items for your upcoming event, check out this post with tips on How to Bundle Smaller Donations to Create Extraordinary Auction Items.

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Event Production
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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