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Spark a Bidding War at Your Charity Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth

Charity Auction Bidding Wars

Bidding wars are awesome. They are intense, competitive and exciting for everyone in the room. It can also help raise a lot of money on a single auction item. That being said, bidding wars are also elusive and almost impossible to anticipate or create. There's just no guarantee that any of the items you've selected will ignite enough interest to get your event patrons to compete with each other. Or is there...?

Doug Sorrell, one of the nation's top benefit auctioneers, has had years of experience working auction events, and sometimes even he is surprised at what sparks the audience's interest. “In May 2013 I had a 'consigned' signed celebrity item for $5,500. The cost was $650. No one had any idea this would happen, or that this item would be the ‘spark,’” he recalls. 


Read: 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an AuctioneerBefore you hire an auctioneer to emcee your fundraising event, use these questions to make sure they have the right knowledge and expertise to ensure a successful benefit auction and overall event. Read More →

Although you can't count on a bidding war, certain strategies may improve the likelihood that one will take place:

  • Hire a professional benefit auctioneer to host the live auction
  • Offer exciting, big-ticket items
  • Select items that tie in with the event's theme
  • Promote these items before and during the event

"At another event I had a commemorative rifle sell for over $5,000," Sorrell recalls, "No way should it have sold for over $2,500. Clearly having something like a Winchester at a Cattle Barons Ball made sense." And it does make sense. Donors attend events that are of interest to them, which can often tell you a lot about what items may be of interest to them. 

While the items you choose may or may not start a competition between donors, one thing is certain: your best chance at starting a bidding war is to hire an experienced professional benefit auctioneer.

Professional fundraiser auctioneers like Sorrell know how to describe items in a captivating way. They also know how to handle a bidding war if an opportunity presents itself. It is the auctioneer's job to discover the unique elements of an auction item, create an exciting atmosphere around that item and keep the bidding war going for as long as possible. If you let a volunteer or a celebrity take the stage, no matter how charismatic they are, it will diminish your chances of feeding or ever starting a proper bidding war. 

"The 'tale you tell' as an auctioneer needs to be compelling to achieve top bids," explains Sorrell, "You really can't plan for the Bidding War to take place. The auctioneer needs to be prepared to handle the situation whenever it breaks out and know how to get to the top dollar as quickly as possible."

It really boils down to your auctioneer creating an atmosphere of excitement. If he or she does that, your chances of a bidding war are enhanced. Sorrell continues, "At the end of the day, this kind of ability is what separates the good auctioneers from the great ones. Great ones at work are artists. Their ability in front of a group of strangers is truly a sight to behold."

For your next auction event, hire a professional charity auctioneer who will help to put donors in the competitive spirit. Auctioneers can also help you during the planning stage, so discuss with him or her the strategies you might want to use while procuring auction items that will improve your chance for success. 


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Winspire Communications Director

About Ian Lauth

With an extensive background in marketing and 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. You can also find Ian on .

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Event Production, Charity Auction, Live Auction
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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