Monday, April 23, 2012

4 Tips for Successful Silent Auction

Hats off to Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp for their wildly successful Speakeasy Gala and Auction two weekends ago! It was an evening full of many successes, and at the top of that list was their well curated silent auction.

Besides creating a distinct look and feel for the silent auction, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp employed some basic strategies to achieve that level of curation. Here are 4 easy steps you can take to have the same effect:
  1. Look at last year's sales totals: What sold and what didn't? Make sure to include the same items that sold well and take out/do not solicit the items that did not.
  2. Know your audience: For example, the attendees of the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp gala bid very competitively on home and garden packages, wine lots and restaurant gift certificates. Solicit donations of what you know people will bid on, and package them together in fun and engaging ways.
  3. Set clear criteria for the types of items you are soliciting: restaurant gift certificates, unique experiences, travel, celebrity meet and greets, etc., and make sure your procurement committee sticks to it.
  4. Be creative: Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp has a loyal following of Kiwanis clubs that purchase tables every year. They also have a competition in which each club puts together a basket for the silent auction, and the club that created the top selling basket gets a visit from the Camp's Executive Director at their next meeting. These baskets are consistently among the silent auction's best selling items.

By following these clear guidelines, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp saw their silent auction revenue increase significantly over last year.

As with all other elements of events, the more you tailor your silent auction to your audience, the more fun they'll have, the more engaged they'll be, and ultimately, the more money you will raise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Traditional Event Arc

Cocktail Hour

Your guests will arrive at your event in varying states of engagement. Your job is to reel them in. A cocktail hour can allow them to acclimate to your event and leave their daily baggage behind.

This time is also perfect to start getting them to engage with your organization through a silent auction, raffle or wine wall. These activities give guests something to do and start raising your organization money.

Dinner & Start of Program

After this social time, transition guests into the seated dinner and program. A great way to focus them here is to show a “Who We Are and What We Do” video after they are seated. Using a video will help center and focus your room and allow you to educate your audience about your organization.

Live Auction

Dinner is a time when your audience will be relatively quiet and is a great time for the live auction. Order your live auction items by perceived value, each building on the next as a way to build momentum to head into your special appeal. Hire a professional benefit auctioneer, you will make more money as they sell your organization not just the item.

Special Appeal

Your special appeal is your single biggest opportunity to raise money at your event. That is why it needs to be timed at the peak and height of your event’s momentum and your guests’ attention. Your appeal also needs to follow a basic formula about one person on a hero’s journey:

The special appeal has three distinct parts:

· The Story: Your appeal story needs to come from a place of why your organization does the work that it does and not this is who we are and what we do. Simplify.

· The Ask: To engage your audience with a call to action, you must concisely, directly and actively ASK people to give money.

· The Collection: Those who plan for an easy and strategic collection maximize their earning potential. This may be done with bid cards, envelopes, cell phones—but keep it easy and strategic.


Once your live auction and special appeal are completed, move into the “candy” of your event. This is the perfect time for honorees, awards, or headliner entertainment. Guests will stay around and pay attention, but at a lower level of engagement than they had during your live auction and appeal.

Register for our Elements of Your Event class on April 26 to learn even more about how to structure your event program to raise more money.

Building a Program that Raises You More Money

Group dynamics help dictate a natural flow for an event. Because your audience's engagement is limited, it is critical to build your event to match and maximize this natural flow of engagement.

A successful fundraising event capitalizes on momentum and audience engagement instead of fighting against them. Keeping your program tight so it moves along quickly helps guests stay engaged, and knowing that your momentum and guest attention has a peak will help you time your program.

Place your business first--this is a fundraising event with a goal of raising money. Sequencing the special appeal to happen at the height of event momentum and guest attention will yield the highest fundraising results.

The most successful events are designed to fit your audience, so each event will be different. Yet, each event still has an arc that you can map out to find the best timing for all of your program elements, most importantly your special appeal.

Focus on fundraising, and structure your program so that everything that's making you money comes first on the build to the height of the arc. If it's really important for your event but it's not directly raising you money, place it after your fundraising.

To learn more, register for our upcoming Elements of Your Event class on April 26.