How to Have a Record-Breaking Charity Auction!

You know that May is “Party Month” at Fired-Up Fundraising!

We’re tackling fundraising events of all types.

I’ve written about how to snag high dollar sponsorships. I’ve shared my personal top 5 tips for greater profit.

And we’re even running an entire webinar series to help you stage highly profitable events. (don’t miss!)

party auction lady bidding

Today – we’re tackling charity AUCTIONS! Yay!

Our go-to auction expert, Sherry Truhlar, is sharing her top tips for a record-breaking benefit auction.

Tip #1: Your charity auction is a business. Treat it like one.

That means you look at the ROI (return on investment) of everything you do:

And you do NOT cut costs on important items that will help you make more money.

Don’t follow this creed:

Everything we spend takes away from the bottom line.


Everything you spend may just ADD to the bottom line through greater profit!

Sherry Truhlar says that

Handshake | Gail Perry

Partner with us.

Find out how we can help you achieve your fundraising goals with world-class consulting and custom training.

Good advice, good training, and good people will improve your revenue, your donor’s experience and your nonprofit’s reputation.

Take away: Look at everything as an investment. What will bring back a good return? 

Tip #2: Invest in a great sound system.

I know – when you see the cost of the system, you may want to faint.

A good system will cost $10k or more, but you HAVE to have it.

One of the biggest mistakes I see over and over and over at the charity auctions I attend — is a weak sound system.

It breaks my heart to attend an auction where the auctioneer can’t get the attention of the crowd.

All that time, effort and money goes right down the drain.

Take away: A good sound system is an absolute must. That is, IF you want to make money. 

Tip 3: Cut Back the Silent Auction

Charity auctioneer Sherry Truhlar says that you have to “restrain the procurement committee.”

A procurement effort gone wild!

A procurement effort gone wild!

Clearly the example above is overkill.

Here’s where you are probably wasting time and effort. 

Many organizations are really cutting back their silent auctions because the ROI just isn’t there.

Your items will bring much more if they are sold in the live auction.

Sherry gave an example of “Santa visits your holiday party” – it went for $600 in the silent auction, and $2000 in the live auction.

Take away: Cut back on the less profitable silent auction. Focus instead on your live action and your “fund a need.”

Tip #4: Invest in a great charity auctioneer.

How many times have you attended a charity auction where the volunteer auctioneer just didn’t have pizzaz or stage presence?

How about when the volunteer missed bids that were being offered from the audience?

How about professional auctioneers who sell estates or farms? Think they know how to slow down and be entertaining? No!

The worst mistake I have ever seen was at two local auctions I attended recently.

They had professional (not charity) auctioneers who had NO IDEA how to romance the nonprofit’s mission.

One guy didn’t even seem to know what the nonprofit actually did! It broke my heart to see such a wasted opportunity.

Take away: Invest in an experienced charity auctioneer who is entertaining and can “sell” your mission. You’ll make so very much more money! 

Tip #5: Plan a well-organized Fund a Need (Raise the Paddle).

This is where you can make the most money of all.

And this is where your charity auctioneer will help you the most.

It’s a sophisticated activity that requires strategy and pre-planning.

And it requires an experienced auctioneer who can tell the story of your work and make a solid case for giving.

Here’s how you can maximize your Fund a Need opportunity:

  • Make it for something very specific that donors will like.
  • Find a match to challenge your donors.
  • Make it possible for anonymous donors to participate.
  • Make it possible for patrons who can’t attend to participate.
  • Find a way to recognize corporate gifts.

Take away: A well-orchestrated Fund a Need can easily surpass your silent auction revenue. Invest here and you’ll see the biggest ROI.

Bottom Line: Your charity auction is an enterprise.

Make appropriate investments where needed – particularly in sound and an auctioneer.

Then you’ll break records!

Sherry Truhlar – whose tips we are running today – has some really excellent resources on her site that offer much more detail. I do recommend!

And – definitely join us for our Highly Profitable Fundraising Events Series this month!

Comments Please!

Now, what are YOUR favorite tips? How did YOU make more money at YOUR event?