Live Auctions: Fundraising Guide

Live Auctions: Fundraising Guide

If there’s one method of fundraising that we can recommend adding into your season’s calendar, it’s a live auction. There is simply nothing quite like it. It’s exciting, exhilarating even and it brings a wide audience filled with people ready to donate. Everyone in participation knows that they are there for a good cause and it almost becomes a competition of who can support that cause the most. If you’re looking to receive some big dollar donations – you need to host live auctions.

Live auctions are often unforgettable nights. Whether that’s because of the items up for sale or because of the great company, food, drinks and laughs, we don’t know. But what we do know is that when someone attends a live auction, they remember it and more importantly they remember the cause they were raising money for. This puts you in good stead for receiving donations for years to come.

But a little less about how great live auctions are, for now. Let’s divulge a little more into what they are. Especially if you’re a newbie to the world of fundraising or even if you’re looking to host your first live event. This is the place to be.

What is a live auction?

You may be more familiar with antique auctions than any other type. They can be a little – stale – in the realms of excitement. But live auctions, while they hold the same ideals of auctions, are so much more than a gavel hammering down on an old lectern.

Live auctions are always for charity. Not for personal business gain. They’re typically hosted in the evening alongside some sort of dinner or night time event. The auctioneer (also known as the host) will call out items that are up for auction. When called out, those in attendance will have a dedicated time slot to raise their hands in order to bid on that item. The battle for bidding can go on for a while, but as soon as silence fills the rooms and bidding stops – the gavel comes down. The bidding has ended and a winner will be announced.

Guests may bid by raising a paddle, a number on paper or calling out to the auctioneer. But the premise is all the same. Item becomes available for bidding, bidding occurs, bidding ends, a winner receives their item.

A live auction can take place alongside your Silent Auction and Prize Draw.

Why would you host a live auction?

A live auction is not as simple to set up as a bake sale. It takes hard work and coordination. So, why would you host a live auction over any other type of fundraising? Simple – it brings in the big bucks. If you’re looking for financial success, hosting a live auction is the way to do it.

How do live auctions work?

We’ve explained how the event will go ahead, but what about those organizing? How does a live auction work? Well it’s not as complicated as you might think. We’re going to take you through a step by step of how the night should go.

Step 1: Get organized

After you’ve sorted out the typical stages such as setting a date and time the very first thing you need to do is register your bidders.

It’s an element of knowing that you’re selling enough tickets into your event but it’s also a case of security. By gathering their details and assigning them a number, then you know who is bidding on what when the event gets underway.

Step 2: Start the bidding

When people are settled into the evening, perhaps you’ve hosted a three course dinner beforehand or all your drinks are flowing, that’s when the bidding starts. It is important to note that your auctioneer or your host will be doing most of the work here. Try to grab someone with a personality – it makes it more interesting for you and your guests.

It’s important to make sure that your bidding starts with a bidding amount too. Don’t ask people for bids outright, you need to guide them otherwise you may undersell your items by a lot. Put out a minimum bid, so you can comfortably say you make profit with each sale.

Step 3: Make sure your host is doing the right job

It’s not just a case of being lively and entertaining. You need your host/auctioneer to sell these items too. Get them talking about its history, how beautiful it is, where it could hang in your home and how it can make your life better. Don’t rely on people to empty their pockets.

As soon as your host decides there are no more bids, they need to give a warning, a countdown. Reminding people that as soon as they drop their gavel, no more bids will be accepted – even if they are more than the current final bid.

Step 4: The crucial part

Now this is possibly the most important part of your event – after all, this is where the money comes in. Before you started your event, you will have taken the details of everyone participating. So you know which bid number belongs to which individual. As soon as someone is announced as the winner – they need to come to the main desk to claim their win.

Make sure your host announces this as soon as it closes. Invite them to the main desk where they can solidify their win. You might take payment at this stage, it might be a downpayment. But the details need to be more than a name.

The final recap before you plan your live auction

Step 1: Know your budget and plan your targets

At the end of the day, it’s all about money. You need to know how much you have to spend and how much you want to make. This way you can plan within your means.

Step 2: Recruit a team of people to help

Hosting this sort of event takes more than one person! You might need a catering team, you’ll need someone to keep records on the guests, financial information, ticket sales, a promotion team. You might even need security depending on the price of your items.

Step 3: Announce your event and enjoy

After you’ve announced your event, it’s time to recruit ticket sales. There are plenty of ways to go about this, use social media and word of mouth. When the day and time comes around all you need to do is enjoy. Everyone else should know their role.

Step 4: The important follow up

After everyone has gone home. Items have been paid for. Follow up with your audience. Let them know when your next event is and ask for feedback. It’s the best way to get them to attend and donate a second time.

For more information about how we can help, take a look at our Live Auction services and features. 

Ella Jacques

Ella Jacques

Global Client Services Manager at Givergy

Ella heads up the global Fundraising & Events team. A key part of Givergy’s growth for four years, Ella has a passion for event planning and ensuring her and her teams’ clients exceed their fundraising targets. Furthermore, Ella’s exposure to some of the highest-profile fundraising events gives her a unique insight into the newest and most innovative way in which charities are engaging with their audiences.