Auctions are a great way to raise money for charity. Whether the auction is live, complete with an auctioneer, or conducted silently with table balloting, they offer people a way of contributing what they can afford. Here are some tips for setting up a charity auction.
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Things you need
- List of possible donors for the auction
- Auctioneer (for live auction only)
- Bid sheets (for silent auction only)
- Equipment to calculate money received and disbursed
Decide on a charity to support. Choose one for which you think the auction can have a significant impact, even if the individual donations are relatively small.
Set a target amount for the auction to raise. Keep it reasonable. It’s better to raise more money that expected than to fall short of the goal.
Determine how many donations will be needed to raise the amount established in Step 2. Keep in mind that not every item is likely to draw maximum bid. So have a few items in reserve in the event they are needed at the last moment in order for you to reach your goal.
Contact businesses, organisations, groups or individuals requesting donations for the auction. Be sure you have one or more ideas in mind about what you want from the donors before you contact them. That will make it easier on them and generally will lead to a quicker response.
Collect the donations and go through them to make certain they are what you were expecting. If some donors don't come through, seek additional donors to fill in the gaps.
Determine if the auction is to be formal, semi-formal or casual. Formal auctions work better for certain types of businesses and organisations while semi-formal or casual events work better across the board.
Decide whom to invite. You may wish to skew the auction to business people, certain types of organisations, private groups, individuals or a mixture of these. Keep in mind that the number of potential attendees may limit where the auction can be held. Make the invitations yourself or have them made and send them out at least two weeks in advance of the event.
Choose a date, time and place for the auction as well as what type of auction it will be--live or silent. Remember, live auctions may make some attendees hesitant to bid because they don’t have large sums of cash to spend. Silent auctions offer a more private way to participate.
Set a menu of refreshments, if they are to be served, and determine who will provide them and how. Keep the menu light and affordable so that the cost won’t eat into the auction proceeds.
Decide what type of decor to use for the event and arrange to obtain it. The decor will be somewhat contingent upon the type of auction chosen (formal, semi-formal or casual). Again, keep it simple so that the cost doesn’t eat into the auction proceeds.
Arrange for seating, tables and chairs, and any other furnishings needed for the event. See if the location site can provide the required equipment or check with party planners and caterers for the needed items.
Promote the auction via every marketing tool possible. Use public-service announcements for TV and radio, newspaper advertising and flyers as well as invitations and online notifications.
Collect RSVPs as they come in for the event. Amend refreshment and seating requirements as needed to accommodate everyone who is attending.
Choose an auctioneer for a live auction. Pick someone with experience or who is a local celebrity. Give him parameters within which to work, such as a five-minute time limit for each auction item.
Arrange to have a sound system if one is required for the auction. Often, location sites have such equipment available. If not, check with party planners or rental stores to obtain what is needed. Make sure the system is operational and live at least 30 minutes prior to the auction start.
Prepare bid sheets for a silent auction. Establish a minimum bid for each auction item to give bidders a starting point. Be sure each sheet states how long bidders have to bid on the item in question.
Arrange for entertainment. While the auction itself may be the entertainment for a live event, something more will be needed to keep people engaged during a silent auction.
Set up the room and have it completely decorated at least two hours prior to the event. Last-minute issues often occur, so cutting the time close can mean disaster. Avoid that by allowing extra time to deal with problems if they arise.
Make sure the auction tables are ready to go at least one hour prior to the event. Have tangible auction items, such as a computer, on the table or nearby for the bidders to view. Provide written information for other auction items, such as a free dinner for two, so that bidders have a clear understanding about what they are bidding on.
Make sure the caterer is in place and ready to go at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the event. Make any adjustments necessary to keep the food hot or cold as appropriate.
Greet the auctioneer when she arrives and go over the program with her so she understands her role in the event.
Arrange for volunteers to greet the auction guests as they arrive and to answer any questions they may have about the auction.
Welcome everyone to the auction, provide logistical information, explain how the auction will work and the types of payments that are acceptable, and set the timetable for the event.
Introduce any attending celebrities, charity representatives and other people who should be recognised.
Answer any last-minute questions about the auction before it begins. If it is a live auction, introduce the auctioneer.
Circulate throughout the room during the auction to help people who don’t understand the bidding process or who have questions about auction items.
Call an end to the auction once all items have received a winning bid or the timetable has been reached. Thank everyone for participating.
Take up the money bid on each item and make sure the winning bidder receives his prize.
Arrange for cleanup of the event. Check with the location site, caterers, party planners and anyone else involved to make sure everything they provided was recovered.
Tally the monetary amount after applicable expenses. Give the remaining amount of money to the charity.
Tips and warnings
- Choose a mixture of high- and low-dollar items so that everyone can participate in the auction.
- Ask vendors to consider donating their services as a charitable contribution.
- Local celebrities are often eager to support charities, so don’t hesitate to solicit them for entertainment or to be photographed with participants during the event.
- Silent auctions generally run at least one hour, depending upon the number of attendees and items for auction as well as entertainment.
- Representatives of the charity are a good choice for door greeters since they can make sure everyone is aware of the importance of their contribution.
- Make sure that bidders are able to hear the auctioneer. Keep seating close but comfortable.
- Don’t let the auction ramble on when there appears to be no interest in a particular item.
- Have someone work with you to validate the amount of money taken in for the event, the expenses and the amount donated to charity.
- Make sure that everyone who provides an auction item or service for the event receives a receipt for his charitable contribution.
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