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The Horror! Five Big Auction Mistakes

October 25, 2017
Horror movies are based on bad decisions, like asking the wrong person for help after a car breakdown or running toward the haunted house. It’s these moments when the protagonist’s fate is often sealed.

In a similar (if less graphic) manner, there are mistakes that an auction planner can make that seal a gala event’s fundraising fate, too. And while very few of them involve hockey-masked madmen or knife-gloved, wisecracking demons, they’re still worth avoiding in order to make sure that you raise as much money for your charitable cause as possible.

Thinking Small – It can be a bit scary to offer a big-ticket item, like a week-long travel package or luxury goods. What happens if no one even bids the reserve price? But let your donors step up to the challenge; it’s better to ask for too much (especially if the item, like our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, is being offered on no-risk consignment) than to ask for too little and possibly leave money out there.

Saving the Biggest For Last – It superficially makes sense to save the highest-priced item for the last lot of the evening, letting the anticipation build to the very end. But think logically: If you’ve got two people bidding on the last item, one of them will lose. And that person will go home with money in his or her pocket that may otherwise have been destined for a different auction item. Don’t lead with the most expensive item of the day, of course, but don’t leave it until last, either.

Getting a Volunteer to be Auctioneer – As well meaning as volunteers can be, a good auctioneer is worth his or her cost. There’s much more to running the show than talking fast and exclaiming “sold!,” and a professional auctioneer is skilled at getting the biggest bids out of an audience.

Ignoring the Smaller Donors – Unless there was a lotto jackpot involved, it’s a good bet that your biggest donors started out as small-dollar supporters. Make sure that every bid or donation is recognized, and that those who might right now only be able to afford a smaller gift feel the love, too – it’s the right thing to do, and it could pay off in the future.

Forgetting to Say Thank You – Your donors are happy to help your cause, of course, but it’s always nice to be recognized. Make sure that your supporters know how much their auction bids, contributions and presence means to you with thank you cards, follow-up phone calls and any other sort of recognition possible.