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Planning an auction

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Question:

What three things do nonprofits need to know about planning an auction?

Answer:

Holding an auction is the best way to earn the most profit for an organization in a single night, but it should be fun and it should have color and life to it.

* The quality of the items being auctioned is far more important than the quantity.

The things people will bid on are things they cannot simply go out and purchase, like a round of golf with Jack Nicklaus.

A live auction should have fewer and more unique items than a silent auction. Ten to 15 items is the ideal for a live auction because it will get more bidders involved, adding to the excitement, and it won’t take too long.

The number of items up for bid at a silent auction should equal about half the number of guests in attendance. Too many items will create a glut, and there will be too little competition over items.

* The volunteers and the auctioneer are integral to the process.

They will be the people who make the auction go smoothly.

The auctioneer should be qualified; an unqualified auctioneer may not know to do important things like take the bidder number.

If you want to have a celebrity there to draw in guests, have him or her talk about the items up for auction while a qualified auctioneer takes bids.

There should be plenty of volunteers. Quantity matters here for making the auction streamlined.

* Make the process of picking up items as speedy as possible for the winning bidders.

If people have to wait in line a long time to pick up their items, it will ruin an auction. They will not come back the next year to wait in line.

It helps to get a credit card at the beginning of the night so that by the time winners get in line to pick up their items, they are paid for and ready to go.

Have plenty of volunteers manning the checkout line. Do not separate lines alphabetically, but give each volunteer at the checkout the same list of names so they can help winning bidders on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Compiled by Leslie Williams.


Maureen and John Winter are the directors of Target Funding Group, a company in West Palm Beach, Fla., that works to help nonprofits organize charity auctions.

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