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General Auction Considerations

With the exception of cause auctions, all auctions start the same way: securing prizes. That said, the intricacies of running a live auction are very different than running a silent auction. Follow the checklist appropriate for your event.

All Auctions

  • Decide what type of auction(s) you are going to hold.
    • Consider your audience, venue, and goals.
    • Think through the logistics: Is there adequate space for a silent auction? Do you have a speaking program that might be appropriate to include a live auction?
  • Create an auction committee.
    • Delegating can be the key to your auction's success and your sanity.
    • Recruit people to solicit auction items and organize logistics, however, appoint one auction committee chair to oversee the process.
    • Share the Auction information on this Web site with your auction committee chair.
  • Create prize recruitment letters and solicitation forms.
    • Identify benefits and explain what the donors' benefit will be.
    • Be specific with your requests.
    • Set a deadline by which prizes should be received and include information on prize pick-up. (Information should answer questions such as: Will a committee member pick up auction items? Should the donor mail the items?)
    • Request the appropriate information from auction prize donors (see sample at the end of this section) including:
      • Item descriptions
      • Fair market values
      • Donor's name, as he or she would like to appear in promotional materials
      • Pertinent details that bidders need to know (For example: If the item is a trip, do blackout dates apply?)
  • Brainstorm a list of prizes that would work for your event.
    • Know your audience (for example - if you are running a ski event, ski-related prizes make excellent auction items).
    • Go after trips, restaurant gift certificates, autographed memorabilia, spa packages, and unique "can't buy it" items, such as a small dinner party in your home cooked by a popular local chef, as auction items.
  • Go out and get items.
    • Follow guidelines similar to soliciting in-kind donations in the "In-kind Gifts" section of this manual.
    • Use your network.
    • Make follow-up calls to each donor who received your solicitation letter.
    • Once a donor has made a commitment to making a gift, arrange for the delivery of goods or provide details for the services requested.
    • Make sure you fulfill any commitments, such as signage, outlined in your solicitation letter.
  • Evaluate auction items and categorize them, when appropriate.
    • If you are having both a raffle and an auction, multiple auction types (live, silent, and/or online), or if you're deciding between the two formats, consider how to maximize revenues. Know your audience. Some items may raise more in an auction, while others are more suited for drawings. If you are having both a live and silent auction, save your highest ticket items for the live auction.
    • Consider packaging auction items together. Combine several small items to create larger, more attractive packages. For example, if you receive three separate items — a gift certificate for dinner, airfare, and hotel in New York City — create a "New York Experience" package. Remember to set minimum bids and fair market values accordingly.
    • Limit the number of items offered; reserve five to 10 items for a live auction and 15-20 items for a silent auction.
    • The best auctions offer a variety of items rather than several items of the same genre.
    • You will need to designate the opening bid for each item. Typically, the opening bid should be half the fair market value of the item.

Auction templates and samples

Please refer to the Templates and Samples section for solicitation letters, data sheets, bid sheets, and live auction catalogue samples. You may customize the samples and templates to reach your auction goals.

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