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How to Run a Live Auction

In addition to the General Auction Considerations, the following is a step-by-step guide you can use to help make your live auction a success.

  • Recruit an auctioneer.
    • The Jimmy Fund does not permit auctioneers to be paid for their services, but consider soliciting a professional's services as an in-kind donation.
    • The auctioneer does not necessarily need to be a professional, but you'll need someone who is charismatic, comfortable in front of crowds, and who will create interest in the individual items and the overall auction.
  • Develop an auction catalogue.
    • Refer to the sample auction catalogue in the Templates and Samples section.
    • Allow the audience to review the auction items before the bidding begins. This helps build excitement.
    • Provide descriptions, opening bids, fair market values, and other pertinent details for each item.
    • Acknowledge each auction prize donor as a way to thank him or her.
    • List items in chronological order based on the order in which they will be presented.
    • When holding a cause auction provide examples of what the dollar amount equaites to:  
      o a $25 gift could stock the Jimmy Fund’s toy closet 
      o a $50 gift could help support a lifesaving clinical trial
      o a $75 gift could help purchase state-of-the-art research equipment
      o a $100 gift could help support the development of new cancer fighting drugs
  • Assign and train live auction volunteers.
    • Appoint an experienced person to coordinate auction logistics.
    • Make sure volunteers are clear on their roles.
    • Volunteers can serve as bid spotters, payment collectors, and prize distributors.
    • Train volunteers on auction prior to the start of the event; you most likely won't have time to do a run-through right before the auction starts.
  • Communicate all necessary information to the auctioneer.
    • Review the auction catalogue and discuss any last minute changes.
    • Make sure auctioneer knows the minimum bid for each item.
  • Develop strategies to encourage bidding.
    • If committee members are interested in bidding on particular items, plant representative bidders strategically throughout the room. It can sometimes take a few minutes for the audience to warm up to the auction process.
    • Be careful! In an effort to increase bids, committee members may end up being the last and highest bidder. No one should make a bid unless they are willing to purchase the prize.
    • If you receive two identical prizes, consider doubling up. For example, at our WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, two bidders were competing for an item at $5,000. When it appeared the second bidder wasn't going to go any higher, the auctioneer offered to give two identical prizes each at $5,000, effectively doubling the revenue!
  • Create a process for collecting winning bids and distributing prizes.
    • Use spotters throughout the room to recognize bidders and take payments.
    • Assign spotters to specific items for which they are responsible for collecting payments and providing winners with their prizes.
    • It is tempting to have spotters take the winner away to pay for their item. This is not recommended, as that person might want to bid on additional live auction items.
    • Bring blank bid sheets to the silent auction in case friends, family, or other participants show up with something unexpected for the auction.
    • Have all the prizes ready to distribute, but do not give out any of the prizes until you have collected the appropriate payments.
  • Post Auction Follow-Up.
    • Collect outstanding auction payments.
    • Provide items to winning bidders.
    • Send acknowledgments to all auction prize donors and winning bidders.
    • Complete the Jimmy Fund's required post-event paperwork.
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