Put Your Live Auction Items in the Right Order to Maximize Donations

The “when” of selling items in your live auction is often as important as the “what.” Here are some guidelines to sequence your live auction items to maximize donations:

1. Start with a tangible item.

Starting with a tangible and “emotional” item focuses the audience’s attention and engages them from the get-go. Something for kids is always great, such as a wagon of toys, a big stuffed animal, or an assortment of video games. A hot apple pie or an “instant romance package (roses, champagne, flute, restaurant gift card) are good alternatives.

2. Place the premier item just after halfway.

Never save the best for last! Your “premier” item should be 50-60% of the way through your list. The second highest bidder needs some good items to bid on after the high bidder of the premier item wins.

3. Do your “Raise the Paddle” immediately after the premier item.

“Raise the Paddle” (AKA “Fund an Item” or “Emotional Appeal”) is section of your benefit auction when you make a direct request of the audience for a cash donation. Insert the “Raise the Paddle” request right after you sell the premier item – while your audience is still thinking big numbers.

4. “Ramp up” and “mix it up”

Mix the categories of items whenever possible (avoid back-to-back dinners, for instance), but also avoid jumping from a low value item to a very high value item. It is hard for the audience to transition from a $500 item bid mentality to a $10,000 item bid mentality, which is why ramping up to your premier item is important.

5. Put the merchandise first and experiences last.

Merchandise sells best early in the live auction, while experiences (trips, dinners, golf outings, etc.) sell best later on. Avoid selling tangible items at the end of the auction – that is the “experience zone.”

A nationally recognized benefit auctioneer and consultant, Jay Fiske has helped raise millions of dollars for a wide variety of organizations. Additionally, he authored The Big Book of Benefit Auctions and founded MaestroSoft (mobile bidding and event management), where he serves as CEO.

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