The Key Performance Indicators for Your Fundraising Auction

In this post, you’ll learn the key metrics you need to evaluate after each fundraising auction.

These metrics will help you determine how you performed compared to last year and highlight what to improve.

Revenue and Costs

First, look at the big picture stats. Specifically, total revenue, total expenses and finally your expense ratio which is your total expenses divided by total revenue.

As a rule of thumb, strive for your gala costs to be roughly 25% of the total event revenue. For example, if you spent $25,000 to throw your event, your total revenue should be $100,000 or above. For online events, your ratio of revenue to expenses should be even higher.

If you find that you’re spending too much on your gala, dig into your expenditures and see if they are justified. For example, you may discover you spent too much on marketing your event for the registrations you received.


Next, you should evaluate your attendance:

  • How many tickets did you sell? How many people showed up?
  • What percentage of attendees placed a bid or otherwise donated while at your event?
  • Who were your top 20 donors?

These statistics will be very enlightening not only to see how you performed this year relative to other years, but also to build out your donor personas. Who is it that your messaging appeals to, and how can you find more people like them?

Bidding Activity

Finally, dig into your auction’s bidding activity. A great place to start is by calculating each item’s Percent of Value Return, or PVR. The PVR is calculated by taking the winning bid amount and dividing it by the item’s fair market value.

If, say, a bottle of wine has a fair market value of $40 and sells for $20, then the PVR = $20 / $40 = 50%.

Obviously, the higher the PVR, the better. On average, the items in your silent auction should take in a PVR of 50% to 60%, and the items in your live auction should take in a PVR of 75% to 85%.

But don’t stop there. Calculate the average PVR for categories of items, like travel vs. memorabilia, then see which category performed the best. Next year, you can try to find more items in your best performing categories while deprioritizing the others.

Read more about PVR in The Case of Too Many Silent Auction Items.

Of course, these numbers won’t tell the entire story, so keep a keen ear for qualitative feedback from your guests and volunteers!


Al McDonald is the Chief Product Officer for TravelPledge and author of the e-book “The Definitive Guide to Silent Auction Fundraisers.” Al has helped thousands of nonprofits exceed their auction goals through auction item procurement and advice. Al understands that successful auctions are hard work and is committed to delivering practical advice that will move the needle for you today.