Auctioneers Blog

Top Selling Items

Hands down experiential items sell the best. You know what I mean, those one of kind items that you cannot get ANYWHERE else, like an intimate dinner at the Governors’ Mansion for 6; a Board of Directors dinner with the chairman of the Board as the Sous Chef; an in home party or concert with your favorite musician; a meet and greet or book signing with a relevant author or celebrity;  or anything else you can think of that your audience can’t get anywhere else. Behind experiential items are travel, food, wine and booze.

Private Dinners for 6 – 10:
In-home private dinners are a very popular item and can be organized and messaged in many ways. Some dinners have a caterer who donates the food and staff, while others utilize their constituents to fund, cook and serve the dinner.

Restaurant Chef Tables:
Many restaurants have private tasting rooms or chefs tables in their kitchens, This type of item can be sold to one person, by couple or individual space or ticket.

Board Dinner:
In some cases, popular board members my act as chefs, sous chefs, sommeliers, and/or servers.

Person of Affinity Dinner:
In many cases, there is a volunteer, celebrity, political or community person that many of your bidders would love to have dinner with . . .  the same options as above apply.

Ask your board,committee members, volunteers or group to provide one $10 bottle and their favorite bottle. Red, white or bubbly, you’ll be amazed at the selection and shear number of bottles that you will end up with.

Hard Liquor:
Ask your group to provide a 1.75 of vodka, gin, scotch or other spirit or their favorite after dinner cordial like Grand Manier, Frangelico, Amareto, etc.

Trips and Travel
Most organizations are only 2 to 3 degrees away from acquiring great travel packages with timeshares, condos or second homes.

Working with your core committee, board or group, everyone should make the pitch to co-workers, business associates, family and friends and you’ll be surprised how many people will appreciate the tax write-off for their donation.

Airline Tickets:
Either purchased on your behalf by a donor or donated directly from an airline, These tickets can sell on their own or be packaged with a vacation to increase value.

Frequent Flyer Miles:
Another way to embellish any travel package (outside of a direct donation from an airline) is to collect frequent flyer miles that you can bundle with the timeshares or condos that are donated.

Group or Buy-In Events
Groups events sell equally as well, but serve two other important purposes: first, group events create community by drawing together your supporters in a fun, less formal environment; and second, since you sell group events by the “individual ticket” it allows guests with a lower budget entry into the live auction. The only limit on group buy-in events is your imagination.

Tailgate Cooking Class                                                    Poker Night
Pub Crawl                                                                 Progressive Dinner
Themed Cocktail Party                                                    Martini Party
Sporting Event Backyard Movie Night                          Private Dinner and Concert
Texas BBQ                                                                 A starry night pool party

Event Timing is EVERYTHING

Isn’t this a saying we have all used in the past? Of course, but with the competitive landscape of raising funds at live auction events, it is either a path to success or failure.

Think about this from your guest experience standpoint. You’ve obviously enrolled them in your mission because they bought tickets and are at the event. It is your job to ensure a lively, fun, meaningful and worth-their-time-and-effort event.

So now you might be wondering, what does event timing have to do with the success or failure of an event? Plenty! Setting up your live auctioneer with an audience who is engaged, fresh, motivated and willing-to-give goes a long way in teeing up a successful fundraising effort.

Your event program should be structured like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears . . .  not too short, not too long, but just right for your audience.  For the live auction part, your guests should be fed, but not over fed, watered and wined, but not overly wined, and engaged by a short program or video that speaks to your mission. We call this the Seated-Fed-Watered-Wined-Sugared and Caffeined Principle (SFWWSC).

Imagine for a moment, your audience feeling the following:

All senses content with delightful food and beverages
Captivated by an upbeat, but brief program
Actively engaged in the organization’s mission
Entertained and happy by their event experience

Now, you have your guests exactly where you want them, and this is the time for the live auction to begin. When the auction is done, they’ll be exhilarated by the fun they just had and ready for the last part of your program, like a keynote speaker, awards, community honors or donor recognition.

There is another hidden benefit to structuring the event agenda this way: you have an additional 20 to 30 minutes to prepare for a smooth, efficient and fast checkout for your guests.

So keep it lively when planning your next event and you’ll execute a finely tuned, smooth running, high yielding event experience that your guests will want to attend year after year.

The Rule of Three’s – See why it works!

I have believed in the Rule of Three for a very long time . . . Today it looks and sounds like this for us:

1) This is how we change our world;
2) This is how we sustain our communities and;
3) This is how you change the life of just one (Senior, Child, Dog, etc.)
Check out what Ravi Shankar Rajan from Thrive Global has to say about the Rule of Three’s . . . .

“Have you ever wondered:

· What the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Musketeers, the Three Wise Men and the Three Stooges have in common?

· Why the three-act structure is the dominant approach to screenwriting in Hollywood?

· Why three bullet points are more effective than two or four?

Because Three is the smallest number required to make a pattern.

And there lies its power. In its many forms, the Rule of Three, at heart, utilizes simple three-element patterns to communicate complex ideas effectively. The pattern works because it is ShortMemorable. And Powerful.”

Click here to read the full article!

Event and Paddle Raise Messaging

Event and paddle raise messaging for most fundraisers is left undeveloped until the last possible moment; in many cases, right up to the event start time.

Imagine how much more successful your efforts would be, it you took a couple of hours up front with your team, and developed a messaging program that included your mission, values, accomplishments and future needs. Then deployed that information across every platform and with every committee member, donor, board member and volunteer.

The influence of a consistent message, communicated over and over would reinforce to everyone involved, the power of what your organization does, why it’s important to attend, donate, match funds, provide sponsorship, and raise their paddle.

When you think about messaging as a major task, it may seem daunting, but for most organizations, you and your team already have the information, you just haven’t thought about how significant organized communications can be. The following a simple outline to begin the process:

1) Organization
a. State your:

i. Mission
ii. Vision

b. Develop and share the following:

i. Your brand values
ii. Your brand personality
iii. Your brand promise

ACTION ITEM: Develop short, powerful, one-line catchphrases that will inspire action!

2) Characteristics: How staff and volunteers should talk about your organization:
a. What do you do?
b. How do you do it?
c. Why are you different?
d. Why what you do is important?

ACTION ITEM: Create three to five one-line catchphrases that will explain what you do and who you are in a short, relevant manner.

3) Decide what your organization and team care about:
a. What are your community:

i. Goals?
ii. Needs?
iii. Accomplishments?

ACTION ITEM: Create three to five one-line catchphrases that will explain what you’ve accomplished and what your current needs are, in a short but powerful way.

4) Develop concise “calls to action” on how individuals and businesses can get involved:
a. Volunteer
b. Donate
c. Advocate
d. How to invite friends, neighbors and associates to get involved.

ACTION ITEM: Create a document that you share freely with these calls to action

5) Be clear and communicate how much it costs to deliver programs and services in your community, not just overall costs, but costs per program, person, family, animal, etc.:
a. Annual budget for service delivery
b. Costs per person
c. Benefits per person
d. Lifelong outcomes

ACTION ITEM: Develop a messaging document for your auctioneer that details what a donor’s dollars will do for the communities you serve. Begin with a goal number that is two – three times higher than what you expect to raise. Here are some examples, but use your own stories and numbers.

$100,000 will feed 492 families for an entire year – that’s just $203 per family
$50,000 houses 500 homeless youth in immediate need at the Youth Homeless Shelter, just $100 per youth
$25,000 will save 200 dogs from euthanasia, just $125 per dog

Continue this exercise with the following numbers:


Conclusion: When you provide this level of detailed information to your auctioneer, she can deliver a powerful presentation from the heart, and become your advocate on event night and throughout the year.

Isabella Bird Community School

Hello Shelly, I just wanted to send you a personal note thanking you for your outstanding work on our “Beach Bash” last night. You did an amazing job bringing out the best in our community, and we are all so thrilled with the results.

More importantly, you were a true partner with those of us working on the auction, asking for input on items and approaches. It was really a joy to work with such a committed professional. Thank you!

Martina, Auction Chair, Isabella Community School

Motorcycle Relief Project

“Shelly, I just wanted to let you know that Libby did an absolutely fabulous job on Saturday night. As you heard we had some technical difficulties. Libby offered valuable solutions to the problems and was able to go with the flow and adapt and still do a fantastic job. Everyone has been telling me that it was a really great event, and Libby played a big part in that. Thanks Libby!”

Tom Larson, Executive Director

Kilimanjaro Technology Foundation

 “Shelly, thank you for going above and beyond our wildest expectations in raising raising over $200k! Holy shmoly, Diva! (See goal #1 target, “$50,000 or more,” in the kickoff call notes!) Thank you, you are amazing!”

Laurel Warner, Co-Founder

City Year Denver

“Shelly, I can’t begin to thank you enough for flawlessly executing the live auction/night of ask for City Year last night! You did an incredible job and the results showed! We more than doubled what we raised at our last evening event earlier this year and easily raised 40% more than the event prior to that! Thank you so much for helping us reach our goals!’

‘It was a great evening!”

Vanecia B. Kerr, Managing Director