First Timers: Planning Your Auction Event

Time to start the planning process. This will consist of assembling your team, planning your event, and determining how you will setup your auction / event in Handbid.

 

ASSEMBLING YOUR TEAM

First you have to assemble your team and get them organized in terms of their roles and responsibilities. You will need a dedicated group of individuals who will stick with you until the end.  If you are relying on a volunteer staff, you will have to keep them engaged and motivated throughout the entire process including check-out and cleanup.  While you may only need to meet a few times a month at first, you will find yourselves needing to meet weekly in the last month or so before the event.

Time to form a committee. Here are some key jobs you may want to delegate:

1. Venue Manager-- One point of contact for all things related to your venue. Parking, Sound, Chairs, Tables, Decorations, Trash, etc. You may add entertainment and auctioneer to this persons tasks to manage. 

2. Catering Manager-- Oversee all things food and drink related, from canapes to cocktails. 

3. Auction Items Manager-- In charge of soliciting items, pricing, organizing items including import into Handbid, checkout process, and shipping. This person must be familiar with your Board members, big donors, and other people who are affiliated with your organization that may have an item to donate.  

4. Volunteer and Guest Manager-- Oversee organizing the volunteer workforce. They will also utilize Handbid for sending out invitations, selling tickets, managing sponsor tables, etc. 

 

Make sure you have your team cover the following elements:

 FINDING AND BOOKING THE VENUE (if you are having a live event)

  • Location (based on expected attendance)
  • Size (can it fit the number of guests you expect?)
  • Cost to rent
  • Dates and times of availability
  • Policies around alcohol (if applicable)
  • Catering restrictions
  • Mobile Bidding (is your venue setup for mobile bidding?)
  • Layout / suitability for your event (i.e. do they have the facilities / features you need?)
  • Time of year and any expected issues with weather / accessibility
  • Parking (if your guests will arrive by car)

 

VENUE: AUCTION / EVENT CONSIDERATIONS

For your venue, be sure you determine where you will be able to display your auction items. You will want this space to be big enough, with adequate lighting and room for your guests to browse. 

Adequate lighting is also critical for a Live auction. The auctioneer must be able to see the bidders and their bidder numbers. 

Consider parking for your guests. 

Book your venue EARLY! Party spaces can be very hard to find so start early and lock down a space long before you announce your event. 

WIFI is a MUST! Make sure that your venue is suitable for mobile bidding. Please review this Knowledge Base article on how to evaluate your venue’s network and WIFI capabilities. 

Think about the "flow" of the venues you are considering. Will there be space for a line to form at Check-in? Is there a space to checkout? 

 

SOLICITING AUCTION ITEMS

You can start by creating a tracking spreadsheet that has a list of all target items. Google Spreadsheets is a great tool to use for this. In fact, Handbid has a template you can use as a starting point that can also serve as your “import” spreadsheet when you are ready to load items into Handbid. You can tag items with a “solicitor” who is responsible for requesting and picking up the item.

The first step in your auction item plan should be to approach your board of directors, your current donors, and friends of your organization (including volunteers, in-kind donors, people and companies you are connected with or do business with, etc.) You want to approach these groups to ask them to do two things:

First, you want to ask them to donate an item or items for your event. Many of your board members and friends would love to do so. Help them think through what items would work: do they have sports tickets? Restaurant connections? Would they like to put together a gift basket? Try to get as many people as you can from this group to donate an item for the auction.

Second, you want to ask your board, donors, and friends to help you solicit items for the auction from within their network. This means reaching out to their company, their colleagues, vendors, and customers, as well as their family and their friends to find people who will donate an item for your silent auction.

The single best way to approach this group is to call them. It is best if someone from your staff, board of directors, host committee, or a volunteer actually picks up the phone and calls to ask for a silent auction donation.

Calls like these are relatively easy, because this group of people already knows your organization and supports your work. If this is an annual silent auction event, the call is even easier, because the person you are calling will be aware that you are having a silent auction.

Calls to this group would generally go something like this:

“Hi Jim, this is Marti from St. Paul’s Church. How are you? I’m great, thanks. Listen, we’re getting ready for our big annual silent auction, and you’re such a great supporter of our Church, I wanted to get your help. Would you be willing to donate an item for us to auction off? You would? Great! Thank you! Do you think your company or any of your friends might be willing to donate an item as well?”

Or, if this is the first time you are having the event…

“Good morning Beth, this is George from the Child Advocacy Center, how are you? This year, we’ve decided to hold a fun silent auction event at the Holiday Inn, with all proceeds benefiting the kids who come to our center. Our goal is to raise $5,000 through the event, which will help us serve an additional 100 kids. Would you be willing to donate an item for us to auction off?”

Some of the people you call will have a great item. Others will need your help to think through a list of items they could donate. Still others won’t have an item, but will be willing to ask others to donate to you. The key with these calls is to make as many of them as you can… the more people you call and talk to, the more items you will have for your auction.

 

THEME / CATERING / DECOR

This topic can get messy if you have a lot of chiefs and not many indians.  It's best to get this topic out of the way early so that you and your team can focus on the rest of the event (auction, registrations, etc.).  Some things to consider:

  • Your theme will dictate your decorations and can impact the venue you rent.  Pick this first.  For example, planning to have a Kentucky Derby theme where you watch the race? Make sure your venue is equipped for that.
  • Your theme will drive your catering choices.  Having a formal plated dinner? Make sure both your venue and your caterer (and your budget) can support it.  Going for the Speakeasy theme where you have a false facade that resembles something else at the entrance?  Again, your venue and caterer must support it.
  • Your venue may restrict which caterers you use.  Keep that in mind when selecting your theme and managing your budget.
  • For the decor, how “far” do you want to take it?  We have seen nautical themes that had real props (water, life rings, captains hats, horns), derby themes with amazing centerpieces and horse decor, down to un-galas with a casual BBQ style decor that was not fancy and not expensive. It's up to you.

You have a venue to find and secure, a theme to establish, a caterer to pick, auction items to get, and no time to wait.  Your team is energized and they still like each other!  

Once you are ready to move onto the next step, read the article on "Creating a Successful Event Timeline"



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