In my role as The Man in the Red Coat, I am involved regularly in the facilitation of Charity Events and more often than not Charity Auctions.
So here is a guide to help you create the best Charity Event for you.
I must make one thing quite clear at the beginning of this. There are several factors that will make a difference to the success of your event, but the 3 biggest are as follows:
- Budget and organisation you put to it in the first place
- The prizes you have on offer
- Your audience.
The events I am involved with range from the biggest budget possible to very small events where there is very little budget at all. However, the most important thing is to try and get the most from your investment. Wherever possible try and obtain a sponsor who is supportive of the charity you are raising money for to help you get the thing off the ground.
Sometimes the biggest budget events appear to raise an enormous amount on the night, but a fair bit gets swallowed by that spent to put the event on in the first place.
As for the prizes you have to be careful that you get things that are relevant to your audience. There is no point getting great football prizes in for an audience who only like cricket.
Finally, as for the audience, you need to wherever possible encourage those who are likely to, want to or are in a position to buy. Family members coming along to support you can be great, but if they have not got deep pockets then possibly filling those spaces with others in a more affluent position, would be wiser.
So here is the guide.
- Choose your venue and how you make the most of it wisely – especially where light and sound is concerned.
When checking out your venue, take a step back and think about it, are you going to bid on something if you can’t see what it is? Make sure the stage lighting is clear and the lot for sale can be seen from every corner of the auction room. If you feel that people can’t see very well then consider additional screens that showcase the product and ensure maximum spotlight of the product at all times.Remember that making the place look good is great but don’t forget about the lighting; this is one of the most important things when you are running an auction. The room does not have to be fully lit all the time if you are trying to create a mood but where lots are being displayed is vital.
Additionally obviously the most important part to an auction is the selling. If the people at the back can’t hear what is being said, how are they supposed to bid? I recommend installing a good sound system so that everyone can hear and also include a running tally on a screen so that people with hearing impairments can still take part in the event. (Especially important at events where you are raising money for the deaf. It may sound obvious, but so often this is missed!)
- Create an in-depth auction guide.
Even before you send out the first invite, the first and most important step to running any successful auction really comes with the creation of auction documentation. The displaying of the lots at the auction can boost sales, mainly because people will be viewing the guide as they arrive or are eating prior to the auction commencing. Therefore the creation of a guide that contains clear photographs and a detailed description of each item is vital – and being a Charity Auction there should be no need to put a guide price as the auctioneer should lead this. People will know what they can afford to reach.
- Promote your event well.
Prior to the event if you have any interesting items, like a signed rugby ball from the 2003 world cup winning squad, then blast it along with who you are supporting over social media prior to the event. Not only will it attract more people, but you might end up having a few celebrities appear at the event too.
- Really highlight the charities you are supporting.
This is really important. Highlighting the charities that you are supporting will add a certain level of credibility to your event and make people feel a little easier when it comes to parting with their money. If possible have a representative from the charity who may also able to have a time to do a short presentation before and a chance of a thank you at the end of the LIVE Auction to ensure people are told how the money will be used.
- Don’t have too many lots!
There is a thinking that the more lots there are = more money made? Wrong. Better to research your audience and give them a series of really valid lots where they don’t have to bid on too many items. Also, consider lots where a group may wish to bid for rather than an individual. That way you get whole tables bidding for something rather than relying on the purse of one person. Then give each lot a set amount of time as this will ensure you make it through all of the items for sale. The suggested amount is between 6 and 12 good quality lots. Marry this with a silent auction and you should have a great way of gaining revenue. If you have items which don’t sell or are left over, as long as it is relevant you always sell some of the products on eBay or through an auction style website.
- Expensive, Priceless or more importantly, Relevant?
A question you should ask yourself when constructing the list of items that you want to sell at your auction is, is the item in question expensive or priceless? At a charity auction, you really want to raise the largest possible amount of money, so that signed race suit from Jenson Button is priceless! An interesting item of furniture or a piece of art on the other hand may be expensive but due to the personal nature of taste will the crowd love it?However, as mentioned above if you have no Motor Racing fans in the room who on earth is going to bid for that race suit?
- Reach out to agencies dealing with celebrities.
If Amelia Fox or Daniel Craig is coming to a charity auction, you can be sure that the press will be coming with all of their friends! Engaging with the media and celebrity management agencies can make or break your event. Basically, getting more exposure will mean hopefully raising more money for charity! Be aware though, they may not actually participate in the auction much itself.
- Make it as glamorous as possible.
If you are selling really priceless items then you should really consider making the event a black tie do as this will attract a great crowd with big wallets. It also makes the event unforgettable, which could mean future charity auctions welcome back the same guest list.
However, even if you are creating a less full on affair, having black tie or getting people to dress up makes for a more memorable event. Every man feels like James Bond in a tux’, so they like to impress, and that means spending money!
Wherever possible the suggestion is to make the event a dinner, rather than a reception. This allows relaxation and a more convivial atmosphere in which to extract funds from your audience!
- Don’t forget the Champagne and canapes.
After all that planning, sometimes you can forget the very basic things, like the best Canapes and Fizz. You have ideally invited your guests in Black Tie, so if you make a charity auction classy and make the guests feel like they are VIP’s, you would be surprised how relaxed the atmosphere can become. By creating a nice, relaxed atmosphere is genuinely important as people are usually more likely to spend more money.
- Get the event run by a professional Facilitator, Toastmaster or MC.
For an all-important charity event it is vital things run to time, but at the same time have a relaxed feel to them. If the event starts late invariably they get further and further behind and that can be a real problem. You need to start your live auction at the right time to get the most out of it. This is late enough for a bit of alcohol to have had an effect, and but early enough for people not to feel too tired or even too drunk.
Engaging a skilled toastmaster or master of ceremonies will almost certainly keep your event on or close to schedule, making sure that you hit all your prime times to get the best out of the evening. They also work in tandem with your auctioneer, acting as a spotter and generally helping make things run smoothly.
Additionally, if you have a limited budget then money can be very wisely spent here. Many of the best of these double up as your charity auctioneer for the night, meaning you have only one wage packet to consider for both facilitation and auction.
- Find yourself a skilled or famous auctioneer.
Instead of just getting anyone, why don’t you get a serious auctioneer? Perhaps someone who is well versed in the auction industry like Edward Rising who is engaging flamboyant and really knows how to work a room? On the other hand, certain celebrities can add a unique twist to your charity auction and bring it to another level.In particular if they from the sport or industry you are supporting. Therefore using someone like Martin Brundle to front a motoring based auction where they have knowledge of lots can be benefit. They have to be engaging though. Andy Murray may be a great tennis player, but no-one can say he is a great orator.
On this subject it is also a good idea to do research on the item’s history to see if it has any interesting stories that might lead to more attention for the product. Quite often you’ll notice auctioneers embellish lots with a good story to help the crowd connect with it, which could potentially raise more money for the charity.
- Create a positive finish to your event.
With any auction, there is a fine art to balancing the order in which items are listed to achieve a positive vibe throughout the event. You wouldn’t want your most expensive lot to sell straight away and you certainly wouldn’t want to sell it at the end. Building up to the more interesting lots creates a great atmosphere and any great auctioneer can drive up the price even more.
Finally, there are Auctions and there are Auctions. The best thing is wherever possible to mix and match the following.
- We have the LIVE Auction – the one where you have an auctioneer who works the room to get the highest bids possible and all that has been discussed above.
- We have the SILENT Auction with SILENT Bidding. This is the most common form found these days and can be really fun. Technology has made this great and really easy to facilitate as on each table a tablet will be placed allowing you to bid without anyone knowing. (Although invariably your bid gets logged on screens around the room!) It is best to use this in conjunction with a live auction as it can lead to the event being a little less atmospheric in comparison to a real auctioneer and raising your hand to bid.
- The SILENT Auction with SEALED Bidding. This can be a great way of making things fun because your bids are created before the lot comes up for sale and the highest bid wins. This can mean that you can end up completely over bidding and spending more than anyone else! A very interesting auction style that is sure to go down well. Again like the SILENTBidding this is best used in conjunction with a LIVE Auction, with Lot winners announced to the room at the end of the evening.
- Then there is the STAND-UP Auction.Not to be confused with stand-up comedy, but can sometimes be just as amusing. At the beginning of the auction, the price will be set and each member of the auction can sit down when they feel the price is too high as it progressively increases. Whoever is the last to be standing is the winner.
- Finally, we come to the DUTCH Auction. Usually, auctions will be a game of who will pay the most, yet in the case of a Dutch Auction the roles are reversed. The auctioneer will start the item off with a high price and, instead of making it more expensive with each bid, the price decreases gradually until someone sits or stands winning the auction; the ultimate game of chicken and pretty well the reverse of the Stand-Up. The Fist Bid Wins.
James Hasler Toastmaster – The Man in The Red Coat