When is it best to do a live auction? What about a silent auction? Or a raffle? How do I decide which one, two, or three of these options will work best for me?
These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions from people planning fundraising events. While all of these options have their advantages, it is important to carefully evaluate your event to determine which is going to be the best fit for your audience, your auction items, and your fundraising venue.
Below are some things to consider when trying to decide the best fundraising option for your charity or organization’s next event.
1 – Silent auctions are a good option if the auction is being held as part of another event – an annual dinner or the like. In these situations, a silent auction can be conducted in a side room or in a corner of the event space.
2 – Silent auctions are ideal for charity/benefit events that have a lot of items to sell.
3 – Silent auctions are ideal for low-mid-priced items.
4 – Silent auctions work better for items that need to be observed or examined up close.
4 – Silent auction items typically sell for about 50% of their value. This is important to consider in your fundraising goals
Live auctions are often seen as more fun than silent auctions because they get everyone involved and, if done right, captivate the audience for a short period of time. When trying to decide whether to do a live auction, you should consider the following:
1 – What kinds of items will you be auctioning off? Live auctions are typically reserved for high ticket items – a ski cabin for a week in Colorado, expensive artwork, a car etc. but sometimes include items that just pull on the audience’s heartstrings – for example, a puppy or kitten.
2 – How much time will be dedicated to a live auction? Benefit auctions should encompass no more than 40 minutes in the live auction as guests begin to grow impatient which causes bidding to slow down or stop.
3 – Given that it takes approximately 3 minutes for a professional auctioneer to sell an item, you should have no more than 10 – 12 live auction items to stick to the 40 minute timeline consider a minute to move between items.
4 – Do you have resources to get a professional auctioneer? This is essential to capturing the audience’s attention and getting the most money for the items on auction.
5 – Live auction items will usually sell for close to or above their value, another important thing to consider in your fundraising goals.
There is always a question about whether or not to add raffle items or conduct a raffle rather than a silent auction. Some things to consider are:
1 – How many people will be attending the event? If the numbers are large, it may be better to put most of your items in the silent auction, but if attendance will be low or most people are not expected to participate in a silent auction, a raffle may be more appropriate.
2 – How many volunteers do you have? It takes far fewer volunteers to coordinate a raffle than an auction.
3 – How many tickets can you sell? If you plan to conduct the raffle before as well as during the event, you need to consider how you will sell the tickets and how many you think you can sell. A raffle is only lucrative if you can sell lots of tickets!
4 – There are IRS regulations concerning raffles. When you do a raffle, you must get any winner of a prize worth $600 or more to compete a W-2G (gambling winnings form). For larger prizes you are required to withhold a percentage for federal income taxes.
5 – Higher value prizes and larger numbers of prizes (and winners) may make your raffle more appealing, and therefore, make people more likely to buy tickets! This is important to consider when determining what you will place in your raffle vs. an auction.
Below is a very simple graphic showing how you might decide on the best option for your event. Keep in mind that this does not take into account venue size. This should really be your first decision point as you can be limited by your venue. Also, if you have a lot of items you may choose to do a combination of silent and live auctions keeping in mind that you don’t want a live auction to last too long but you make significantly more money selling the same item in a live auction than you would selling it in a silent auction.
In reality, many events tend to be a blend of a silent and live auction with the option to buy a few raffle tickets for one or two key items.
Attendees are often invited to purchase raffle tickets prior to the event and then again at the door. They also may receive a ticket or two as part of their admission ticket. The events then start with a silent auction allowing guests to enjoy a cocktail and bid on smaller items thus warming them up for the live auction.
This format invites participation as some may be attending the event as a spectator but happy to contribute by way of buying a few raffle tickets, others may be more comfortable with a silent auction and less likely to get into the competitive live auction bidding, and a few may be there for the excitement of the live auction.
Whatever you decide to do, your will be much more successful if you spend some time in the early stages of your event planning process considering your fundraising goal, the size and shape of your venue, the event format, and the types of items you will be giving away/selling.