You just became your school’s auction chair…Now What?

So you were the one who didn’t say “Not Me” quick enough and became the auction manager.  Congratulations.

STEP 1:  Don’t Panic

It is not as bad as you think.  But don’t tell the committee that or they will put you on decoration duty too.  If you can send an email with a picture attachment, you have the skills to master the software.  We promise you that it may look intimidating, but once you realize how easy it is, you will think it is funny that you were so scared.

STEP 2:  How are you going to organize your auction?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What percentage of your supporter base comes to your gala event?
  • Are your supporters local or are you a boarding school with supporters across the country?
  • How many items do you get each year?
  • How much flak are you going to get from the gala attendees if you change things?
If a large portion of your potential supporters (usually the case) don’t make it to the event, then you are a prime candidate to run an on-line auction and shouldn’t even bother to look at the other 3 questions.  However, if it is 50/50 or you get a good percentage to the event, let’s keep analyzing.  If your school is made up of mostly local residents, disregard this question, but if you are a boarding school with students from across the country, let’s get that online auction going.
The next 2 questions are more relevant to whether you should take your auction completely online or keep a smaller silent auction with more items online. If you get a large auction count (200 or more) then by all means, keep a small sampling at the silent event.  25% of your total inventory is a good number to keep at the silent auction.  If you have a group of supporters that believe that all change is bad, even good change, then bump that number up to 35-40% to keep your life simple.  You will raise more online, but you don’t want to hear negative comments for the next 3 months either and we want you to have a happy experience with your online auction so be sure to appease the more conservative portion of your supporter base.
STEP 3:  How much more can I raise online?
Let me put my Safe Estimate hat on so that you don’t get the wrong impression.  To be safe, factor a growth of 10% by taking your auction online.  Do we have people who raise more?  Absolutely.  Do we have people who raise less?  Occasionally.
Here is what goes into figuring out how much more you might raise.
If a percentage of 20% or less attend your events, that means that 80% of direct constituents would be new participants in the auction.
If a percentage of 20% or less DO NOT attend your events, that means you are relying on your 2nd level constituents to participate.
If you have a broad geographical distribution of alumni, your auction numbers will increase more dramatically, BUT only if the items you have for auction are not geographically focused.  Meaning if you don’t have a majority of your items requiring that users be in the immediate area, then geographically distributed constituent bases will drive your numbers higher.
What is your constituent to auction item ratio?  If you have 500 constituents and 250 items available, you have enough that not everyone can win which creates scarcity.  Conversely, if you have 500 items and 250 constituents, you will be hard pressed to drive the number higher no matter what you do.
The final calculation to look at is what your percent attained to retail value was without the online auction.  More bidders for an item that is already reaching 95% of retail value will not increase substantially only because there is not much room to increase.
What’s Next?

Now that you have decided to run your auction online, you will need to decide what items to get and how to market the auction.  Conveniently, we won’t keep you waiting for long.  Look for follow on articles in the coming days/weeks.
Have questions about this article, give us a call or send us a comment. We’re here to assist you.

One Response to You just became your school’s auction chair…Now What?

  1. By read more, December 7, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Howdy, I got over to your site via Pinterest. Not something I regularly read, but I enjoy your ideas nonetheless. Thanks for developing some thing worthy of reading through!

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