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  • Writer's pictureGregoriously Speaking


It’s funny…the prevailing stigma of auctions to many is cheap or second-hand stuff sold by dubious peddlers to overzealous bargain seekers. This misperception is pervasive among a majority of our friends and donors in almost every forum except one, the charity special event live auction!

Done well, a live auction component of your special event fundraiser can be a crowd pleaser and a significant money maker. The key is to do it well!

Whether you are thinking about including a live auction into your event for the first time or you’ve been running live auctions at your events for years, consider the following to make your big event an annual “must attend” occasion!

1. Who’s Your Donor? Is your expected audience full of big spenders or dedicated charity champions? Is your event black-tie or barbecue? Live auctions can be an effective part of any event as long you know your audience. Why is this important? Most live charity auctions (as a special event component) will feature only 5-10 items max for bid but have the potential to raise 2-5x more than the total revenue from all of you other event fundraisers (silent auction, raffles, 50/50’s, etc.) combined! Understanding your audiences’ threshold for bidding will determine the type of live auction items you should seek and secure to realize your best returns.

2. Match Game. The best live charity auctions feature items that appeal to the interests of your audience AND excite them by their uniqueness, creativity, and possibilities. For example, a charity advocating for fresh water fishing could bring a package of rods, reels, and lures to bid OR could offer a 3-day guided fishing excursion. The first will appeal to an audience of fisherman. The second will both appeal to AND excite this audience for the possibilities it evokes!

3. The Silent/Live Shuffle. Let’s face it, almost every special event we plan or attend includes a silent auction…and that’s not a bad thing. It gives your audience the opportunity to give more to your organization and take a little something home. As you are collecting your silent auction “stash” and are planning for live auction, think about combining collected items into a great package to be auctioned live! Hotel stay + restaurant gift certificate + donated wine + movie passes = “A Night on the Town” package. In live auction, the sum of the whole is always greater the sum of its parts.

4. Timing is Everything. Do you want to maximize the impact of your live auction? Don’t wait too long to start the festivities! If you are holding an evening event with presentations, dinner, dessert, dancing, silent auction and live, do not wait until the end of the night to hold your live auction. I’ve found that the best time to start a live auction is during dessert or immediately after, while your audience is still captive. Your live auction should be 30 minutes or less and will reenergize your audience for the rest of the night.

5. Go Pro! It might seem like a good idea to have one of your Board members or a local celebrity serve as your live auctioneer, but it’s not if your goal is to maximize event revenue. Think of it this way. You wouldn’t expect a professional auctioneer to be able to do your job, would you? Professional auctioneers are highly skilled in two things, performing in front of an audience and getting the most money out of every item up for bid. Who are your reputable local auctioneers who might be willing to volunteer or conduct your live auction for a small fee? Better yet, consider retaining an auction company specializing in charity auctions. From auction evening activities to comprehensive planning and support for your charity live auction, these companies can provide as little or as much support as you need to ensure you receive maximum return for your live (and silent) auction investment.

It’s time to say “YUUUUUP” to live auctions at your special events! With the right combination of planning, items, and professional support, your good events will be great, and your great ones - memorable AND profitable!

Griffin SAA has partnered with Auction Solutions, Inc. to create Charity Auction Solutions, your one-stop solution to dynamic live charity auctions! For more information about our services or to book your next live charity auction event go to

Under the tutelage of a professional auctioneer, Ron Wheeler, Gregory J. Griffin has honed his craft and style as a charity auction favorite at dozens of special events throughout New York State and Pennsylvania. Selling everything from art to a Mercedes Benz convertible, Griffin has helped charities including the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Clinton Memorial Hospital, Jefferson Community College. and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center raise more than $100,000 through live auctions.

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