What type of auction is right for your event?

Image of gavel with text over it saying, "What type of auction is right for your event?

While I was working on this article, I had an opportunity to work with a few small local non-profit organizations. The first thing we did was figure out how to successfully implement an auction: you need to put in the effort to understand how the auction works and to define the potential audience(s) that can be impacted by the item(s) you’re offering. To this end, think about which target audience might take interest. If you believe that a piece is valuable, you will always find people eager to bid. Your auction is no longer a personal conversation. It’s a public exchange of knowledge and appreciation. If your item value is low, chances are good that it will be a low ticket item. The objective is to present unique experiences while offering a level of service that takes the buyer beyond the typical buy this experience. In this article you will find out more about online, silent, and live auctions.

  • An online auction is the most accessible and cost-effective way to attract donations. Since the auctions are online, you can conduct them on any device that has an internet browser, thus the overhead will be less. You can post items for auction directly to your website using auction software or you can use an online auction site. Participants can view the items and their descriptions but will be required to register in order to place bids. One of the positives of this type of auction is that anyone from around the world can bid on items; but it comes with a downside: engagement is harder to achieve. Online auctions make it easy to make noise; however, without careful marketing of the offerings, you might just have a dud.
  • Silent auctions are an in-person event where, typically, items are set out for viewing with a form for guests to write their bids on. The casual setting allows for diverse types of events and audiences. Downsides are that engagement with the event goers will be more difficult than a live auction, which can make it hard to motivate bids, as well as cost of the venue and other expenses. On the positive side, silent auctions have seen a large uptick in recent years and are becoming more popular this year.
  • Live auctions are the standard bread and butter event for organizations to raise funds. Items are introduced by an auctioneer and then bidding takes place, with guests signaling when they would like to up the dollar amount. You get a lot of engagement from participants since items are described, and most of all because it is a performance. Also, bids can often go higher from people being caught up in the action and the fast pace of the auctioneer. Live auctions have some downsides of the cost of a venue, auctioneer, etc.

For the most success use any combination of silent, live, and online auctions. For instance, many organizations tend to hold both a silent auction along with a live one. Then we can get into the whole vast array of sub genres of auctions like Reverse auction, Penny auction, English auction, Dutch auction, First-price sealed-bid, and Vickrey auction. Stay tuned for posts about auction formats, donation tips, event spaces, and more.