Recently I've attended several conferences where the meeting organizers conducted a silent auction to raise funds for its organization or foundation. Many of my clients also use silent auctions to raise monies for scholarships and faculty development projects. While observing these auctions I came away with a few suggestions:
1) Look closely at your participants. Are the items you have available of interest? Having NFL Football memorabilia available when your audience is primarily European, may not go over so well. If you have a wide range of participants in terms of demographics - have items that match.
2) Have items available that everyone can support financially. Look at all budget ranges. I would have gladly participated in some of the past auctions however, there were no items that I could bid on for less then $500. Sorry .. funds come directly out of my personal account.
3) The purpose of the auction is to raise money. If you agree, then establish your auction to do so. Think carefully about your starting bids. If the starting bid is viewed as higher than the value of the item, you are not going to get as many bidders. One auction I observed had starting bids at $1,000 for items that were worth far less. Yes I realize that this is for charity, but let's be realistic!
4) If the auction is connected to a meeting or event, can you also conduct the auction on your website? If so, you have just increased the number of potential participants. Bids can be taken electronically until the cut-off and updated to those received at the event live.
5) At the recent MeetDifferent Conference in Atlanta I saw a very unique way to post non-tangible items such as memberships or tickets. Post these items on a wall instead of hiding them on a table. The picture I've included here shows how this can be done. I believe that this will bring more attention to those types of item.
6) Create excitement! Make sure to announce throughout your meeting that the auction is taking place and how to get involved. Create an environment where participants feel like they are missing out on something special. Don't hide your auction or have it as an afterthought.
7) Engage your participants and don't overlook your speakers or exhibitors when asking for item donations. If your speakers are published authors, why not include an autographed copy of their book in the auction? Do your exhibitors want the added exposure by donating items? If this auction is for a member association - why not include a year's membership fee? Or conference registration for the next meeting?
8) Make it easy to win! Offer free shipping on items that cannot be carried home easily.
9) Have LOTS of pens on the auction bid sheets.
10) Have FUN with it!
I would love to here your suggestions and tips .....