Make Your Show Flow at Your Benefit Auction

There’s a hidden contest happening inside your fundraiser event. The contestants are time, money, and the attention spans of your guests. We want money to win every time—but you must be strategic!

Make Every Minute a Revenue Minute

When you design a benefit auction event, one of the most commonly overlooked mistakes by auction and event planners is creating the wrong timeline. Instead, make every minute a revenue minute by strategically sequencing and pacing the silent auction, the live auction, and the fund-a-need special appeal. Benefit auctions have myriad event details, and getting this “show flow” right is critical to maximizing every single dollar and creating an environment that will build audience engagement for future events.

Say “Sold” During Salad

To optimize the most profitable time for fundraising, don’t wait! Conduct your fundraising early in your event.  A top trend is to conduct your Live Auction and Fund A Need special appeal right away during salad. Remember, less is more, and your guests are tending to leave earlier than ever. Position your fundraising activities as early as possible. Never conduct your Live Auction and Fund a Need at the end of your event.

Run Your Auction Like a Track Meet

My experience as a college athletic director and coach for volleyball and track for blind runners has helped me tremendously as a consultant and fundraising auctioneer. Think about organizing and running your benefit auction like a track meet. The first thing a track coach needs is a stopwatch, and you need one too! It’s very important to time out every single element of the event.

In a track competition, the next runner is “on deck” and the one behind her is “in the hole.” The same lineup works for benefit auctions. At the beginning of your event, the chairperson, board president, or executive director makes the welcome and thank you remarks. Immediately following those remarks, go right into the montage about the transformational aspects of your nonprofit organization. Set this up so that you have speakers “on deck” and “in the hole.” Put six or seven chairs on the side of the stage and insist that everyone who is making any kind of remarks is seated in chairs 10 minutes in advance of when they are speaking and line up in order of stage appearance.

Add a Stage Manager and Speaker Handlers

One of the best ways to maintain control of your strategically designed show flow is to engage a dedicated stage manager. In a track meet, that person is called the clerk of the course. She oversees the timeline, queues up the competitors, and ensures that everything happens on time.

At your event, have volunteers to bring speakers right to their tables and escort them to the stage before it’s time to make remarks. These people are beloved to your organization, and your guests want to visit with them. But that slows down your timeline. You may want to have one handler for each speaker to escort the speaker to the side of the stage, wait with him until it’s time to speak, and then escort the speaker from the stage back to his table following the remarks. It’s also a good idea to have backup people who stay with the speakers in the queue so that they don’t scoot away. Sometimes speakers request to stay at their tables until it’s their turns to speak. Unless there is a really compelling reason why they cannot sit with the rest of the speakers in the queue (for example, they experience a disability) it’s critical that all of the speakers are on the side of the stage ready to go. It helps the momentum and the physical flow of the event to have everyone who is making remarks lined up and ready to go with your stage manager right there.

Make your Show Flow! Focus on what matters. Design your benefit auction, gala, soiree and fundraising event to engage more donors and to maximize fundraising.

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From the Top: Top 5 areas you must cover to start your auction event


Learn the top 5 areas you must cover to start your fundraising auction event to raise more money. Cure auction attendee boredom and inattentiveness now.  Kathy Kingston teaches how to write compelling opening remarks and fire up your charity auction guest to skyrocket giving.

For more profit-making and innovative Live Auction strategies, check out A Higher Bid, Chapter 12: Maximize the True Worth of Your Live Auction

Enjoy my video quick tip: (Hint, click on the arrow to watch)

How to Start Your Live Auction Program

Raise more funds. Engage more donors. Break all records!

PS: Sign up for your complimentary Fundraising Auction Assessment Call with Kathy.

Kathy Kingston 603-926-1919

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6 Secrets for Spectacular Anniversary Fundraising Auctions

1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 83 — Do I hear 100 years? Absolutely!

“Kathy, Get ready for year 10!!! This is a big one and a big deal. We made it this far! What ideas do you have to make this auction extra special” exclaimed Rachel the Executive Director of Amy’s Treat last week.

Wow! I love anniversary fundraising events. And you should too.

This special article is dedicated to Amy who was my neighbor and friend. Ten years ago her partner Lenore knocked on my back door and said, we’d love to have auction to start a nonprofit in Amy’s memory — Kathy can you help? I am honored to be a donor and their auctioneer. (Amy’s Treat is dedicated to providing solutions to the day-to-day difficulties of living with cancer and offers unexpected “treats” to renew the spirit.)

For over 30 years, I’ve been honored to serve as auctioneer and consultant for countless anniversary events and even four centennials. However, did you know that your anniversary fundraising auction is a premier donor cultivation opportunity?

Here are my six secret strategies to gather and keep all of your supporters who love you, raise more money and get those bid cards waving.

  1. First and foremost, obsess on audience development. Reach out personally to your founders and all past board members and invite them personally. Then reach out and invite every single donor – personally. Make sure that you include everyone who every came to ANY of your events.Be sure to include any and all auction item donors and invite them personally Gather every one. Your supporters will want to be with you as you celebrate your special anniversary of your incredible impact!
  1. Form a diverse active host committee. Invite supporters from founders, volunteers, to present-day donors. There will be many people who are not able to attend and wish to offer their support by sending a contribution.
  1. Pick the most lucrative anniversary theme. YOUR IMPACT! In your all of your outreach, promotion and marketing and social media, keep your mission and impact front and center. From your save the date card to your inspiring speaking program – showcase the impact what your generous donors contributions have done for your organization. This is the time to go all out so that everyone falls in love with your great cause all over again!Start early – even several years before your anniversary event. Your signature event is also an opportunity for a year round celebration with numerous events.
  1. Avoid costly mistakes. Many groups spend valuable funds, resources, and time on what I call the 3 Deadly D’s: decor, dessert and dancing. (Hint: no one will recall your theme, colors, decorations or tablecloths – however they will be inspired by true first-person stories that showcase your amazing impact on the lives of whom you serve.)
  1. Invest in what matters. Focus on your purpose – not the party. And your purpose is three-fold.
  1. Communicate the impact of your donor’s gift
  1. Obsess on strategic audience development
  1. Express profound gratitude again and again
  1. Leverage your anniversary event as a launching pad to skyrocket fundraising too. Whatever the year – your fundraising auction is an unparalleled opportunity to invite and engage new supporters and to engage current donors in an exciting, profitable and inspiring way! Stand out as a signature, inspirational, fun, profitable event where generous donors are thrilled to bring friends, family and colleagues every year!

“Celebrate your success, treasure the past and continue to create a legacy for your great cause and your donors for the future.” Kathy Kingston

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7 Hidden Secrets for A Lucrative Live Auction

7-secrets-kathy-kTo achieve record-breaking live auction success, you need a highly strategic perspective and months of careful pre-event design that includes a whole choreography of strategies. What you and your audience see on the live auction stage is just the tip of the iceberg.

While your live auction is an entertaining, highly profitable focal point of the entire event, adding dollars, sparkle and fun, it’s also a key opportunity to inspiring your guests to stay involved with you and become loyal donors.

Looking through the lens of my Fundraising Auction Philanthropy Model, here are seven of my favorite (and often overlooked strategies) to get those bid cards waving generously and to keep them engaged in your mission long after auction night.

1. Stand Up Front and Gain a New Perspective
Auction organizers, try this enlightening tip. During the live auction, stand up front, face your audience and see what the auctioneer sees. (Do not sit in the audience or stand in the back of the room and watch the auctioneer.)

From a donor relationship standpoint, it is much more powerful—and revealing—to watch your guests. Stand up front, near the auctioneer, and you’ll experience a different dynamic. You’ll be able to focus on all the action. You’ll see exactly who is bidding, who is not bidding, which guests are focusing at which moments, who is more engaged during which live items, and who is not even in the room. This rich information will be invaluable to you as you create your donor follow-up and cultivation plans. Knowing on a firsthand basis exactly what your guests are actually doing during the live auction and how they are participating will give you strategic insights on the best way to make personal connections after your event.

2. Stop Selling Items — Start Selling Your Cause
It’s not about what bidders get, it’s what they give. Always tie your mission into the item description to showcase the impact of your guests’ generous bidding.
It is essential for an auctioneer working at a benefit auction to inspire guests and show them how high bids will positively impact the cause. Be sure to prepare numerous mission related bullet points in writing for your auctioneer. That way in addition to describing and auctioning your live items, your auctioneer needs to make inspiring comments about the impact of your mission throughout the live auction. During the bidding process, he or she can engage and educate your guests by interspersing inspirational talking points about the mission of the organization.

bid-paddles3. Curate Every Live Auction Item
Waste no time or energy on live auction items that do not bring a return of at least 85 percent of value — and shoot for items that sail over the value!

Act and think like a top marketer: Match your auction items to your guests. Study your live auction results each year and only procure items that are incredibly successful for you. Remember, less is more. Fewer items with higher values will fetch more profit. Hand-select premium items. Make a chart calculating retail value, high bid, and percentage of value achieved. Study what your guests love. Go get more of these top revenue producers! Solicit live auction items that are personal and unique: trips, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, exclusive wine, multi-person, multi-course gourmet dinners, one-of-a-kind travel, and sold-out and unique group experiences. (For more in-depth discussion of auction items, see Chapter 6. of A Higher Bid)

4. Double Double—Dollars and Donors
Double your money, double your donors. Selling two of the same live auction item is an oftentimes overlooked fundraising opportunity that has the potential to raise a lot more money. To be strategic, always ask your live auction donors, before the event, if they would consider offering two packages. With a doubled item, you will engage more bidders and their supportive friends.

5. Why Risk It? Retain A Professional Benefit Auctioneer
Don’t leave money in the room. With a professional benefit auctioneer who has wide fundraising experience, proven ideas, and a dedication to good causes, you will raise more money.

Over the three decades as a professional auctioneer, I typically see an average increase of 20 to 200 percent in live auction revenue when either I am the professional auctioneer or if an experienced professional benefit auctioneer colleague follows a year that an organization uses a volunteer, celebrity, or VIP personality. That’s because professional benefit auctioneers know how to engage the audience, move bids along to reach the highest possible amount, keep the focus on the nonprofit mission, and create a lively and entertaining event that maximizes your fundraising and leaves your guests eager to return the following year. Remember, investing in a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost you money in the long run, because you will generate more profit.

bidders-table6. Prepare Your Guests to Bid Generously
Bidder behavior has changed. No longer do guests come to charity auctions with the express purpose of bidding no matter what. Now, your supporters are much more strategic—so you have to be strategic, too.

Leverage this trend and design a comprehensive, personalized approach to market your live auction items heavily before your event. Create a specialized marketing campaign before the event to showcase and build excitement about your live auction. An often overlooked yet powerfully effective strategy is to mail an auction catalogue in advance to all your guests.

7. Empower your Board and Leaders
Long before auction night, train your board and stakeholders to “talk up” your live auction items by personally speaking to your previous top bidders and letting them know about hot live auction items that they, especially, will love!
On auction night, during the cocktail reception invite your table captains, board members, VIPs, and sponsors to bring their guests to your live auction display and talk up these live items. To get more bid cards in the air, you must prepare your guests in advance to bid generously.

What are your top way to increase profit, excitement and guest engagement? Share your ideas in the COMMENT box below … OR email me with your ideas at

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From the Top: How to Work with Celebrities at your Benefit Auction


Wishing you a fantastic 2017!

Do you wonder how to work with celebrities, media personalities and VIPs at your benefit auction? Kathy Kingston, benefit auction fundraising expert teaches the best and worst ways to work with Celebrities and VIPs at your charity auction.

How to work with Celebrities at your Benefit Auction

Raise more funds. Engage more donors. Break all records!

PS: Sign up for your complimentary Fundraising Auction Assessment Call with Kathy.

Kathy Kingston 603-926-1919

Posted in Charity Auctioneer, non profit auctions, Video Series - Fundraising Auction Video, videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment