Setting Auction Goals

Setting Auction Goals

It may seem obvious that you should set goals for your fundraising auction, but some organizations have trouble determining appropriate goals based on their audience and the number of lots.

I once worked with an organization holding an inaugural gala. I was brought into the process just two weeks prior to the event and focused mainly on the logistics of the event. During the auction I was tracking the progress and was curious how it lined up with their expectations. I tiptoed over to the event manager in the back of the room and asked what the goal was and was shocked to find that they hadn’t set a goal at all. To their minds, because it was a new event it was an experiment and anything they raised was more than they had before.

More often I see organizations plug a number into an auction goal in an effort to increase the overall net by offsetting expenses. It’s a common thought process for development departments. If there’s no other expense to be cut, then we just need to raise more money. That’s fine if there is some strategy applied to how the money is going to be raised.
If you decide that you need your live auction to generate $100,000 in funds but you only have 6 auction lots, this means each lot needs to bring in $16,0000-$17,0000. It’s not unheard of, but do you know if you’ll have bidders in the room that can play on that level? And are your auction lots worthy of those kinds of winning bids?

Silent auctions are no different. There are some pretty standard formulas for calculating minimum bids in a silent auction, but how often have you gone back and tallied up all of your minimum bids and compared that to your silent auction goal? Imagine if every item in your silent auction sold for the minimum, how far off would you be? Granted, I’ve never seen that happen, but it can illuminate the need to adjust your auction lots based on the goal that you’re trying to reach.

The bottom line for any fundraising auction is that you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve. What number do you really need to reach to make the event a success? How does this number fit in to your year-round fundraising efforts? Is it a stand-alone endeavor? And once you’ve determined your goal, what are the strategies that will get you there? What is the spending threshold for the bidders that will be in the room? How do your auction lots play to that threshold?

Anyone who has done a fundraising auction knows that there’s no way to accurately predict what will happen once the bidding begins. The lot you think will be your high point may get only minimal action. The lot you think of as just a warm-up lot may spark someone’s interest and go for three times what you expected. But you can calculate your risk by looking at your auction lots and crunching the numbers for all the scenarios you can imagine and then making adjustments.

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