By: Dan Campbell Fundraising Auctioneer

Have you ever worried about the amount of interest people will have in the auction items you have procured for the live auction? Having an item that flops in terms of interest can seem like a momentum killer, yet we sometimes need to take risks to achieve our fundraising goals. Not all donated items have the same mass appeal, so having someone bid on all the items you put in the live auction is the ultimate goal.

One way you can eliminate those “cricket” moments is to create an instant live auction bidder for your event. Here’s how it works:
A game we call Auction Bucks is where at the very beginning of your fundraising program, you ask folks to raise their bid paddles for a chance to earn $1,000 (or more, depending on crowd size) that they can use during the live auction. For the chance to earn these auction bucks, a person raising their paddle is donating $100 for the chance to win the auction bucks. You can also add a prize to combine with the auction bucks, such as a bottle of wine or some other perk, but in essence, the audience is hoping that they can use the auction bucks for one of the live auction items that are going to be sold if they are the winner.

In a room of 300 people, you can expect an estimated 150 giving units, and about half of those giving units might take the chance to win the auction bucks. Based on this assumption, the Auction Bucks game would generate $7,500, of which $1,000 would be given to the winner of this instant raffle. The great news is that the $1,000 will continue to stay in the room for your fundraising, as the winner can only use those dollars on the live auction.

Even more exciting is that you now have a KNOWN bidder in the room that is doing everything they can to use their newly acquired “bonus!” Your auctioneer can encourage this person who has won to consider being our anchor bidder for every item on the auction, to help us with our fundraising. This person will now feel empowered as they are perceived as the “anchor bidder” for your live auction. They will take pride in the opportunity to lead your audience in the live auction bidding process, knowing it won’t cost them a dime beyond their opening bid of $1,000!

A larger crowd would generate more giving units who might participate, so you may want to consider increasing the amount of auction bucks that is given to the winner. Remember, this money STAYS in the room, so there is no risk to increasing the amount commensurate to the value of auction items and the giving potential of your audience.

To choose your winner, we typically have a volunteer who records the bid numbers of each raised paddle onto separate raffle tickets, which are immediately placed into a basket or bowl for drawing the winner. You will want a second person writing down all the bid numbers on a single sheet, so you can upload this information into your bid system for payments later. Once all of the raffle tickets are completed, the bowl is brought to the stage for drawing the winner.

BONUS: if it suits your crowd, you can create an oversized certificate to present to that winner that acknowledges the value of the auction bucks they won. You can even give them a crown or sash that proclaims them as the live auction hero, which lets everyone in the room know who is the anchor for the live auction. Of course, if you have a additional prize to give, you can present that prize along with the certificate. The point is to “make-it-fun.”

Don’t leave your live auction to chance when you can have an anchor bidder in the room. The Auction Bucks game can also be a revenue generator for your event, and the extra energy of an anchor bidder will enhance the momentum of your entire fundraising program.