Boost Your Live Auction Revenue with Group Bidding

Fundraising auctioneers are a tremendous source of auction ideas. And luckily, some very talented and knowledgeable auctioneers blog, which means all of us can benefit from their expertise. One of those auctioneers is Sherry Truhar, and we’re always interested to see what she has to say on her blog at Red Apple Auctions. This week’s post was no exception. 

Sherry points out that encouraging your guests to bid as a group can increase your Live Auction revenue. She’s absolutely right: one couple bidding on a vacation home is unlikely to spend nearly as much as three couples bidding together on that same spacious home.

As you procure your Live Auction items, give some thought to which ones might make sense for group bidding. Large vacation homes are a great option. Events such as private wine tastings for eight, or a private chef-prepared dinner for ten also lend themselves beautifully to group bidding. Behind-the-scenes tours of special venues, celebrity meet-and-greets, hosted game nights, classes on making your own homebrew — anything that can be enjoyed by a group can be bid on by a group.

As Sherry notes, you can remind your guests to consider group bidding with a note in your printed catalog or by having your auctioneer say something like, “This next item would be perfect for a group to go in on together.”

I’d add that you don’t have to wait for your event night to get your guests thinking about putting together a bidding group. In fact, the sooner you put the idea in people’s minds, the sooner they can start planning with friends, discussing their bidding strategy, and generally getting excited about your event.

You can use the software to spread the word early. Make sure your Live Items are visible in your public catalog (because they’re type = Live they’ll display for browsing only, with a banner that reads “Bid at Event”). Add a message at the top of your Catalog page reminding people that if they go in on an item together, the total cost can be split at check-out. (I’ll explain how in just a bit.) 

Plus and Premium subscribers can create and send a custom email suggesting that folks consider combining forces to bid on specific items. And all subscribers can include a reminder about group bidding in their Invitation to Check In, their Check-in Confirmation email, or even their Ticket Sale Confirmation email. Just include a link to your catalog and encourage people to start dreaming and planning.

Spreading the word is easy, but how, you may be wondering, will you record the sale of a single item to multiple bidders? While it’s not as straightforward as selling an item to a single bidder, you can quickly make a catalog adjustment to allow for this type of sale. Here’s how:

Find the item in your catalog and adjust the quantity to match the number of buyers. Divide the original FMV by the number of buyers and edit the FMV accordingly. Then go to your Auction Night > Sell an Item button and sell the item to each buyer for the total item price divided by the number of buyers. 

Here’s an example: say 5 buyers jointly bid $10,000 on a vacation home package with an FMV of $5,000. You’ll edit the quantity of the vacation home package to 5, edit the FMV to $1,000, and sell the package to each of the 5 buyers for $2,000 apiece.

When your group of buyers checks out, they’ll each see the item, with an appropriate sale price and FMV, on their receipt. Voila!

You can make this process even easier by reviewing your Live Items a day or two before your event and flagging the items that look promising for group sales. Go ahead and edit the quantity of those items before your event. While you can’t know the actual quantity you’ll need or the revised FMV ahead of time, you’ll at least have made it possible to sell the item to multiple buyers. And if you really want to plan ahead, make a list of the possible revised FMVs for 2, 3, and 4 buyers, so you won’t have to crunch numbers during the crush of your event.

We’re always interested in learning from our customers, and we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve tried this strategy, what items have appealed to groups of bidders at your events? And how have you promoted group sales? Leave us a comment below and tell us all about it.

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