Resolved: Let's Talk Auctions

02 Jan 2019 By Roger Devine

Happy New Year’s, everyone.

Made any resolutions? I have. I did pretty good with last year’s resolution, but that was completely me-focused (I lost 30 pounds). This year, I have decided to focus one of my resolutions on you, to help you as you plan your auctions.

I’m going to blog more (seriously, take a look at this blog - I am PITIFUL at posting frequently) and (with the help of Kris and my son) take a stab at vlogging too. I got a GoPro for Christmas, and a video background, and hey - let’s see what happens.

So let’s start with an auction idea I first saw a few years ago - one that you may also wish to consider. It’s a tactic for use with your Special Appeal/Paddle Raise, and my enthusiasm for it arises from an issue that so many school auctions in particular struggle with: how low do you go?

Most Paddle Raises proceed according to a well-tested, proven formula: the auctioneer starts out by asking for donations at a high dollar amount, and then proceeds downward through a list of defined donation amounts. Many customers (in consultation with their Benefit Auctioneer) wind up with a schema that looks like this: the auctioneer asks for any $5000 donations; then drops to $2,500; then $1,000; $500; $100… and then some proceed to keep going - to $50, $25, and sometimes, $10. The problem here is that $100 is the most common “sweet spot” - where you can get just about everyone who is going to donate to hold up a paddle.

But school auction chairs also often struggle with equity issues - you want all families in the school (plus teachers and staff) to feel like they are invested in the success of your fundraiser - even if their budget for spending at the auction is $25 or $50. You want to be inclusive, and so you are tempted to keep going lower than $100. But if you do, you will start losing momentum and attention from most of the rest of the audience, who made their donations and now want to get back to bidding on vacations and ride-alongs with the police chief, and Principal-For-A-Day, etc.

The solution? Small-dollar, recurring donations. After the $100 level, have your auctioneer ask everyone in the room to participate in one last level - who is willing to donate $10/month for the next 12 months?

Bingo. You have a level that everyone at the event should feel comfortable with - it’s only $10! (Yes, that’s not strictly true - but remember how much magical thinking auction guests are capable of when guided by a good Benefit Auctioneer.) And you get to lock in $120 in donations from everyone who participates.

And really, that’s all there is to the idea. Implementing it can be a nightmare if you don’t have software that supports it - you have to process the donations individually each month. With the right software? Easy-peasy. Here are instructions for implementing recurring donations in your SchoolAuction, Tofino Auctions, or PartySupporters auction site.

Last thing for now: please let me know (either by leaving a comment below or emailing me) what other topics you’d like for me to cover here.

Have a safe and happy journey this year, and a ridiculously successful auction.