One of the main things we do at KILBREATH AUCTIONS is consulting.  In fact, 80-90% of the time we spend together happens before your event.   And one of the things we spend our time doing in auction consulting meetings is debunking auction myths.  These are things people believe about auctions, but aren’t actually true.


MYTH #1 – You Can’t Predict How Much Money You Will Raise

  • You most certainly can! Especially as it pertains to the live and silent auction.  In 2018 silent auction returns were about 75-80% of value.  Nationally that number is about 50%, but we live in a very generous part of the country.  In live auctions you should be making well over 100% of value.   Every one of our auctions in 2018 had a live auction return over 100%.  If your auction isn’t hitting that number, that is a problem.  Many of the auctions we do saw numbers like 150%, 185%, 245% … all the way up to 400% of value!

MYTH #2 – More Auction Items = More Money

  • Don’t try to cram a lot into a live auction because you think it will raise more money. You need to have an appropriate amount of live auction items for your audience and their spending capacity.  If that number is 5 items, then it is 5 items, if it is 25, then it’s 25.  Quality matters more than quantity.  Look carefully at the types and variety of items designated for the live auction.  I always say wait until your procurement is done, and then we can determine how many items will be in your live auction.   Because if you are trying to just hit a number, than you are cramming something into the auction that isn’t appealing or isn’t appropriate for your event.
  • Less is more in a silent auction. Many groups are getting rid of silent auctions altogether, saying they just isn’t worth the amount of work.  My friends at Greater Giving say you should take the amount of bidding units at your auction, cut that number in half, and that is what you should have in your silent auction… and I say cut it down 25% more than that.  For example, you have 200 guests, and let’s say they are all couples.  That means 100 bidding units.  The formula = would say 50 silent auction items… I would say about 35.   Less items, but quality items will drive prices up.  You don’t want your guests feeling they have spent too much before going into the main auction and special appeal.

MYTH #3 – More Guests = More Money

  • This is a big one. We did an event in the summer of 2018 that had around 70 guests.  In the past this group had nearly 200 people at their event.  However, in 2018 we made more than we ever had.  The reason?  We had the 70 right people who were passionate about the cause.  We also created the right atmosphere for this smaller group.   Another client of ours had 500+ guests the year we took over the event.  The startling thing is 2/3 of those guests were comped … they didn’t pay a dime to be there.  The event did alright, but the next year, after we convinced them to bring down the comp’s… it was their biggest year ever, with half the guests as the previous year.  The reason?  By removing the comp’d tickets we had people in the crowd that were invested in the group, and they were passionate about supporting the cause.

MYTH #4 – My Donors Will Support Us Because They Love Us

  • If it were that easy, you wouldn’t need to do events. You need to give everyone a compelling reason to donate to your school, or non-profit.  Everyone!  They fact that they “love you” may be the reason they walked through the door, but now  you need to figure out a way to get them to donate.  Yes, some people walk in knowing they are going to spend a certain amount at your event, and that is great.  However, it is our job as your auction team to get them to spend a little bit more.  And, it is your job to give them the reasons to spend a little bit more.  You should quantify every dollar they spend at your event.  Donors want to know where their money going?  And how are you going to spend it?  The more specific you can be the better.  Work with your auction team so they know the facts about your organization, and how the guests hard-earned money is going to impact your group.

MYTH #5 – Any Auctioneer Will Do

  • You must find an auctioneer that you can work with and that fits the style of your organization and event. There are a handful of reputable professional auctioneers, and even a smaller amount that specialize in fundraising auctions, and even a smaller amount that have Benefit Auction Specialist training and certification through the National Auctioneers Association.  That small group of auctioneers (less than 1% of auctioneers nationally) is up-to-date on all the latest trends and practices specific to fundraising auctions.  Yes, you may do OK with the principal doing the auction or a funny PTA member, but how much money are you leaving on the table?  According the National Auctioneers Association – a professional fundraising auctioneer typically generates 30-40% more than the un-trained low-cost, or no-cost, or volunteer auctioneer.  Read more here: https://yourbenefitauction.com/2018/10/22/is-a-professional-auctioneer-necessary/ .   Again, most important – find the auctioneer the best fits your style, and your event.  And make sure they offer what you need to make your event the most successful event ever.