The Truth About The Top 5 Auction Myths

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: .   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.



10 Reasons For Silent & Live Auction Vacations

We work with a couple of different vacation and experience companies to get you the best items for your live auction.  Not every auction will need the extra items, but for those that do I would recommend Silent & Live Auction Vacations.  They have always been great to work with and have affordable options for clients looking for that special extra item.

To learn more email, or call 206-963-7148


10 Reason’s to make Silent and Live Auction Vacations your go-to place to add destination packages to your fundraising event

What they offer:

  1. 7 Night Resort Condo’s
  2. You can sell multiples of any of our packages
  3. 5 Star Luxury Hotels
  4. All on consignment If they don’t sell throw away. You pay nothing
  5. No pre-set blackout dates
  6. 18 Months to travel
  7. Concierge service that will work closely with all winners
  8. HD Videos to help sell the packages on our 5-star Hotel destinations
  9. Can Sell in Live, Silent or Buy It Now table
  10. Destination packages ranging from $675.00 – $5500.00

Consignment vacation packages from Silent Auction Vacations may be the easiest items that you offer in your next silent or live auction. There is no collecting donated items, no heavy framed items to handle, and no fear of damaging a consigned, or worse a sold item. With our vacations you just print it, display it and profit from it. All of this with no risk for your organization.

You can select your trips weeks in advance and advertise them long before your event, or add them last-minute to complete your auction. The process is really that simple.

To learn more email, or call 206-963-7148


2018 Year in Review

What an amazing year for Kilbreath Auctions.  I wanted to share some notes we received from clients over the year.  Also, I wanted to share that our auctions on average saw a 25% increase over last year.  Across the board 99% of our clients made more money at their events in 2018 than they did in 2017.  Congratulations to all of clients, and our great auction teams for the work they did in 2018.

We would love to help you raise even more money for your organization in 2019.

Here is just a snapshot of the comments we received:

4 Tips To Pick The Best Event Date

What is the perfect day to hold your fundraising event?  That is an important decision, and one that needs careful consideration.  There are 365 days and 52 Saturday nights in a year.  A lot of groups do events on Friday, and Thursday nights, and some on other weeknights, and even Sunday.  But we are talking about 75 days in a year that are ideal for fundraising, according to AmFund  (The American Fundraising Foundation.)

For our purposes today we will use 2019.  I know most of you have already picked your date for 2019, but the ideas here are relevant as you plan for future events.

AmFund actually analyzed the data, and for 2019 they said the busiest day for events was February 23.  However, we disagree.  For Kilbreath Auctions – our busiest day for inquires for spring 2019 has been March 9 & 30, April 27, and May 4.

One of the best things to do is establish consistency with your date.  For example, one of our clients said her guests love knowing that every 3rd Saturday in October is when the gala will be held.  The client said, it is just automatic for her guests.

When working with clients on picking dates for their biggest and most important fundraiser, the first thing we do is ask what is going on that day?

  • # 1 HOLIDAYS

Of course – 3 day weekends should be avoided: Labor Day, Memorial Day, President’s Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  And so should big family holidays such as: Christmas, Thanksgiving Weekend, New Year’s Eve and Day, 4th of July, and Halloween.  Religious holidays are also something to consider.  Especially holidays that change from year-to-year such as Passover and Easter.

Conversely, we have had auctions every Mother’s Day Saturday the last few years, and they have been very successful.  We do tend to warn people about it though, just so they know.  AmFund suggests NOT having events that weekend.


Of course holidays are important to consider when planning your event, and probably that idea goes without saying.  But there are other dates that may cause problems when you plan your event.

  1. The first week in January – holiday hangover
  2. Giving Tuesday – every organization in the world is trying to get money on that day
  3. The last two weeks in December – holiday parties, holiday shopping means donating is not front of mind
  4. The last two weeks in August – people are mentally checked-out because they are getting kids ready for school, and they are trying to finish summer with fun experiences
  5. Super Bowl weekend – toughest if your team has a chance of being in the big game, but you would be surprised by the amount of high-end donors that go the game

Recently we had a former client who saw their numbers dwindle from previous years… Why?  Because the auction was planned the same night as Homecoming in their community.  The majority of their guests were parents at that school.  We also have a client that doesn’t set their date until the local college football team puts out their schedule.  Other things to consider… festivals, fairs, tree-lighting ceremonies, school events, and not just football games and homecoming, but graduation, or other events that will take away a large number of guests.


There are a lot of non-profit organizations all competing for funding.  In fact there are 1.5 million non-profits in the United States.  There is no doubt other organizations will be raising money the same night you are.  We guarantee it.  So, of course you will be competing with other organizations.  The key is to not compete against organizations that have the same guests as your event.  If your group raises money for the homeless… then you should avoid having an event the same night another group is raising money for the same exact thing.


Profile #7 – Sound Experience

As fundraising auctioneers, we get to work with some amazing non-profit organizations.  From time to time we are going to highlight some of those organizations and the amazing work they do.  The best part of our job is raising much needed funds for great organizations like: Sound Experience Aboard The Adventuress



Sound Experience fosters environmental sustainability, youth development, and maritime careers through powerful shipboard programs aboard the schooner Adventuress on the waters of the Salish Sea. Adventuress is a century-old National Historic Landmark tall ship.




Sound Experience sails the historic schooner Adventuress to educate, inspire, and empower an inclusive community that works to improve our marine environment and celebrates our maritime heritage.


We envision a future where everyone values Puget Sound/Salish Sea and the world’s oceans and chooses to act as stewards of their treasured waters.


  • Transformative Education – changing our youth, our communities, and our world
  • Learning Organization – evolving for and with our people
  • Living Sustainably – acting for our waterways
  • Partnering – sharing our collective strengths
  • Integrity – doing the right thing
  • All Are Welcome





Athletes For Kids

Friendship Circle

Camp Rosenbaum

Growing Veterans


Center for Human Services

Is a Professional Auctioneer Necessary?


Well, you know how I am going to answer that question.  The proof is in every event we do.  85% of what professional auctioneers do, is before they hit the stage.  With all the great fundraising ideas they present to you during consulting sessions.  I know that I will have at least one idea, that if executed well, will make my fee back, and much more for the client.  There is something that a trained Benefit Auctioneer Specialist brings to the auction – experience and training to get the most out of guests.

Yes, a PTA mom, or a board president can do 100-200-300-400 sold, but someone trained in fundraising can get an extra one or two hundred dollars out of that bidder.  No matter the size of the auction – the trained auctioneer can read the crowd, get additional dollars out of a donor – and best yet – make them feel good about their donation!

According to 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.

Hire a pro!

Top 5 reasons to hire a DJ for your auction

#1 – Bumper Music

  • It is great to have “bumper” music during your live auction.  When the item reader says, “Item #1 is a wine basket.”  The DJ can then play 10, or so, seconds of “Red Red Wine.”  Music creates emotional reactions for your guests, it may actually inspire higher bidding.
Curt Kruse from STAR 101.5 (exclusive DJ for Kilbreath Auctions)

#2 – Situational Music

  • You never know when you are going to need a certain song.  I was recently conducting an auction with a rock-n-roll theme.  At certain points during the night, I stopped and had the DJ play a song… For example, I had all the guests dressed up in their Guns N’ Roses clothes come up on stage for a selfie.  The DJ played, “Welcome to the Jungle.”  We did it for several bands that were represented.  Like I said, you never know when you are going to need a song to be played.

#3 – Supplemental Sound

  • It is always good to have “all hands on deck.”  A DJ’s set-up can actually help supplement the sound you are using at the venue.  Often times DJ’s will have extra mics or extra cords or other things to help with your event.  Plus they can often provide the whole sound system for your event, in addition to serving as event DJ.

#4 – Lighting

  • Often times DJ’s will have up-lighting or other stage lights within their set ups.  They can use this to enhance the lighting in your auction room.  It is amazing what just a little extra lighting, with different colors can do.

#5 – Event Item Reader / MC

  • A good DJ is one that can also serve as an MC.  They typically have a personality that can work well with your auctioneer.  If you don’t have someone reading the item descriptions during your live auction, you should.  If you hire a trained auction sound person / DJ like CURT KRUSE you can get someone who understands all of these roles.

What committees do you need? Here are the Top ideas.

I recently did a seminar with my friends at Greater Giving.  One of the topics we discussed was different committees you need as you plan your auction.




Thanks to Greater Giving for the descriptions below… for the full article, click the link above.

Event Logistics

  • Generates the budget.
  • Appoints committee chairs.
  • Maintains communication with staff.


  • Identifies possible sponsors for your event.
  • Develops a strategy for acquiring sponsors.
  • Delivers the promised benefits to sponsors.

Volunteer Coordinator

  • Recruits and energizes volunteers.
  • Works with all event committees.
  • Identifies volunteer needs and figures out how to meet them.
  • Communicates with volunteers.
  • Organizes and delegates event night tasks.

Media/Public Relations

  • Decides how to promote the event.
  • Works with media sponsors.
  • Creates press releases.
  • Manages various methods of communication: TV, print, web, email and social media.


  • Holds a procurement brainstorming party to identify items to target for donation.
  • Locates and gathers items for both the silent and live auctions.
  • Creates an item request letter to be sent out to possible donors.
  • Creates an item donation form for tracking purposes.
  • Packages items together as needed for both the silent and live auctions.
  • Sends thank you letters to item donors.

Guest Experience

  • Signs up attendees.
  • Coordinates registration.
  • Coordinates admission, check-in and check-out.
  • Organizes seating arrangements.
  • Hires photographer.


  • Designs event invitations.
  • Mails event invitations.
  • Follows up with invitees.


  • Determines and contracts the entertainment.
  • Sets up the event night program.
  • Works with the logistics committee.
  • Selects the entertainment, the emcee, the guest speaker and the auctioneer.
  • Works with the lighting, AV and sound crews.

Tuscany & Bali – For Your Auction Guests


Tuscany and Bali are some of the hottest travel locations for auction guests.  Our friends at Sojourn Ventures have exclusive properties in both locations.  If you are interested contact and we can sell one of these great locations at your next auction!  Details about the locations below, but first some information about Sojourn Ventures:



An Impact that Goes Beyond:

At Sojourn Ventures, our passion stems from the communities we work with. For over twenty years, we have established roots and built second lives in Italy and Bali. It is our desire that every guest share in enjoying the authentic, personalized experiences we are able to provide. Moreover, the impact of our vacation packages on these two communities has been invaluable, supporting local industries and businesses in Cortona and providing livelihoods and education for dozens of our staff and their families in Bali. Lastly, and most importantly, we have partnered with hundreds of nonprofits and helped raise over ten million dollars in the last decade, making an impact on countless people and communities worldwide.

  • Proven revenue-generating vacation packages in Italy and Bali that bring excitement to your fundraising efforts and add dollars to your bottom line.
  • Risk-free opportunities with no upfront costs. All packages are sold on a consignment basis.
  • Free concierge service for your organization and your clients. Pre-event promotional/marketing materials provided along with complete post-event support for your buyers.
  • Two-year expiration on all packages provides distinct advantage over the traditional one-year expiration date for auction items.
  • Unlimited sales potential as you can sell to as many bidders as you’d like, including post event sales to friends, family and those who didn’t even attend your event.
  • Trips sold exclusive of airfare which affords a lower selling price point and more buyer options for creating their own travel itinerary.


cortona_65Cortona is the jewel of medieval Tuscan hill towns. Ideally situated two hours north of Rome and 90 minutes south of Florence, Cortona is well known from the best-selling book and movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

The road up to Cortona winds through olive groves, vineyards, and farmhouses and arrives at the entrance of the town’s ancient walls. The view of the valley below is one of the most spectacular in all of Italy, stretching out to Lake Trasimeno, Montepulciano and beyond.


cortona_57Along with museums, churches and other historical sights, Cortona offers a wealth of good restaurants, cafes, shops and entertainment. The town has retained its local, historical character without selling out to trinket and souvenir shops that dominate so many other Italian towns.





bali_16The island of Bali lies directly north of Australia and forms part of the archipelago that is the country of Indonesia. Its luscious valleys, beautiful beaches, and serene mountains make Bali’s landscape one-of-a-kind.

Geographically small but culturally grand, Bali has fascinated and influenced visitors for centuries. Combining elements of Hinduism and Buddhism with earlier animist beliefs, Balinese religion pervades all aspects of everyday life. Every human activity, from rice growing to massive temple ceremonies, is approached


with ritual and reverence. Balinese performing arts occupy a central place in the life of every village, and continue to inspire artists and students of culture around the world.

Profile #6 – Athletes For Kids

As fundraising auctioneers, we get to work with some amazing non-profit organizations.  From time to time we are going to highlight some of those organizations and the amazing work they do.  The best part of our job is raising much needed funds for great organizations like: Athletes For Kids

**in full disclosure, I also serve on the Board of Directors for Athletes For Kids**

Athletes For Kids is not about sports.  The program is focused on building supportive mentoring relationships between high school athletes and children who have disabilities and special needs of all kinds.


AFK serves children in 1st-12th grades who have disabilities and special needs of all kinds.

They carefully match each child with a qualified high school athlete, who commits to mentoring a child for one to three years. Once a mentorship is formed, the pair meets two to four times a month.

Mentor candidates are referred to our program by other AFK Mentors, coaches, teachers, Athletic Directors, and community members. Every applicant must pass a thorough screening and background check before being accepted into our program. Once selected, they are required to attend an intensive training, followed by monthly group meetings where they receive ongoing training and support from our Program Manager. The training topics are all based on evidenced based best practices for mentoring.



Youth First- Every decision we make is based on how it will affect the youth we serve.  Attention to safety, growth, wellness, leadership, and learning necessary life skills is our focus.

Community- We build connections and collaborate with other partners to complement existing resources to accomplish more. We help strengthen our communities through education and engagement.

Relationship – We believe that having a compassionate and supportive relationship outside of the family has the power to restore hope in a child’s life. Many mentorships turn into friendships which improve a child’s quality of life, happiness, confidence, and self-esteem.

Inclusion- We promote kindness and acceptance while celebrating, respecting, and including the rich diversity that make up our AFK family.

Integrity- We conduct business in a way that is honest, transparent, and ethical so that we continuously earn our donors, stakeholders and the public’s high regard. We hold ourselves accountable to being good stewards of the resources bequeathed to us.

Excellence- Our experienced, knowledgeable and passionate staff are committed to providing the highest quality of service to the youth and families we serve.

AFK now serve over 350 youth annually, and have served over 1,500 youth since our founding.






Friendship Circle

Camp Rosenbaum

Growing Veterans


Center for Human Services