Two weeks ago while interviewing Lori Jacobwith about storytelling (Awesome call, by the way. Use all of her tips in planning your next Fund a Need), I asked her if there was a “right” number of stories to include in a fundraising event.
Lori had a solid answer — five. She explained what each story should do and who should tell it. (You can get details in our free call.)
I commented that I often get a similar question — “How many items should we sell in our live auction?” or “What’s the best number of items in our live?” Quite naturally, Lori turned the table and asked me the question: “Is there a perfect number of live auction items?”
There isn’t, because it depends on a few factors specific to each group. (You can read about those here.)
Yet it seems that many Auction Chairs aren’t content with understanding these factors. They continue to search for a “magic number.” (I think we all hope for some something easy, don’t we?)
Though I can’t provide a perfect number that works for every group, I can give you a range of what my own clients experience. If you fall within these ranges, I’d say your ‘average’ — and in my book, that’s an A-OK place to be.
2015 By The Numbers
Red Apple Auctions oversaw 54 fundraisers in 2015: 26 schools and 28 nonprofits.
Let’s break it down.
2015 School Auctions
Of the 26 school auctions, 13 were religious private schools, 10 were independent private schools, 2 were public school districts, and 1 was a specialty school for deaf children. (See the pie chart.)
- The average number of live auction items sold was 15.12 items.
- The average live auction item sale was $2885.
- The average ROI (return on investment) was 131%.
- The fewest items sold in a school live auction was 7 items.
- The most items sold in a school live auction was 29 items.
- The least revenue raised in a live auction was $15,375
- The most revenue raised in a live auction was $79,250.
- I also oversaw one school fundraiser which was a Fund a Need only event — no items were sold via a live auction. I’m not counting that in the live auction item sale statistics because that style of event is not what most would consider a typical school auction fundraiser.
2015 Nonprofit Auctions
Of the 28 other types of nonprofit auctions, the category breakdown was as follows: 3 arts, culture and humanities; 1 environment & animals; 7 health-related; 13 human service-related; 2 international; 1 religion; 1 public / societal impact. (See the pie chart.)
- The average number of live auction items sold was 13.65.
- The average live auction item sale was $2368.
- The average ROI (return on investment) was 120%.
- The fewest items sold in a nonprofit live auction was 4 items.
- The most items sold in a nonprofit live auction was 34 items.
- The least revenue raised in a live auction was $3845.
- The most revenue raised in a live auction was $115,850.
- I also oversaw one nonprofit fundraiser which was a Fund a Need only event — no items were sold via a live auction. I’m not counting that in the live auction item sale statistics.
2015 fun facts
- We raised money for a variety of religious-based groups: Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (I feel better about my chances in the afterlife with so many denominations represented. 😉 )
- We worked with conservative and liberal auction chairs and causes.
- The largest event raised over $1.1 million gross revenue. The smallest event cracked just over $17,000 gross.
- The furthest West event: Honolulu, HI
- The furthest East event: Boston, MA
- The furthest South event in the continental USA: Savannah, GA
- The furthest North event was nearly a tie: Marshfield, WI (latitude 44° 40′ 7″) and Saranac Lake, NY (latitude 44° 19′ 46″). (See the map for states I visited in 2015. All but Florida, Vermont, and Kansas included onsite auctions.)
So … having read this, are YOU average? (LOL!) Is your auction within the ranges or totally off the charts in some way?
If you’re wondering if there’s a way to get more bang out of your live auction, I’ve got a resource for you. It’s called Lucrative Live Auctions.
One thing that really bothers me is the number of auction fundraisers in the USA that only offer silent auctions.
I’m especially troubled by the number of schools offering silent auctions only, never even trying a live auction.
Live auctions are so much more profitable and so much less work than a typical silent auction — it’s not even a fair comparison. Often my clients will raise as much with 15 live auction items as they will with 50 or 100 silent auction items.
(Take a look at those ROI numbers above. National averages for silent auction item sales are 50-65% returns; our live auction average is 120-130%.)
Gosh, why aren’t more groups running live auctions instead of silent auctions?
Personally, I think Auction Chairs feel uncomfortable with the idea of doing something “new.” Unfamiliar ideas can be scary. Though they’d love to have more money raised, overcoming first time jitters is tough. It’s sometimes just easier to run the fundraiser as it’s always been run.
That’s where this master class — Lucrative Live Auctions — steps in. It’s designed to help Auction Chairs improve (or launch) a live auction by teaching about items, ordering, tracking, selling, games specific to the live auction, and more.
Get details here and find out what you’ve been missing in donations.
Adam S says
Pretty sure the auction in Honolulu was the furthest South you did. 🙂
Sherry Truhlar says
Holy moly, you’re right! Honolulu is 21.3000° N; Savannah 32.0167° N. In my mind’s eye, I just thought of Hawaii as “West.” Clearly geography isn’t my strong suit. Thanks for setting me straight. I’ll change to “continental United States” above. 🙂