Enjoy this series on determining the best number of auction items for your event.
- This post, on how many silent auction items are best.
- How many live auction items are ideal.
- How many online auction items are good.
- The influence of mobile bidding on terminology.
On February 7, my company is working multiple school auctions. That means that last week I was visiting with several of them about which items should be live auction and which should be silent. Here are some tips for you.
(Back in 2009 I wrote a post about how many live auction items you should sell. Technology has changed, so I’m revising slightly.)
What’s the best number of auction items for my silent auction?
In a silent auction, the long-used metric has been to offer one item for every two “bidding units.”
What’s a bidding unit?
A buyer. The payer of the item. Let’s say that Julie and Dan Smith — a married couple — attend your event. They will be bidding as one entity; they aren’t competing against each other in the auction. They are on the same team. Consequently, they — together — are considered a ‘bidding unit.’
In contrast, I work an auction whereby everyone who attends is single. A “bidding unit” at that auction is one guest.
If your event attracts individuals (e.g. golf tournament auction, a bachelor / bachelorette auction), your best number of silent auction items is determined in this way:
- Number of guests / 2 = your best number of auction items for silent
If your event attracts couples (e.g. sit-down dinner galas, school auctions), determine your ideal number in this way:
- Number of guests / 2 = Number of bidding units.
- Number of bidding units / 2 = your best number of auction items for silent
(In this post I’m using the term “auction item” as equivalent to “auction package” — or what some annoyingly call a “prize.” To use more accurate benefit auction grammar, I should refer to these as auction packages — not auction items –as multiple items might be grouped into a singular package.)
Auctions are based on the economic Principle of Scarcity, and one item per two bidding units creates scarcity. Ignore this principle and you’ll find that you can procure more and more items, and raise the same or less money than if you had fewer items.
Not what a busy Auction Chair wants to hear, right?
I had a school client a few years ago reduce their silent auction by 100 items and raise the same amount (or was it a bit more?). Less work … same money.
The most popular class I’ve taught on silent auctions is this course. If you’re only running a silent auction at your fundraiser, consider this your MBA. Watch the DVD, read the workbook, and then pass it along to your committee.
I’ve had clients dramatically improve their silent auction returns simply by following the psychology taught in this course. You and your committee will find it one of the best investments of your auction. I promise, or your money back!