SVG File-02

A Beginner's Guide To Running A Live Auction

Author: Adie M.
live auctions

Hosting a live auction can sound daunting, but once you get the basics down, it’s relatively easy to manage. The most difficult part is getting started. Fortunately, we’re here to help! 

From the fundamentals of auctioning to payment collections and reserve prices, here’s everything you need to know about running a live auction. 

What Is A Live Auction?

A live auction is an event in which goods are sold through competitive bids. The person who bids the highest amount wins the item and gets the sale. Live auctions can be both public or private, depending on who is hosting the event. 

As for the goods sold, you’ll find everything from real estate to antiques to livestock on sale. Sometimes you’ll even see all three at the same auction. 

How Do Live Auctions Work?

A live auction has a few key characters. 

First, there’s the auctioneer – they’re responsible for managing the auction and bids. This is the person who stands at the front of the auctions, calls bid amounts, and finishes the auction sales. 

Next, you have bidders – the people in the audience making bids for the goods. 

The bidding process involves the auctioneer revealing an item for sale, explaining some of its history, and calling an opening bid. 

The bidders in the audience then have the right to call out bidding amounts. If you want to outbid someone, you have to call an amount bigger than what they offered. If no one contests the bid by offering a higher amount, the bidder wins and the auctioneer closes the sale. 

person raising hand to bid at an auction

How To Run A Live Auction

When you’re hosting a charity auction, you need to plan properly to get a high auction turnout. Here’s how to run a successful live auction and increase your ROI.  

Set Goals

First, determine your auction goals. As mentioned earlier, auctions can range from global charity fundraisers to local crowdfunding efforts. To effectively market your auction and attract the right audience, you need to know exactly what type of fundraiser or auction you’re hosting and what you want to achieve.

So, if, for example, you’re hosting a fundraiser, set a clear monetary and bidder engagement goal. 

Create A Catalog 

Next, create an auction catalog. The items you sell will determine who comes to the auction, so providing a cohesive catalog is necessary to attract more engaged bidders. 

Use your goals from step one to determine the type of items you’ll be selling at your auction and carefully collect and list them in a catalog. For NPOs and charities, build a catalog by asking businesses or sponsors for donations.

Set Starting Bids

Most live auctions have starting bids or reserve prices. This is the minimum amount the item can be sold for and it’s the amount the auctioneer will open the item with. Starting bids are critical and ensure that you don’t auction at a loss. 

If you’re unsure of the starting bid amount, do market research into the Fair Market Value (FMV) of your items to price them appropriately. 

Create A Marketing Plan 

A marketing plan is essential for spreading information about your auction. Create marketing content for social media, email campaigns, targeted ads, press releases, etc. 

Make sure there is enough time for hype to build around the auction before the official auction date. You can also incorporate these non-profit marketing tips if you’re not sure where to start. 

Prepare The Auction Staff 

To ensure smooth operations, try to find some experienced volunteers to help you out. Otherwise, have one of your staff members show the volunteers the ropes before the event. There should be enough staff on hand to manage bidding registrations, payments, and item displays. 

As for the auctioneer, they should be charismatic and experienced. Again, ask around for a volunteer to lower your auction expenses.

Gather Bidders

Next up is gathering bidders. If your marketing efforts pay off, you’ll have quite a lot of interest. To manage the auction and payments, register your bidders on your auction software, like BiddingOwl, or at the venue. Registering your bidders is necessary for tracking sales and estimating auction attendance. 

Start The Auction 

It’s finally time to start the auction and make your first sale. Auctions are fast-paced to keep auctioneers engaged, so get started immediately. Introduce your auction mission statement, share the catalog and item histories, and announce the starting bids. 

Move quickly between items and always call the winning bid. There should be no confusion about who won the bid and how much they won it for. 

Auction audience

Manage Payments And Collections 

With the bidding over, it’s time to collect payments and arrange pick-ups or delivery. This is also the time to give bidders any paperwork related to the sold items, like certificates of authenticity. 

Follow Up 

As the auction comes to a close, follow up with attendees, donors, and sponsors. Don’t skip this step. Following up with auction participants is critical for building long-term and lucrative relationships. 

Thank everyone for participating and for their hard work. Use the opportunity to kindly invite them to participate in future live auctions.

It’s also important to share the auction results with participants, to show them their efforts paid off. Most donors want to see how their donations were used and the tangible results of their donations. So, celebrate and share how much money they raised and how the funds were used to further your cause. 

Key Takeaways

Hosting a successful live auction requires meticulous planning. This guide offers insight into the fundamentals of live auctioning and explains the basic outline you need to keep in mind for future auctions. 

Following these steps is guaranteed to help you manage and master the auctioning process, no matter if you’re hosting a charity event or a fine arts auction. 

Lastly, if you want to host a non-profit charity auction but don't know where to start, use BiddingOwl. Our full auction suite has all the tools you need to quickly and easily host your next charity auction.