7 Reasons Why Fundraising Auctions Aren’t Your Best Bet

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good party just as much as — if not more than — the next person. But when it comes to auctions to fundraise for your nonprofit organization, just don’t. Or at least don’t just do it because everybody thinks you should.

I was doing strategic planning for a nonprofit board last week and the idea of holding an auction was put on the table. I did what any good, impartial facilitator shouldn’t do. I verbally groaned — I hate them that much.

Come on. We’re more creative than that. I believe a good fundraising event is on-mission and should be at least 2X more profitable than the work you put into it.

Here are my seven reasons why you shouldn’t start doing auctions for your nonprofit fundraising.

1. HIDDEN COSTS –

Most auction budgets don’t account for the hours and hours and hours of volunteer time, not to mention staff time. Which leads to…

2. OPPORTUNITY COSTS –

What could your volunteers be doing instead of tracking down a bunch of stuff for people to buy? And what is your staff not getting done with their regular work that could further your mission?

3. VOLUNTEER FATIGUE –

Planning, organizing and executing an auction takes a lot of work. And even the best workhorse burns out on these events in a few years.

4. I GAVE –

Now that your board has made asks for that $50 gift card to the local restaurant, they feel like they’ve done their part to help your organization. Could they have done more?

5. THE ONE PERCENTERS –

In the years and years I’ve been involved with auctions organizers always get concerned with audience focus during live auctions. The truth is that most  people at the event just want to socialize and drink the free booze. There are only a small percentage that can actually afford those live auction items.

6. TABLE FILLERS –

Senior management doesn’t have time to go to all of the events their company buys tickets for so they send table fillers. Typically, you won’t even be getting the high rollers you’re looking for at your event. Because so many I tired of the auction game.

7. AUCTIONS = DEAL –

The purpose of a real auction is for someone to unload stuff they don’t want anymore. So the mentality of attendees at your benefit auction is to get a deal on the items you worked tirelessly to procure. It’s a rare bird that goes above retail value.

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After being on the committees of enough of them for two lifetimes, I could probably come up with the counter to all seven of my arguments against auctions. With that being said, if your organization already has a rockstar auction, by all means, don’t jump ship. But if you’re on the fence as to whether or not you should start doing one, I’m here to tell you that I know you have it in you to come up with a creative fundraising event that will get people excited about your next big fundraiser; and it’s not an auction.