9 Tips for Planning Your Virtual Auction

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Fall is upon us and with the season is the time for giving. Many nonprofits are wondering how to make up for their lost revenue due to the canceling of in-person galas, auctions and other fundraising events. Here at Live Oak AV, we’ve helped quite a few nonprofits and schools put on successful virtual fundraisers that have actually netted more money than their in-person events. From our learnings, we’ve put together tips to guide you through what to think about when planning your virtual auction.

If you haven’t read The 5 Questions To Ask When Planning a Virtual Event, read this first as it gives a good foundation for getting started in planning any online event. 

1. Think of your auction as a campaign

A virtual auction is not like an in-person event. It should be thought of as a campaign that doesn’t last one day but spans over several days or weeks and then culminates in a live stream event. That means having your auction items go up online days before the event as well as creating marketing content (videos, emails, etc.) to promote the online auction and live stream event.

2. Treat the event as a TV show

If you were to produce your own TV show, what elements would you want? Create a script and a run of show for the live stream auction outlining who will welcome your guests, what speakers you want, when they will talk, when you will auction off live items, and how you want to engage your viewers. Consider pre-recording content such as staff videos, speeches or performances which can be spliced into the live stream. 

3. What is your style?

Pinpointing the style of the show is important and depends on your audience and organization. Do you want your event to be reserved and polished or do you want it to be glitzy with lots of colorful lights? This is where you need to know your audience and understand what kind of show they would react to best. 

4. How do you want your event to start?

Just like an in-person event, people are going to “show up” early. What do you want them to see? A count-down clock, a slideshow, or a screen with the bid URL are a few ideas to consider. 

5. Guest speakers galore

Having a virtual event means there’s a huge opportunity for amazing and unpredictable guest speakers that you could never have if your event was in-person. Does your nonprofit work in Guatemala? Have a beneficiary from that country speak at your event. Want to have a famous scholar give a speech? Do it! It’s easy for speakers to pre-record their speech at their convenience and then send it to you to be added into the show.

6. Plan your auction items strategically

Think about what auction items are better sold in the silent online auction versus being auctioned to the audience in real-time in the live streamed event. For example, art is very hard to auction off virtually, however, intangible items like a reserved parking spot, a vacation package or dining packages with a long expiration date tend to do well in the live auction. 

7. Anticipate a delay in the bidding

Due to a lag in technology, there will be a delay during the live bidding (about 15-20 seconds) from when the auctioneer asks for bids to when they see a bid posted online. Therefore, how will you smooth out the time in-between the delays? Using a countdown clock can be helpful as well as making it clear when the bidding starts and ends. Also, think about closing the bidding on items before moving onto other items so that donors aren’t holding on to their money. 

8. Hire Help!

You are leaving money on the table if your guests don’t get the cue that it is time to bid or donate. That means high-quality sound and video are some of the most important parts of your event. Hiring a company to ensure this quality makes all the difference. In addition, make sure you have someone to run the bidding software such as a knowledgeable event planner.

9. That’s all folks. 

How will your audience know that the event is over? Think about having credits or acknowledgments to show people the event is over instead of the camera shutting off abruptly. 

If you need help planning and executing your next virtual fundraiser, give us a call or schedule a free consultation. We have helpful worksheets and resources to help you think through all the details. We also handle all the backend technology so you don’t have to! 

Please contact us to schedule a consultation!

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