Engage Bidders and Add Oomph to Your Auction


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You’ve worked hard to build your auction, market it, and get your guests checked in. Now, earn more by keeping your bidders bidding at your event. Adding excitement to your event keeps your participants from checking out early. Use these tips to engage your guests so you can drive donations and bids to reach your fundraising goals.

Choose your auctioneer wisely

The auctioneer for your event should be capable of keeping energy high at your event. Pumping up under-performing auction items, encouraging (healthy) bid wars, and pushing for day-of event purchases and donations is key to a high-performing auction event.

Someone who is low energy, afraid of public speaking, or has the wrong attitude can quickly sour your event. Instead, focus on emcees who are devoted to making your fundraiser a success. Focus your search on likeable people who are either from your organization or care about your mission. Choosing a beloved local celebrity who is known for charity work is also a great option.

However, if you want a pro to help you host a live auction event, look for a professional auctioneer. In fact, go one step further and seek out an auctioneer with their Benefit Auctioneer Specialist credential. These are auctioneers who have taken classes on charity auction best practices and have been the auctioneer for at least six benefit auctions in their career. They’ve been trained to help nonprofits raise more at their charity auctions. To search for an auctioneer in your area, search the National Auctioneers Association membership directory. To pinpoint auctioneers with a knack for charity auctions, make sure to select Benefits&Charity from the Specialty drop-down menu on the left of their search form.

National Auctioneers Association Auctioneer Search Form

Offer other engagement opportunities

Yes, attendees of your auction event are there for the auction. That doesn’t mean you can’t create additional opportunities to engage your guests at your event! There are several ways to earn money at your event besides the auction itself.

Sell drink tickets

Drink tickets are a useful way of keeping guests from overindulging at the bar, while also making money serving them drinks. Make a cocktail and drink menu for your event. Then, find out which cocktail has the highest cost to make and charge more than that per drink ticket. This ensures every drink ordered turns a profit for your organization.

It should go without saying, but be sure to check state and local laws regarding serving alcohol at your fundraising event. Make sure you’re abiding by all applicable liquor laws.

Engage guests with a game of chance game

When your guests bid on an auction item, they’re hoping to win. Keep your event playful and competitive by incorporating games of chance. One format that works well for both casual and formal events is incorporating a prize pull in the evening’s festivities. This type of game can be run throughout the evening without interfering with the auction. It’s a great way to engage guests who’ve gotten tired of the auction portion of the evening.

To host a prize pull, decide on a prize type. This can be restaurant gift cards, or, if your event is open to adults only, consider bottles of wine, or six packs of different kinds of craft beer. To be successful, the prizes should appeal to your audience. Get these items donated to your organization. Then, conceal the prizes in gift bags or boxes that are numbered.

Create tickets that are numbered up to the number of prizes you have available. Then, sell the tickets at the cost of the least expensive prize. This way your guests can win a prize worth more than they paid without risk of paying more for a prize than it’s worth.

The tickets should be drawn at random when guests purchase a ticket. Then, they match the ticket with their prize to see what they’ve won. There’s an element of anticipation and mystery because guests don’t know what they’ll win. Encourage participation in this event by making announcements throughout the evening or until all tickets are purchased and prizes are claimed.

Ask guests to fund a need

It’s more than likely that attendees at your event are just as interested in helping your organization as they are winning prizes. Before the end of your event, have the emcee tell attendees what their donations, bids, and purchases at the event are going to fund. Introduce the problems your organization seeks to solve, and let attendees know how they can help. Engage your guests by making them the driving force behind the difference you’re making.

For instance, if you feed the homeless, ask donors to donate a set amount to feed a homeless person for a week. Ask guests to publicly show their support of your mission by raising their bid paddles (or their hands) to be counted among those who will donate to help those you serve. To encourage guests to act quickly and pledge their support, set a specific number of donations you need to reach. When people start pledging their support, have your volunteers or staff collect their information from them. Celebrate what they’re helping you accomplish and encourage others to step up and follow their example.

Accept tips for services

If you have a wealth of volunteers, ask them to perform services for guests in exchange for tips. Having event volunteers acting as wait staff, bartenders, valets, and as the concierge for your event can make your eventgoers feel appreciated and taken care of. In exchange, make it possible for your most trustworthy volunteers to accept tips throughout the night. However, explain to guests that their tips will be treated as donations and collected at the end of the evening.

If you can find entertainers to play music or perform at your event, place a tip jar on the stage during their performance and ask that guests tip the entertainers to show their gratitude for the performance. Reiterate that these tips will be donated to the organization.


These are just a few ways you can encourage bids, donations, and purchases at your auction fundraiser. Don’t rely solely on your auction items to hit your auction fundraising goal. Instead, choose a personable, high energy auctioneer. Local celebrities, volunteers, employees, or even a professional auctioneer with charitable auction experience are great choices. The right personality can keep attendees pumped for the entire event. Armed with the right person behind the microphone, you can engage your audience in several ways to raise additional funds and encourage bidding. Announce when drink ticket sales start, incorporate games of chance, solicit donations, and ask guests to tip for exceptional entertainment and service. What’s key to your auction’s success is providing a great experience from start to finish. Check out these other helpful blog posts to make your auction event a huge success.

How to obtain in-kind donations for auctions and what auction items work

Pre-Auction engagement: tips to build a buzz before your auction

Auction check-in strategies to get guests from parking lot to punch bowl quickly

Auction checkout strategies: make it easy so guests can get their swag and get going

Did you know?

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