Who’s Invited? What to Know About Auction Event Attendees
As your organization begins to plan its next auction event, there are a lot of moving pieces you’ll need to keep track of. From determining your venue and dining options to finding the right auction items, your focus needs to span several departments within your nonprofit.
But one thing that needs extra careful attention is your guest list. Who’s invited? Who on your list will make the largest impact by bidding on your items?
Planning your auction event means learning more about your attendees. Without them, your event won’t raise the funds needed to keep working toward your mission. That’s why we’ve compiled strategies you can use to learn about your attendees. These tips include:
- Conduct prospect research to learn about your attendees.
- Leverage registration software to gather attendee information.
- Procure items that appeal to attendees.
- Tailor your outreach and event based on attendee types.
The success of your auction event depends on learning key traits about your attendees and making them most of them. Let’s get started!
1. Conduct prospect research to learn about your attendees.
Part of learning about your auction guests means understanding the capacity with which they can contribute to your organization and what areas they like to support. Major donor prospects are excellent individuals to include on your guest list; just take the time to research them first.
Prospect research entails finding, understanding, and cultivating prospects with the greatest capacity and who have the highest chance of giving to your organization. All of this is based on wealth and affinity, meaning they don’t only have the capacity to donate, but they have a willingness to give.
To determine an individual’s affinity to give, you should look at:
- Previous giving to nonprofits
- Past interactions with your organization
- Past nonprofit involvement
- Lifestyle and interests
From there, you can leverage wealth indicators that speak to an individual’s capacity to give, which can include:
- Real estate ownership
- Size of gifts
- And more!
These indicators combined should give you a good idea of major gift prospects to invite to your auction. Be sure to coordinate with your Major Gift Officer or development colleague in charge of major donors, to ensure you have a strategy and plan for engaging them at the actual event.
Once the event is up and running, work with your major gift officer to ensure there is personalized face-to-face outreach throughout the evening to build connections with them.
Executing on Major Gifts strategy for your auction attendees can substantially increase donations during the bidding and live appeal process. It also ensures you are working with your Major Gifts team to support without jeopardizing or conflicting with their longer term asks.
Be sure to incorporate prospect research into your learning process to get the most from your larger donor strategies.
2. Leverage registration software to gather attendee information.
Apart from identifying major gift prospects, your staff should also be focused on tailoring the event to be conscientious of individual attendees.
By leveraging robust mobile bidding and auction software, you can dramatically streamline the registration process to ensure you create a personalized and tailored guest experience. These include:
- Food preferences
- Dietary restrictions
- Seating preferences
- Surnames, preferred names, titles, and company affiliations
- And more
If you simplify the process of accommodating each attendee’s preferences, you’ll leave your guests with a great impression of your organization and your event.
Part of your event also revolves around building strong relationships with your guests so that they’ll not only enjoy your event, but build a connection for future engagement. This means making sure each interaction with your event is simple and easy.
Your registration software should allow you to:
- Seamlessly capture guest information
- Process credit cards and registration onsite
- Help guests log into mobile bidding for the auction
- Provide automated receipting
Creating a positive guest experience builds affinity and encourages them to continue participating in your fundraising. Using auction software will make the entire registration (and later the checkout) process simpler for everyone. Since all your attendee information will be tracked in the platform, registering guests and taking tickets will be easy.
Cultivate long-lasting relationships with your attendees by leveraging robust auction software with registration features that simplify the process for everyone involved!
3. Procure items that appeal to attendees.
Once you’ve leveraged prospect research and gathered more information about your attendees, you’ll want to use this data to inform your item procurement process. Your organization should already have an item procurement team that finds ideal items that will encourage high bids.
Be sure your team studies the donor data you have available to gain a better understanding of which auction items will appeal to your guest list:
According to the OneCause guide to auction item procurement, you should understand what your supporters are interested in. People bid on items that are meaningful or useful to them. Consider the hobbies and interests of your supporter base, what’s hot in your area and at other auctions; this provides the big picture on which items they might find appealing.
You also need to choose items that fit into your attendees’ budget. Determine the various income levels of your supporters and ensure you have the right mix of items to meet your bidder capacity.
In order to procure items that appeal to your attendees (based on the data you’ve already gathered), your procurement team should:
- Leverage personal connections to obtain donated items.
- Look to businesses and retailers who may be willing to partner with your organization and donate their products or services.
- Tell your nonprofit’s story and explain your organization and cause to increase the chances of receiving donations.
Your auction software should also allow you to track the status of your donations and keep all of your data in one centralized place. When you stay on top of your data and learn about what items your attendees would be most interested in, you’ll set your event up for success!
4. Tailor your outreach and event based on attendee types.
As a nonprofit organization, you’re probably already familiar with the idea of segmenting your donors. The same idea applies to your auction event attendees. According to the OneCause silent auction planning guide, you should take a multichannel marketing approach, using direct mail, email, social media, and other outlets for contacting and inviting attendees.
But beyond these channels, you should also tailor your outreach and event based on the registration data you’ve been gathering. In order to start forming individualized outreach strategies, look for information like:
- First-time versus returning guests. Learn which guests are first-time attendees and differentiate them from guests who have previously attended your events. You’ll want to incorporate different outreach strategies for each grouping of individuals. For example, extend a welcome to first-time attendees and provide more information about your organization and its mission.
- Connections between individuals. Be on the lookout for connections attendees might have with one another. For example, a small business owner who’s attending your auction might have sponsored an event for another group of attendees. Or, they might have attended a university together. Learn where people have connections with each other so you can make them more comfortable at your event.
- Seating charts. Plan your seating chart so that each staff member involved with the event is seated at a table with at least one important prospect you’d like to cultivate a relationship with. This will ensure these attendees have a personalized and unique experience interacting with your organization and are more inclined to support it.
Running an auction takes a lot of planning and coordinating, especially for your staff. If you focus on forming deeper and more personal relationships with each of your prospects, they will feel valued and become more likely to support your organization.
Tailor your outreach and keep in mind the connections your attendees have with you and with one another. From there, you’ll be on your way to hosting a successful event and raising the funds you need.
Auctions are one of the most impactful nonprofit fundraising ideas you can leverage. When you procure the right items and understand your audience, you can raise a lot of funds in a short period of time. But it’s important to plan in advance and think about how you can make your attendees comfortable, which will lend itself to a positive guest experience and more support.
About the Author
Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.