Oct 1, 2019

You asked, we answered. Turn Data into Donations Q+A

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No organization on the planet has perfect data. Not one. So know this: wherever you are on the data-health spectrum, you still have valuable insights that can supercharge your growth. IF you know where to look.
We hosted a webinar, Turn Data into Donations, in September. You can download the full recording of the webinar here. We didn’t have time to get to all of the questions that participants submitted through the chat, so here are the answers…
  • What is the average percent over FMV are you getting on Silent Auction Items? We use 76% as our benchmark. 
    • This depends on the items within each auction. 76% is a great benchmark!
  • Is there proof that an online auction leading up to event is more successful than just auction at event? 
    • We can’t report exactly how much more you’ll make in your auction if you open it early, but it will give donors an opportunity to get into the site, see items, get excited, and start bidding! How your organization decides to promote the auction early will impact its success.
  • Do you find that starting at more than 35% of retail value there are many [guests] who cannot afford and has any event ended up with leftover items because it was priced too high for the silent auction, for example? 
    • We recommend starting bidding at 30-50% of FMV. This is a range because it depends on your donors and their ability to give. It also is contingent upon the types of items that you have. For example, if you have a lot of items that have a set value (gift cards, iPad, bike, etc.) you must be conscious as donors will know immediately when they’re overpaying for something. When items are leftover at auctions it can be for a variety of reasons: priced too high, too niche, not relevant to donors, too common, etc.
  • How many people do you have working on uploading the photos, details, price etc. for the silent auction and how many pieces do you normally have on silent auction? 
    • Every organization operates differently. We have customers who work with entire auction committees to get their sites up and running, and we have customers who are a one-person team putting together an entire event. We recommend 1 auction item to every 5 guests for a silent auction size, but this is just a suggestion, not a rule of thumb.
  • We’ve used gift certificates that are $100 or more in value on a super raffle with a raffle ticket of $50. Should a gift certificate be used as a silent auction or better as a door prize? It seems like it would be hard to ask for a dollar amount on a gift certificate. Your opinion? 
    • Gift certificates work well as raffle prizes or auction items! This is up to your team. Consider if what you’d make from the gift card in raffle sales is higher than the value of the gift card. Typically, in auctions guests stop bidding on gift cards when it reaches face value. If your raffle tickets are $50 do you think more than two guests will purchase raffle tickets for that item? If your raffle tickets are $5 do you think more than 20 people would buy raffle tickets for that gift card.
  • We use an auctioneer and only write down the winning bidder for Live Auction? How can we track how many times something is bid on or who bids and doesn’t win? 
    • In this situation, you can have spotters dedicated to writing down every paddle that’s raised for each item, and how many times. Then, of course capture the final, winning bid. This will work best if you have paddles with numbers (compared to hand raises). If you think this will move to fast, have someone videotape the live appeal on their phone so that you can watch and record the numbers when the event is over. With paddle numbers, you can then figure out which donor those are tied to, then telling you who was bidding, and what they were willing to give.
  • Do you have any advice on auctioning or raffling off sports tickets? 
    • When auctioning sports tickets, package them as an experience or make sure the tickets you have are perceived as valuable seats and for a valuable game/experience. There needs to be a feel that they couldn’t go out and get those same tickets themselves. 
  • What is the best time to open a silent auction? 3 weeks prior to last open day? 
    • Our best practice advice is to open your auction 7-10 days prior to its close date.
  • I am brand new to this organization and I have unfortunately found that because our gala has not gone digital yet (still using paper & pen silent auction) there has been very little data collected over the years. Any advice on where/how I should start?? It doesn’t look like we are going to be moving toward mobile bidding yet, so is there a way we can still collect data?  
    • Keep all records! Even if that means paper, keep bid sheets from the night of your event, see who wrote their names down, see who won. Keep your guest lists. You can start by comparing attendees (both numbers and names) from previous years. If you have a live auction or appeal, write down who participates, what the items are, and what they sell for.
  • What items have been the highest performers in a silent auction? 
  • We did a survey of past and potential event participants, and some responded that they come with a “budget,” and will either bid, or give to the appeal based on which comes first in the program. Given that, should we still do the appeal first? 
    • It sounds like if your donors are participating in whatever come first, they might opt to participate in the appeal up front. If that’s the case and they “spend their budget” in the appeal, it might decrease participation in the auction. However, if guests know the auction items in advance they will hold out for an auction item they really want. When it comes to deciding the order of programming consider the way you’re promoting auction items and how donors have given in the past.
  • Do most groups show FMV to guests? If not why, why not.  
    • We don’t recommend showing FMV because it tends to cap bids at whatever FMV is displayed. Most organizations do not display the FMV, or they may display it only for items where the donor likely will not know the actual value (I.e. a piece of jewelry or art).  
  • Do most groups use Buy it Now? 
    • Many organizations will set Buy Now prices during an auction that is often 300% higher than the FMV. This insures a high return on items, if a donor wants it enough. If you’re using GiveSmart, silent auction items that don’t sell will automatically switch to Buy It Now items so that they can still be purchased, despite the auction being closed. Contact your Customer Success Manager if you have further questions regarding Buy It Now.
  • My vendor turnout was better than I had hoped for [this year], customer turnout, on the other hand, was not so well. How can I increase this? 
    • When you look at customer turnout you also should look at how you promoted the event. Ask yourself a few questions: how far in advance did you advertise? How did you advertise? Did you personally ask people to attend? Did you encourage attendees to bring three friends? Were ticket sales a reasonable price for your community? This blog further explains increasing attendance at your next event.
  • We have a raffle going right now with the drawing being held in November. Do you think this is ample time for a raffle? 
    • Yes! One thing to keep in mind while you promote the raffle is to break up your target audience so that you’re reminding people at different times. You don’t want people to feel overloaded by constant reminders. With all promotions remember to include the date + time that the raffle will end!
  • When opening the auction early, do you recommend opening to only view items or the ability to bid early as well? 
    • The ability to bid as well! If guests are in there looking at items, let them bid if they see something that they like! This will get the bid momentum going, and it will benefit them in case they forget to go back and bid. For live auction items, you’ll keep those at preview only.
  • Considering doing the silent auction before the event but wonder how to track bids done online while also keeping track of donors bidding during the event. We have done our silent auction at the event using pen and paper for people to put in their bids. Would we close out the online bids by a certain date and time and incorporating those numbers on the paper at the time of the event? This would probably help us to generate more donations if we did it this way but not sure how to do it. 
    • This can be done! If you’d like to open the auction online in advance of your event you just need to close online bidding the day of your event. Make this day and time known to online bidders. Then, at your event, have the starting bid (on paper) be whatever the last bid was online. The only thing to consider here is that people who were bidding online might not be present at your event, so they’ll miss out on bidding. If you continue to have mobile bidding throughout the night of your event everyone can continue to participate.
  • Who is the target audience for getting items donated for a silent auction? 
    • Think of your donors. Chances are, they’re part of your community, so start local. Local businesses, art institutes, and sports teams are a great place to start. From there, think larger scale companies that can be enjoyed by everyone (for example, airline tickets). Whoever you ask for donations, be sure to show them the connection between your organization and their business.
  • What is the target FMV on a Silent Auction Item? 
    • You should aim to start bidding at 30% of an items FMV (fair market value). The average FMV for your auction items will depend on your donors and scale of the event. We encourage a variety of price points to make giving more inclusive.  


Head here for upcoming live webinars!


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County