Can $20 of wine make you $200 during a live auction? Can a six pack of beer make you $150 or more? How about a stuffed toy? Can it make you an extra $1,500? …The answer each time is yes!

Sometimes during a Live Auction, when there are two active bidders one of them will eventually begin to fade, making way for the winning bidder.  For a variety of reasons, one person may lose interest and stop bidding even though she was excited and fully engaged at the start. Meanwhile, the lead bidder is still raring to go so he gets the chance to take the prized item home. So, how do you reboot the excitement and get the most out of your Live Auction?

One trick up the sleeve of a professional benefit auctioneer is to have a secret incentive or two handy in this scenario. He or she can simply pull out a surprise bottle of wine, a six pack of beer or soda, and offer it to the person who stopped bidding. ...Now, I know what you're thinking, "The  value of those incentives is modest, so why would something like that work?"

I'll offer you four reasons:

  1. The technique of “If you bid once more I’ll throw in this [name your incentive]" ups the fun factor and gets the rest of the crowd into the cheerleading game, which many bidders love!
  2. Smart nonprofits know that engaging the large percentage of folks who won’t or can’t bid during the Live Auction is an important strategy because fun equates to great memories, and great memories can mean significant word of mouth about your event this year, making ticket sales that much easier next year.
  3. The math is simple. If the bidding is growing at $100 increments a skilled benefit auctioneer will be able to entice each person to bid one more time for $100 each--thus making $200 on a $20 bottle of wine. I have used soda, wine, beer, stuffed animals and $10 bills from my pocket to encourage a person to give again. And, many times the bidding continues on without any further incentive. …Recently I used two stuffed animals to encourage bidders and they increased their giving by $1,500!
  4. These small incentives can be tied to your sponsors, your organization’s cause, or simply to a fun item that has been donated to your event.

Used in a timely way, this idea can kick-start a slowing auction, engage your audience in a fun way and add significant dollars to your bottom line!