Key and Early Benefit Auction Planning Decisions

How to plan your best event yet - five key decisions

When we work with nonprofit and school groups, we emphasize making these five decisions early in your planning process:

  • Auctioneer
  • Venue
  • Event Date
  • Audio-Visual Company
  • Caterer

Consider these the building blocks around which you will create your event.  Interviewing and obtaining quotes from these professional service providers, and choosing them early in your planning process makes your job easier, and establishes firm groundwork for a fun and profitable fundraising event!

Proactive Planning


Auctioneers that specialize in planning & conducting benefit auctions increasingly book their clients a year or more in advance.

Smaller groups are often an exception but not always. Get your name in early when reaching out and interviewing these professionals. Even if you haven’t decided on a date for your event but have found the auctioneer you would like to work with, ask him or her if they can put a soft hold on one or two dates for you. We do this at Auctions For Good occasionally and can let you know if another client is considering the same date. We’ll contact you first to ask if your date is firm.

Also, to get your event off on the right foot, choose an auctioneer with the BAS (Benefit Auctioneer Specialist) designation. Auctioneers with this designation have received specialized training from the National Auctioneers Association in all aspects of fundraising auctions. You will be leagues ahead in your fundraising efforts if you make this decision and will be pleased with the insight and value they can bring to your event.


Select the space that will set the tone for your event.

You might be surprised at how many groups, small and large, plan their annual galas one or two years in advance and secure their favorite venue at the same time. Do your research, act early and don’t be caught off guard trying to find that perfect home for your event. Room size, capacity (seated and standing), cost, distance from your core supporters, A/V amenities, parking, etc. need to be taken into account.


You may be surprised how important it is to make this decision early

Consider what month of the year will work best for your group and your supporters. This is different for every nonprofit and school and a number of factors - including availability of venues, auctioneer, A/V company and caterers comes into play. Enlist opinions from your key event organizers, board members or PTA, as this decision should not be made in a vacuum.  Consider holiday conflicts, and events in your community - including related non-profits or other schools.

As important as the above areas are, imagine a fundraising auction with poor sound or visual presentation quality.

The impact these two components have on a fundraising event cannot be overstated. Take the time to interview companies that fit your budget and needs. There are numerous A/V companies in the Portland area that charge a range of fees - we have worked with many of them and are happy to offer recommendations. Visit the Partners section of our website to see a list of respected providers of these services, and don't hesitate to contact us to explore the options that will work best for your event.

I hate to put this category in last position since I love food!

Good food is a pillar of a successful event but it does not eclipse the first four areas. As with the other areas, choosing a catering company that will make and serve your food is important: you may want a barbecue style dinner or vegetarian bash - fancy hors d'oeuvres or down-home informal. Whatever fare you choose, book the catering company as far in advance as you can. 

When should these decisions be made?

Some of our clients announce the date of their next event at the end of their current gala, from the stage and with their supporters present. This is ideal but not practical for many groups, so 6 – 9 months in advance is a good range to work with. The earlier the better for everyone involved.


If you have questions about planning your next fundraiser, contact us - we would love to talk with you! We offer a complimentary consultation that we are confident will get you going in the right direction for your next fundraising event.