Bid paddles are usually not necessary for a live auction. When the bidding gets down to the final bids, there are usually only two or three bidders in the running; so it’s easy for the auctioneer to spot the winner. However, it is important for an auction staffer or volunteer to immediately get to the winning bidder and have them sign a receipt and pay for the item. If the winner fails to sign a receipt for the item, and decides to “skip out” without paying at the end of the evening, the organization can’t very well reconvene the auction and open the bidding again.
Numbered bid paddles may seem like the solution, but they are not problem-free. First, at registration, your organization will have to assign each guest a bid paddle and bid paddle number. You’ll have to keep track of the guest’s name and the corresponding bid paddle number. (Believe it or not, we once had an organization that handed out numbered paddles with no record of who got which number!) You can’t track winning bids, if you don’t know which guest has which number.
That brings up another problem. The paddles are cumbersome, so guests don’t like carrying them throughout the cocktail hour. They may put their paddles down and forget where they left them or even pick up someone else’s. If that happens, they are then bidding with someone else’s number! That becomes a nightmare to resolve at the end of the evening.
Furthermore, issuing bid paddles and bid paddle numbers requires people to commit to bidding or making donations before they even know what they might be bidding on or what they are supporting. That sometimes doesn’t sit too well with them. At registration they may simply refuse to accept a bid paddle, or they might take one, but deliberately drop it as soon as they can, because they haven’t yet been given a good reason to support the organization beyond what they paid to attend the event.
Having numbered bid paddles can help with your Open Ask. It’s easy to ask donors to raise their paddles if they are going to support you at a certain level. That way your auctioneer or representative can call off the numbers to a donations administrator so your supporters’ donations can be added to their summary “invoice” at the end of the evening. But again, what if table mates’ paddles get mixed up and one supporter raises the wrong paddle number to donate? That can make for a nightmare at checkout and might cost you precious donations.
So what’s the solution?
Have volunteers ready to check out live auction items and donations in real time as the winning bids and donations come in. This requires a well-coordinated system, but gets the money immediately and prevents problems at end-of-evening check out. Auction winners and donors are also pleased not to have to wait in line at the end of the evening to pay for their generosity!
If you are having a live auction, contact AmFund about how to do an efficient instant checkout during your live auction and open ask.