Fundraising is the life blood of every not-for-profit organization. Yet far too many organization make the common mistake of leaving money on the table—that is, failing to identify and capture revenue that is available.

Remember, even in a down economy, people are willing to give, especially if you make it fun and easy for them.

Events with auctions are one way to give contributors a good time and allow them to feel good about giving and good about receiving something at a perceived discount. It is an easier sell to give when they get in return. Done right, benefit auctions do very well; but done wrong, they are simply a missed opportunity – in other words – Money Left On the Table.

If you have the event with a room full of people willing to contribute, the worst thing you can do is not take that opportunity to the maximum level and achieve maximum fundraising dollars. But yet, it happens all the time. Here are the top common mistakes that can result in Money Left on the Table.

Underestimating Your Audience. Just like in marketing, you target your market and try to bring them a product they want. Even though you are auctioning donated items at live or silent auction, don’t shortchange the contributions you can get by overestimating the appeal of your items and the interest of your contributors by chalking it up to “it’s for charity”. Yes it is, but if your items don’t ring the bell with your audience, neither will your contributions ring your cash register, so to speak. You need to know them and know what they want.

Not Marketing Your Items: Push the items, push the items, push the items. You are in sales at this point. If you think, put a clipboard out and they will come, you are going to leave money on the table and in their pockets. Market Your Items before the event and during the event at every opportunity. Our company even provides ways to do that which gets people interested and hooked on certain items even before they walk in the door. Competition and interest raises prices and money. Passive interest is just a sad missed opportunity.

Bad Presentation: Yes. Presentation is Everything. Many organizers put all the efforts into the ethereal decorations. The centerpieces, the venue, the table cloths, the invitations. All important to create the mood – yes. But then when it comes to the auction items, they shove some clip boards on a tablecloth with some of the items on the tables and hope for the best. Even if the prime rib was aged and cured and cooked to perfection, if it was on a paper plate with a plastic fork and knife, it is not as appealing. In a Live or Silent auction, you need to pay attention to the marketing of the items to draw and keep the attention of potential contributors.

Ignore the Masses. A fraction of your potential contributor base with come to a particular event. Work, schedules, no babysitters, or it just isn’t there thing. But that doesn’t mean they may not buy anything. Get them involved by offering the products to your entire database. We use virtual auctions to do this very thing and increase donations by increasing participation.

Not Focusing on the Prize. Just like in the presentation, often all the other details of the food and the entertainment garner all the attention from your committee and the fundraising loses the battle. Focus needs to be put on every detail of the auctions to ensure you get maximum donations. Timing, placement, sound, lighting, and as discussed before, presentation in the auctions are as vital to success as ensuring you have enough chairs and wait staff for dinner. It is vital and often overlooked or shrugged off. Anything can derail your efforts to increase donations. This should be priority one.

Not Hiring a professional. Everyone can cook a meal, but you wouldn’t cook the event dinner yourself. So why wouldn’t you hire a professional to get the maximum dollars for your event? Even the best volunteers are not going to get the job done as well. They don’t have the time, knowledge or expertise to know exactly how to maximize donations. And let’s face it, often; you don’t have the best volunteers. People sometimes don’t have time or they are not reliable and one or a couple poor people end up doing everything and pulling their hair out. Or even if everyone pitches in, they still don’t know how to do it. It really is not as simple as it looks. But it can make all the difference. Studies show that people who use professional auction companies to handle their auctions get the maximum donations and increase their donations well beyond the cost of the professional services.

So avoid the pitfalls. Don’t leave money on the table. The people who benefit from the vital services your organization provides are counting on you to maximize your success and then put those dollars to good use.

Zaffarano Auctioneers has more than a decade of experience in the benefit auction arena—serving some of the largest national and local charities. Our turnkey variety of benefit (live and virtual) auction and event services allows each organization big or small to maximize donations with ease.

Ready to move forward? We are! Please call us at 312-404-9436 or visit for information or a free fundraising auction consultation.