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Benefit Auctions: How To Set Realistic Fundraising Goals with Bid Units

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When it comes to fundraising events, what’s something Auction Chairs ALWAYS get excited about?

Attendance numbers!

“We’re going to have 500 people in attendance. Hooray!”

Congratulations.. that is exciting… BUT (and you knew there was a but coming) just because you have a guest list of 500 people in your audience, please DO NOT assume that you will also have 500 BUYERS in your audience.

You want to create an event that is a SELLERS’ market, NOT a buyers market.

Always plan your Benefit Auction to be a Sellers’ Market to maximize your percentage of giving in the room.

Imagine you have 500 attendees coming to your event, and the majority will be arriving as couples. To be on the safe side, let’s divide that by 2, and we get 250 BID UNITS in attendance.

Bid Units determine how many wallets (or budgets) are actually in play. Unless every person coming to your event is coming solo!

Generally, when couples attend an event together, they’ll spend their money as ONE, one budget, one checking account, one BID UNIT.

So when you’re looking at the potential fundraising in the room, it’s best to plan based on a realistic number of Bid Units.

If not, you may be way off base with your fundraising goals, and we want you to be THRILLED with your success.


So why are bid units so important?

Because when you start planning, you want to create an event that is a SELLERS’ market, NOT a buyers market.

And when you know how many bid units you’re likely to have, you can be the MOST strategic when planning the elements of your evening, including the number of Live and Silent auction packages, Silent auction games, and the number of gifts you can expect in the Special Appeal/Fund-a-Need.


There should always be FEWER ITEMS in the live and silent auctions than there are BID UNITS in attendance. This also applies to silent auction activities.

It’s likely that folks will only be actively participating for about an hour to an hour and a half. If you go crazy on the number of activities OR the number of opportunities WITHIN an activity, you can end up with extra items that you’ll have to tote back to the office.

And when it comes to the APPEAL, there are only so many Bid Units AVAILABLE to help you reach your goal, so with realistic numbers you can invest your time WISELY and be strategic about the gifts you’ll need to receive in order to make your event a success.

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