At any live auction there are usually three types of supporters in the crowd. The first is a guest who feels the price of admission was enough charity and doesn’t plan to bid on any item. The second is an enthusiastic guest that has money in his pocket and is willing to bid as high as necessary to get an item and help the charity in the process. The third is what I refer to as a “supportive bidder.”
Supportive bidders are there to have fun. And, they are there to help the charity maximize its fundraising effort by bidding on items simply to get the price of the item up.
I’m not referring to a “plant” or a “shill.” A charity should never place a person in the room whose only purpose is to compete with other bidders with the intention of never actually winning a bid.
A supportive bidder does this on his or her own accord. They are really “soft bidders.” By that I mean if they bid on an item and would happen to get it they are happy. But, their real purpose is to make more money for the charity by getting others to bid higher – especially if they feel the current bids are below the items true value.
An auctioneer often doesn’t know who the supportive bidders are until the live auction actually starts. However, by reading a bidder’s body language and mannerisms a professional benefit auctioneer can spot them rather quickly and use them to the charity’s advantage.
When bidding on an item is slow or if a current bid is far below what I think an item should sell for I find myself drifting towards the supportive bidders as a means to get the ball rolling a little faster – and the bids a little higher. I think most of the time they know that I know what they are doing and they usually play along.
So remember, no “plants” or “shills.” But keep in mind supportive bidders are in the room and can play a key role in your fundraising success – if the auctioneer knows how to spot them – and use them for your benefit.