How many items should we have in our live fundraising auction?

How many live auction items should we have?  This is one of the most popular questions asked when planning a fundraising auction event.

In a standard “Gala style” event with silent auction, welcome speech, live auction and fund a need there is what’s called a “Golden Hour”.  I would suggest that an hour for a live auction at a fundraiser is a bit too much, but it is a good rule of thumb to keep your live auction no more than one hour long.  I really like to be more in the range of 30-45 minutes if possible.  

Now, that brings up the question: “How many items does that mean we can sell?”  A good professional fundraising auctioneer will take around 3 minutes per item (including the item description).  If you do the math that means that 15 items are the most you should be selling, but ideally you want to stay between 8-10.  Be careful of filling the auction with lower quality items just to say you have ten items!  I would rather have quality, not quantity in the live auction; even if that means having an auction with 4-5 items.  You only have a short attention span with your guests, so make it count!
Written by Mike Grigg, AARE, BAS