This article discusses three data categories to consider when planning your school’s auction.

How to Use Previous Auction Data to Inform Your Strategy

If you’ve held an auction before, you know the importance of data collection. From large nonprofit auction galas to online school auctions, data is the secret weapon for unlocking success. And, with new auction software that includes data reporting and visualization tools, your school can easily inform your auction strategy with past data.

But, what type of data should your school analyze? To save your team time sifting through data points, we’ve provided a list of three types of auction-related data to prioritize:

If you’re new to collecting data, know that it takes the guesswork associated with campaign planning out of the way, so you can see what’s really driving your fundraising performance. To get the most accurate information for your school’s upcoming auction, pay special attention to your most recent data and prioritize keeping recent, high-impact donor data clean and relevant.

That said, let’s explore how data can inform your auction planning approach.

Audience Data

How well do you know your bidders? With audience data, your school should be able to access a full picture of your community and supporters. Start by analyzing your attendees from previous years, paying close attention to the following categories:

  • Demographics: Discover your target audience’s average age, gender, geographic location, and family status. Accessing this information will give you insight into how to best communicate your marketing efforts. For example, you might note that families in your community with preschool age children come to your auctions less frequently. To help these families, you might explore options for making your auction more family-oriented, such as hosting it earlier in the day or partnering with the local high school to offer babysitting services.
  • Previous engagement: Look into your audience’s previous event attendance and volunteer status to get an idea of their familiarity with your school. As most of your guests will likely be the parents and family members of your students, consider how you can show off a different side of your school, such as by asking the school jazz band to perform or using student art projects as decorations.
  • Donation history: To set optimal fundraising goals, research your audience’s frequency and recency of donations. Additionally, pinpoint their average donation amount to set reasonable fundraising expectations. Schools can also take their community’s average tax bracket into account to ensure they set reasonable prices for auction items.
  • Interests and hobbies: What sort of activities or events does your audience enjoy? Use social media appending services to understand what types of auction items would appeal to your supporters. You can also get your students to help as kids often like to share what they know about their parents’ hobbies and interests.

Understanding your key audience data can be extremely helpful for making tricky auction decisions. For instance, a quick look at your audience preferences could provide insight into which items are worth procuring and which ones might be best to re-evaluate for the coming years.

Auction Item Data

Analyze auction item data to discover bidding trends and find out which items generated the most interest, bidding activity, and profitability. Doing this will help your school set an effective pricing strategy and avoid procuring historically low-performing auction items. advises taking special note of these pricing metrics from previous years’ bidding process:

  • Starting bids: In addition to researching market value, your school should take note of the starting bid amounts that generated interest and adjust your beginning price points accordingly.
  • Minimum bid increments: Typically, bid increments are set at 10% or 15% of an item’s fair market value (FMV), but if a similar item from last year performed better than expected, you might consider lowering the increment to closer to 10% FMV for this year’s auction to incite competitive bidding.
  • Buy-it-now data: For particularly high-value items like a weekend getaway you might offer a buy-it-now option. Buy-it-now options can ensure you will receive at least a certain high amount for these prizes. However, keep in mind that a bidding war may drive up the price even beyond your buy-it-now option. Refer to your past data to see how these types of items performed and whether a buy-it-now option has the potential to earn your school more.

Prior to your event, arrange a time to meet in person as a group with your high-impact school donors. List out auction items that your school is considering procuring and ask them which ones are most appealing or if they have any other suggestions. Thank supporters for their time and recommendations. Then update your item data with their choices.

Campaign Data

When planning your organization’s campaign, refer to the above audience and auction item data as well as previous campaign benchmarks. From there, you can create an actionable communication strategy to get school families excited about your auction.

Investigate which platforms parents most often use and adjust your strategy accordingly. For instance, many schools have a primary Facebook page that lists school-wide updates or a weekly email newsletter. Double the Donation’s guide to digital marketing suggests monitoring these channels as you launch your campaign to discover which ones are most effective.

Make adjustments as necessary to find the most efficient way to reach and engage your school community. If your email open rates are low, for instance, experiment with your subject lines to find catchier, more urgent phrases that better capture the value of your upcoming auction.

Data is the key to informing your auction planning process. Reference previous audience, auction items, and campaign data points to discover your baseline metrics. From there, you can supplement your data with new insights to refine your strategy.

Remember to also track data throughout your campaign, so that you can rely on it for upcoming campaigns. You’ve got this!