Benefit Auctioneer Keith McLane of KLM Auctions and his team of 8 will perform close to 225 events this year. Based in San Francisco and armed with over 1,000 successful events, we asked Keith some hard-hitting questions that will help you raise more money, minimize missteps and create a buzz at your next fundraiser.

What is one BIG mistake organizations make the night of their event?

Underestimating the difficulty of moving everyone from the standing/cocktail/silent auction area to the seated/dining area in a timely fashion.  This is the number one killer of timelines!  You can flicker the lights, ring some chimes, have the auctioneer announce that dinner is starting, and ask everyone to move, but the only thing that really works is to have an army of volunteers who are prepared to politely interrupt individual conversations, ask people to move to the main dining area, and then stand there awkwardly as they wait for the guests to actually start moving.

How many items should an organization put in the live auction?

On average, an item will be sold every three to three-and-a-half minutes.   For many events, we recommend including 10-15 items in the live auction, depending on the amount of time you’d like to dedicate to your live auction, the number of high-interest / higher-value live auction items you are able to procure, the number of attendees you expect, and, most importantly how much money you wish to raise.

What kind of items do you suggest for a live auction?

Wine tasting trips, sporting events, golf vacations, weekend or week-long stints at vacation homes, unique outings or experiences, family-friendly vacation packages and dinners for multiple patrons at restaurants or private residences are some good ones. These types of items have widespread appeal, meaning most people in your audience would love to win any of these items at the right price.

In what order should and organization put the live auction items?

Mix it up. Don’t put two dinners next to each other. Spread fun and bigger ticket items throughout the auction. Don’t put expensive items first or second. It can take a few items for people to warm up. Put the most expensive items around the middle to third quarter. 

When should you start a live auction?

During dinner when people are eating and seated.

Mobile bidding – yes or no?

Mobile bidding technology can be a wonderful tool for increasing revenues, simplifying and speeding up check-in and check-out, and adding more fun to certain events.  

How can an organization raise additional funds at their event?

Fund-A-Need (also called paddle raise, pledge, or special appeal).  Incorporating a FAN element into your live auction is a great way for those who haven‘t bought anything to contribute (and not look like the cheapskate at their table in front of their friends). Where you place the paddle raise in your auction is important.  We like slotting a particularly “hot” and relatively expensive item right before your FAN to generate even more momentum and create an immediate environment where people are comfortable hearing high numbers. 

Give us one more nugget or helpful hint?

Always put the bar in the same room as the live auction.

Ok, that was good – how about another? 🙂

Seat your whales up front. You know who the big bidders are so seat them up front and give them the attention they deserve.

You can reach Keith McLane at 415-350-8523 or visit