Paddle Raise

How It Works

After making a call to action from the stage, the auctioneer will ask guests to raise their bidder cards to make pledges at specific levels.

Bidder Cards

We distribute preprinted bidder cards—showing the bidder number in large type and the bidder name in small type—in a single envelope per table according to your seating plan. On the back of the card is a pledge form.

Pledge Levels

The auctioneer should start the paddle raise at the highest level where pledges may reasonably be expected and then proceed to lower levels. No more than five different levels are recommended. Plan the levels in advance, but give the auctioneer discretion to change the levels based on the dynamics of the room.

Recording Pledges

The auction manager records pledges that are declared audibly by the auctioneer. Only pledges confirmed by the auctioneer or written on pledge forms are included in the totals. Spotters are deployed to make an independent list of pledges for verification.


The role of spotters is to record the pledges declared audibly by the auctioneer and to direct the auctioneer’s attention to cards being raised. They do not record pledges independently of the auctioneer.


The use of shills to make fake pledges violates policy. It may result in inaccurate totals and erroneous charges and is not proven to encourage other pledges.

Program Timing

Paddle raises are typically conducted before or after a live auction. They are usually immediately preceded by a pitch for program support. The middle or end of dinner service is usually the best time for a paddle raise. If conducted too late at an event, they will attract fewer pledges as audience attention wanes.

Auctioneer Instructions

  1. Ask guests to remove bidder cards from the white envelope on the table and find the card with their name on it.
  2. Ask guests to hold up their bidder cards to pledge and keep them up until they hear you call out their number.
  3. Always announce pledges by bidder number.
  4. If the number is not visible, ask the bidder or audience to call out the number.
  5. Repeat the number over the microphone.
  6. Thank every bidder by number.
  7. Speak clearly and slowly. Only audible pledges are recorded.
  8. At the end, encourage all guests who would like to make a pledge at any level to fill out the form on the back of the bidder card and turn it in to the checkout desk.

Data Anomalies

There are many reasons why some pledges might be recorded inaccurately, including:

  • Multiple bidder numbers heard for the same pledge may be recorded as separate pledges

  • Bidders using the wrong bidder card

  • Auctioneer calling out an incorrect number

  • Auction manager and spotters not hearing the auctioneer correctly

  • Bidders experiencing “buyer’s remorse" claiming they never made a pledge

Charging Cards on File

It is common practice to charge paddle raise gifts to credit cards that have been placed on
file without further verification from guests. This may reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse. However, refunds will need to be made for erroneously recorded pledges. Credit card processing fees may apply to both charges and refunds.