Auction fundraisers are an incredible way to engage your community, raise funds for a worthy cause, and create memorable experiences. From silent auctions to live events, the planning process can seem overwhelming. But fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps and expert tips to help you organize a successful auction fundraiser. Answering the most important question, how do we make money?
In this article we will answer this in 3 parts + running the event:
- Fill the event with auction catalog
- Fill the the seats
- Fill the hearts
Auction fundraisers are really event fundraisers. They are dual purposed, raise awareness and raise money. Raising awareness should be a primary focus and not fall to the background. People are participating in the event and auction because they believe in the work that you are doing and know that it takes money! Do they really know the impact and what it takes to run the organization to all the good things in the community? The event has attracted the guests and uses this momentum and energy to power up the giving.
Then when you are running the event fundraiser make it easy! Easy to use bid sheets, mobile bidding, QR Coded display pages, more on this later.
Fill the auction catalog
Auctions whether they be ‘in the room’ or online attract guests that want something back for their money/donation. So many retailers, local businesses, entertainment venues, sports teams will make a donation to help! Seek out donations that will be of interest to your audience.
Start with a compelling procurement letter. Not just a simple “we are doing an auction, give us stuff.” What impact are you making on the community? Use these tips in an appeal just as you would in a procurement letter.
- Be donor-focused
- Write to one person
- Hook them with the first sentence
- Only include the essentials
- Have an 8 year old approve it
VIP and keepsakes. VIP experiences that you can curate in house or within the community make the auction special. One of a kind and build the catalog with items that people will pay for. Then sell it twice!
- School VIP examples: Principal of the day, extra recess, guest news anchor, parking for parents, parking for students, special lunch area, early, late extra anything!
- Community examples: tours or your facility, a fund nearby activity that is usually not open to the public, back stage, behind the scenes
Check out this real example from an auction with Bangor Symphony.
Bangor Historical Society Private Guided Tour of Mt. Hope Cemetery is a special place. Take a guided tour of America’s 2nd oldest garden cemetery and the final resting place of Bangor’s most prominent citizens. From lumber barons to brothel owners, Civil War heroes to notorious gangsters, learn the rich history of the Queen City while taking a leisurely stroll through the beautifully landscaped grounds of Mt. Hope. Ryan Hews who has years of volunteer experience with the Bangor Historical Society will be your tour guide.
The donor had offered one tour for six people, and there was a flurry of activity until the item was won at the close of the auction. Sarah asked the donor if he was willing to increase the number of tours and the answer was a resounding yes! Additional tours were sold, amounting to $450 more in revenue.
Need more ideas:
- No Risk items fill out the catalog with consignment items. Used sparingly and with a strategy
- Use Auctria’s Pinterest boards for some inspiration, there are over 500 pins that go directly to donation request pages. Everything from professional and collegiate sports teams, retailers, grocery stores, manufacturers, theaters and amusement parks.
Think outside the auction box. Event fundraisers come in other shapes and forms.
Fill the Seats
Fill the real seats at an in person event or fill the seats with bidders virtually, the first part is letting people know the event fundraiser is happening! Make it fun and purposeful.
- Themed events fill the fun category and can be money magnets! People that are having fun spend more time and money at auction fundraisers.
- Online and virtual auctions and fundraisers are here to stay. The doors are now wide open to a much larger audience with little to no barrier to entry. Does this really result in higher activity and income? The answer is YES!
- Create a Facebook Event for Your Auction, invite all your followers
- Make it easy to participate with links
Don’t assume everyone knows about your event. You and the team may have been working on it for months, however your audience is not tuned in until it’s time to do something. Give them that something. Purchase a ticket, register, purchase a sponsorship.
Fill the hearts
The second reason to run an event fundraiser is to show how your charity is making a difference. This is your stage, your spotlight, your time to shine. Use this opportunity to share testimonials, numbers, and impact studies. If possible, have real interactions with the audience so they can hear and learn more first hand accounts.
Parasport Spokane is the master here. They have their athletes at the event fundraiser as ambassadors, greeters and table hosts. Whether they walk or roll into a board room or sponsor’s office or location they are carrying the Red Herd story. When sharing their personal stories with these business partners the business partners in turn become vocal influencers.
This strategy is not isolated to a single fundraising event day/night. Board members, and sponsors get to know the athletes on an individual level. ParaSport Spokane has found that these connections make for fiercely passionate supporters. This means supporters will donate money, lend a voice to social media sharing and come out not only to fundraising events but the athletic events as well. And this is exactly what they want, their athletes to be seen as athletes.
Pairing with ParaSport goes into the boardroom and sponsors hearts. The athletes are provided training on how to advocate and promote and grow the awareness for youth and adults with disabilities. Pairing doesn’t just end with sharing a few notes on social media.
Pairing with ParaSport has created a very passionate society that shares the excitement and continues to develop more awareness. Collectively the messaging reaches even more curious athletes, volunteers, sponsors, and business partners.
Event Fundraisers are Money Makers
Pair an auction with a currently popular and well attended event. Adding on monetizers such as an online auction, for sale merchandise, raffles, and sponsorship sales. The activity can be anything, a gold tournament, carnival day, around town art exhibits.
Starting small is ok. This applies to the event itself as well as the size of audience, ticket prices and sponsorship levels. Event fundraisers grow from year to year, just start!
About the Author
Laurie Hochman has a passion for helping groups exceed their fundraising goals. After using Auctria for many auction fundraisers, she joined the team to help others boost their auction fundraising for many wonderful causes. Auctria has been utilized in over 45,000 event fundraisers raising over $500M.