Auctions are a perfect pairing to fundraising.  Goods and services are generously donated leaving wide margins for the bottom line.  Here are some tips to use the auction vehicle to take your auction to new heights.

Procurement & Donations

The old adage, garbage in garbage out pertains to auctions too!  Request donations that will appeal to the audience.  Write a procurement letter clearly outlining the request and how to donate.  Follow-up is critical here. Timing is also a factor in receiving donations.  For instance: as you are dining at restaurant ask to talk to the manager and request a donation.  It is VERY likely that a donation will be given while they see you at the location as a patron.  It’s ok to say no too if the donation is more of a promotional item than valuable auction item.

Procurement Letter

An effective procurement letter is sweet and direct.  Describe in the letter how the donation will help the cause.  Use action terminology to make the donor feel part of the overall solution.  This is also the time to tell donors how by donating to the cause it will help with business goodwill.   Be sure to include a call to action and specific date for donations to be submitted.

Finding Donations

Procurement may seem daunting but when you make a plan and break it down to small chunks it becomes fun. Procurement is a task that can be done by any volunteer at any time.  Make it worth the donors time and effort. If all donors will be recognized in a formal fashion, or an online auction or auction catalog then say so!  Businesses that get something out of the donation are more likely to participate. Be sure to thank the donor too!

Donations of many types and sizes are warmly welcomed. Donations can be sold as stand-alone or bundled for a more creative unique item. Many donations can be sought locally by literally hitting the pavement with a request letter in hand.  Did you realize that every professional sports team supports auction donations?  Online donation requests can be found for all types of donations from theme parks, to restaurants.  Over 500 donation request links are here for easy access.


Early Promotion

Early promotion of event assists the procurement efforts.  Save the date and relevant event details help future bidders in long term planning. Promote a save-the-date in communication channels that reach your audience, consider newsletters hard copy and digital, flyers for schools, facebook, twitter etc.

Share More than Just the Basics

  • Charity or group name with a recognizable logo
  • date, time and details of the fundraising event
  • website to access all the details
  • DO include pictures of last year’s events, or how past donations helped the cause
  • Use graphics to garner attention
  • answer the question: what’s in it for me as a donor or bidder?
  • “call to action” such as: Register as a bidder now, Purchase your event ticket today, Support the cause with a donation right now

ASK everyone on these channels for donations. Provide simple instructions how to donate to the auction, include key contact information.

During the Auction

The bidding process itself lends energy and entertainment for the event whether online, silent or live. Being prepared with auction items that are attractive to the audience is critical!   Choose Interesting Live Auction Goods & Services.  Select live auction items with a variety of price points. Begin with lower value items to engage more bidders. Choose auction items that are NOT a commodity type item instead select one-of-a-kind or unique experience items that have a broad audience interest.

Bidding & Pricing

The FUN part of the live auction is the back and forth of the bidders. Opening bid should be the lowest value that the charity is willing to accept. Unique goods and services or those that have a high value can be speculative. Start too high get and risk no bids, start too low and close at an undervalued price.

Choosing and Preparing the Auctioneer

A professional auctioneer is not necessary but choosing an auctioneer or emcee should be done with care. Consider the complexity of the auction items. Consider using a member of the charity group, a local radio or media personality. An emcee with a strong social presence and friendly personality help the donors engage. Many times looking within your group will mine a gem of emcee that already affiliated and personally invested.

Don’t just furnish the auctioneer with a handout and hope for the best. Describe the mission of the charity and how it will helps, heals, educates, researchers, advocates the recipients. Provide clear direction on auction items including: order of auction items, descriptions of auction items, necessary caveats such as usage or re-sell terms, expiration or blackout dates, opening starting bid, instructions if an opening bid is not secured, can the bidding start lower, bid increments, instructions if bid increments can be adjusted and number of times to offer ‘last chance’.


Thank You Time

After the auction concludes and the dust settles now it the time to thank everyone involved in the auction.  This means donors, bidders, volunteers, board, chairpersons.  No matter if a person spent 5 minutes or 500 hours helping a thank you is always in order.  In the thank you note share your success, remind them to stay connected.

Matching Gifts

Post auction is the appropriate time to remind bidders of matching gifts.  Just in case you didn’t know, matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program that essentially doubles an employee’s contribution to a qualifying nonprofit organization.  If the donation and your nonprofit are eligible for a matching gift, your organization will receive a check from your donor’s employer.  Most matching gift programs will double an employee’s charitable contribution, but some offer matches at a 3:1 ratio, tripling the original donation! The biggest reason many donors don’t submit matching gift requests is that they simply don’t know that such programs exist. Double the Donation is the expert on this subject!

Converting Bidders to Donors

Next step is converting bidder to donors.  The expert here is Sandy Rees.  She recently shared these tips:

  • Give them a reason to care Just because they came to your event and spent money on an auction item doesn’t mean they’re bought in to your cause.
  • Motivate them to give Create a sense of urgency by showing them why they should give NOW.
  • Stay in touch and be patient Chances are good that you won’t be able to convert all of your auction buyers, but you can probably convert a good many.

Above all, remember that in order to inspire someone to give, you need to connect their heart with your client’s needs.

Thank you to Laurie Hochman of Auctria for today’s article.

Auctria makes silent, live, and online auctions powerful. The entire catalog of auction articles can increase your auction IQ to genius!

Auctria is company company dedicated to providing affordable tools to help groups of any size run successful fundraising auctions.  A web based program solution for auction fundraising.  Features galore organize the entire auction process from the first day of procurement to the last bidder receipt and everything in between.