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5 Strategies to Make Your Charity Auction a Success

By November 27, 2019

By: Kelly Velasquez-Hague, Director of Content Marketing for OneCause


Planning a charity auction can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you incorporate the right strategies into your process. While procuring items, booking a venue, and figuring out ways to engage your guests can quickly become daunting, there are ways you can still plan an effective fundraising event.

The strategies that can help you include:

  • Choosing the right type of auction.
  • Recruiting a team.
  • Procuring the right items.
  • Promoting the auction.
  • Using charity auction software.

Your planning process can help make your event a success. Explore the below tips and tricks to put on the best charity auction you can.

Choosing the right type of auction will help your nonprofit meet its fundraising goals.

1. Choose the right type of auction.

When it comes to running an auction, it’s important to choose the auction format that best fits your nonprofit’s mission and needs. You can choose between the most popular auction types: silent auctions, live auctions, online auctions, and penny socials.

Learn the differences between the types of charity auctions you can run.

Let’s differentiate between them below:

  • Silent auction. During silent auctions, items are displayed on tables for guests to browse and place bids on. Silent auctions are popular and effective because they offer a casual social setting in which your staff and donors can mingle.
  • Live auction. During live auctions, an auctioneer will call out auction items and run the bidding process. This type of auction engages donors with its urgency and allows opportunities to incorporate additional fundraising methods, like text-to-give. Live auctions also encourage friendly competition among participants.
  • Online auction. Photos of items are featured on an auction site for bidders to browse, hence the name online auction. Online auctions are a cost-effective solution that offers flexibility in runtime and allows you to easily collect data.
  • Penny social. A penny social is a fundraising event that combines elements of raffles and silent auctions. Attendees buy tickets that they use to bid on items and prizes (with each ticket equalling one bid). The winning ticket is drawn at random, and whoever placed that ticket, wins the item. For more information, explore the OneCause guide to penny socials.

Choosing the right type of auction for your nonprofit is essential, so understanding the differences and making an informed decision will help contribute to the event’s success.

Recruiting the right team is important when you are planning a charity auction.

2. Recruit your team.

Planning an auction involves many moving parts, so putting together the right team will help the process run smoothly. In addition to finding staff for each task, you’ll need volunteers to assist at the actual event.

Focus on these areas when forming your team:

  • Event planning. This involves booking the venue, organizing volunteers, marketing the event, and more.
  • Item procurement. You’ll need a team to procure auction items for the event. Be sure to find people who are comfortable asking for donations!
  • Volunteers. Have volunteers stationed at the event to help with registration and checkout, if needed, offer assistance on the floor, and more.

Consider placing a T-shirt order from an online platform to make sure your team members match and are easily recognizable at the event. From there, you just need the ideal group of people to help your event run smoothly!

Procure the right items to appeal to bidders and raise more funds.

3. Procure the right items.

The biggest obstacle that can stand in the way of a successful charity auction is the items that you procure. You’ll want to find items that will appeal to your attendees and, therefore, bring in a lot of bids.

First, make sure you have a process in place. You can get some guidance from the OneCause guide to auction item procurement. Then, think about the actual items you’re interested in.

Consider seeking donated items such as:

  • Travel packages
  • Signed memorabilia
  • Gift baskets
  • Golf lessons
  • Concert tickets

There are many ways to get creative when it comes to procuring the right auction items. Find the right donors to contribute items to put up for auction, but make sure you keep your guests’ interests and price ranges in mind to ensure you appeal to as many people as possible. Find even more fun auction item ideas on this list!

Promotion goes a long way when you know your target audience and use the resources available to you.

4. Promote the auction and the items.

Once you’ve secured your venue, procured awesome items, and are ready to enter the next stage of the planning process, it’s time to promote the auction as much as you can. This starts with compiling a guest list and sending out invites. When doing this, make sure you determine your target audience, which is an essential part of fundraising, so that the most impactful people are made aware of your event.

From there, you can offer information about the event using an auction catalog on an online auction site. This catalog can include items for auction, event details, information about your nonprofit, the schedule, where the proceeds will go, and more.

Charity auction software can streamline your entire event planning process as well as the execution.

5. Use charity auction software.

Using the right tools, your charity auction can be a huge success. So it’s important that you invest in the ones that will drive your event forward. That’s where charity auction software comes into play.

With charity auction software, you can:

  • Take advantage of mobile bidding, which allows more guests to participate whether they’re at the event or not.
  • Automate processes such as registration and checkout.
  • Streamline the planning process so you don’t have to transfer data or switch between platforms to find information.
  • Use robust reporting tools so you can gain additional insights and get a complete picture of your auction.

Your auction software can automate and streamline much of your planning and execution processes. This can reduce headache, keep everything easy to oversee, and help drive in more donation revenue. You know that better data can help your fundraising, so why not apply that to your auction event, too?

Last but not least, it’s important to build relationships with your charity auction attendees in an ongoing way. Having a CRM, or constituent relationship management, platform can help. Learn more about putting the “R in CRM” or prioritizing relationships in this webinar.

Learn More

Salesforce AppExchange Partner

OneCause is an official AppExchange Partner. Find their app (formerly BidPal) on the AppExchange.

About the Author

Kelly Velasquez-Hague
Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.