Make the Most of Your Next Fundraising Auction

Idaho Nonprofit Fundraising Auction Tips

With all of the chaos that surrounds the final days leading up to a fundraising event, it’s really easy to let the auction portion slide by without much fanfare. After all, you’re busy finalizing delivery times with caterers, training volunteers, scheduling rehearsals, etc.

But by giving an auction the same attention to detail that you do the rest of the event, there is the possibility of significantly increasing your fundraising numbers. Here are a few ideas you might not thought of before that will help you make the most of the auction portion of any fundraising event:

For Silent AND Live Auctions

Set up an express checkout: There’s nothing more annoying than having to stand in yet another line at the end of an event to pay for the items you’ve won. Eliminate the hassle by inviting guests to give credit card information at the beginning of the event during registration with the understanding that the card will be charged later for any auction items purchased. You can also let this function for purchasing raffle tickets, drinks or other items at the event, depending on your setup and what works for you. In some instances (like with the raffle tickets and drinks), you’ll more time than not notice an increase in sales by taking this route.

Be sure to email everyone receipts within 24 hours.

For Silent Auctions

Prepopulate the bid sheets: Take the guesswork out of the process for your attendees by prepopulating the bid sheets appropriately. For smaller items, this might be increments of $10 or $20 with increments of $100, $250 or even $500 for big ticket items. Not only is this easier for participants (they just have to write their name), but it can help encourage someone who might have bid $25 more than the last bid to pledge $50 instead, and so on and so on …

Round up winning bids: People are at your event because they believe in and want to contribute to your cause. Invite them to have a bigger impact by rounding up their winning bids to the next highest $50 or $100 increment. I don’t mean having volunteers broaching the subject as they pick up their items. Rather, have the keynote or MC mention the option onstage as they’re wrapping up the event: “We’re so close to reaching our fundraising goals tonight and I want to thank you all for making this possible. If you’re the winning bidder on an auction item and would like to round up your bid to the next $50 or $100, just let _________________ know as you’re picking up your items. Every little bit helps and if we all band together, I know that we can have a huge impact in continuing to …”

Make the most of every item: While we’re always grateful for every item donated to our fundraising auctions, let’s be honest: Some of the items are far less exciting than others. If there are some items that fall into this category, make the most of them by including them in a bucket raffle. Simply put buckets in front of those items and allow guests to purchase raffle tickets to drop into whichever buckets they want to be entered into the drawing for that item.

For Live Auctions

Hire a professional auctioneer: I know what you’re thinking. “That’s another expense that we can’t afford.” But that’s completely backwards logic. Professional auctioneers are paid for a reason. Their entire business in built on finding the right way to present items and engage participants to get the highest dollar amount possible from every item.

When looking for an auctioneer, compare at least 2-3 of them. Ask whether they would accept a flat fee or a percentage (either is considered acceptable) and for video of them at work. Then when you’ve decided on who to use, make sure that he/she is given ample information about your organization, its mission and the specific items they will be responsible for auctioning.

Heartfelt ask: At some point, you’ll probably have a speaker tasked with making a heartfelt ask for support from the crowd. This is a great opportunity to put those bidders’ paddles to work. One way to structure the ask would be to ask them to raise their paddles if they’d like to make a $100 gift. This method has two things going for it: 1) It’s convenient (bonus points if you’ve also set up the express checkout) and 2) The bandwagon effect is a powerful thing.

Make sure to have staff or volunteers ready with clipboards to write down the numbers of everyone raising their paddle.


What other methods have you had success with in a fundraising auction scenario?

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