This article is sponsored by Auctria.
Auction fundraisers are a proven instrument to blow away your fundraising goals. If you haven’t considered an auction for fundraising, learn how to choose a type of auction and demystify the process. For those who have hosted an auction fundraiser, we share some master tips to bring it up a notch.
Auction fundraising advice to crush the fundraising goals:
- Auction types
- Finding auction items
- Post-auction benefaction
Sharing the basic knowledge and steps on how to run a fundraiser will give you the confidence to embark on the auction fundraising journey. These best practices and expert tips will make your current auction fundraiser’s bids and income soar.
Choosing the type of auction fundraiser
Auction fundraisers come in two types: in-person events and online only. Both serve the purpose of fundraising, however the process of reaching your goal takes a different form. Silent and live auctions conjure images of food, drink and celebration, all for a great cause. The more recently popularized online auction fundraiser does away with the in-person aspect and focuses solely on the auction itself. There are considerations to choose one over the other to match the audience and maximize your results.
In-person auction events are ideal if you have:
- The ability to plan and execute the event.
- An audience that will attend.
Silent and live auctions require significant planning. Consider the capability and willingness of your team to put together the entire affair. Also, consider the anticipated participation level of the current supporters and the likelihood to reach new ones. In-person auctions can be signature events for your organization, allowing you to share your story and accomplishments. When the auction is paired with an event, it garners wider attention and engagement.
Online auctions are an attractive and lucrative option when an event in conjunction with an auction isn’t feasible. The online auction extends from a few hours to multiple days, removes the barrier of required attendance and therefore expands the bidding potential. Online auctions can broaden your reach through organic sharing much more easily with a few clicks, likes and follows and influencers on social media.
Auction action tip:
It may take a while to grow a following for an auction. Brand the auction, give it a name, learn what works and what doesn’t each year. Auction fundraisers that have been running for multiple years report gains with each event in both number of bidders and income.
Finding auction items
Auction items are central to the ‘fundraising’ part of the auction. Nonprofits will quickly realize that finding the items is not so intimidating once you get a few tools in place. First, start with a friendly but direct procurement letter. Many local and national businesses not only like to donate, but also have the budget to do so. Donating is seen as goodwill and good corporate citizenship, so asking for donations can be beneficial for them, too. Hand deliver the procurement letter to receive immediate feedback on the status or ability of the business to donate. Many larger businesses have a more formal request process online. In this case, they’ll still need a copy of the procurement letter and may request additional information as needed.
Auction action tip:
Try asking for a donation while you’re making a purchase. While dining, ask as you are paying the bill; while shopping, ask when the products are in your hands. It’s much easier for a manager to say ‘yes’ to help an active consumer.
Be sure to have a nicely rounded offering of auction donations that will appeal to your audience. Provide a variety of starting bid price points as well as types of items. Think outside the standard restaurant and shopping gift cards. Almost all professional and collegiate sports teams will donate, and many theme parks, entertainment venues and manufacturers are willing as well. Over 500 links to donation request pages have been posted to these mega-donation Pinterest boards.
Auction items don’t necessarily have to be in the form of a manufactured product or service. Look around to find priceless items to offer. For instance, schools can offer VIP seats for graduation; police and fire stations can offer special visitations. Community groups do well by offering a meet-and-greet, lunch or dinner with prominent community members. Arts and culture groups can offer up-front seating or VIP access before or after events. In any case, several bidders vying for one item is the formula to push bids higher.
After the auction has closed, harness the enthusiasm that was generated by the event. More people are aware of and understand the cause. Anyone who touched, bid, volunteered or sponsored deserves a thank you note. In the thank you note, share how the funds raised will advance your mission. Be qualitative and quantitative by sharing data and stories. Now is the ideal time to ask for a small favor to extend the relationship, like a follow on social media or volunteering for a future event.
Auction Action Tip:
Personalize your outreach by thanking participants for something specific, like purchasing a raffle ticket, bidding on an item or pledging a donation. Only after thanking them is it ok to ask for additional contributions.
Choosing an auction software partner
Auction fundraisers have lots of moving parts. In order to manage the process, a software partner is a necessity. Find a program that has the features you need now and the features you might need in the future. Make sure it allows teams to collaborate remotely and keeps your data safe. Using the same program from inception streamlines the auction from the donor to the donation, bidder registration to the bidding process, collections to receipts, then tops it all off with thank you notes and easy reporting.
Auction action tip:
Read reviews and references before choosing a software. Make sure it meets your budget as well as your auction fundraising needs.
More than 21,000 groups have raised over $100 million using Auctria. Please take advantage of our free auction timeline and checklist available for download. It lays out the entire auction to do list by month to help you stay organized and on track.
Now you have all the tools to host an auction fundraiser that can truly make a difference.