Looking for a way to make boost your online fundraising efforts in a unique way? Our friends at BidPal have provided some tips to get started with a fundraising auction that will complement your nonprofit’s next fundraiser on Mightycause. Read on to learn more!

Organizing a fundraising auction can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner. There are many components, individuals, and logistics to keep in mind while you plan.

To help you put together an auction that’s profitable and engaging, we’ve broken the process into three parts:

  1. Basics of Fundraising Auctions
  2. Types of Auctions
  3. Planning Your Auction

Read on to tackle the planning that goes into a fundraising auction!

1. Basics of Fundraising Auctions


A charity auction is a fundraising event where products are sold to the highest bidder. The money is raised with a specific fundraising project or general annual fundraising in mind.


Almost any nonprofit can host a fundraising auction because all you need are items to sell and participants.


While in-person auctions can be appealing because of their social and lively nature, they can become costly and take some planning.

On the other hand, online auctions can reach participants worldwide, but they may lose the sense of urgency that so often drives an in-person auction.

Before you begin, it’s important to understand both types of fundraising auctions, along with your organization’s donors, to decide which is the best fit for your nonprofit.


Most charity auctions work well in the spring and fall, when your supporters aren’t out of town on summer or holiday vacations.

However, any season can be conducive to an auction. For example, silent auctions are often paired with golf tournaments, which tend to be in the summer.


To raise money for your nonprofit, of course! Whether it be for a specific campaign or for your overall cause, a charity auction is a great way to raise money.

Each type of auction can be engaging and beneficial in its own way.

For example, silent auctions are flexible and engaging for supporters, while online auctions are easy to organize and execute. And of course, live auctions are exciting and easy to involve participants in.

The bottom line: Fundraising auctions are flexible events that can be shaped to fit your needs as a nonprofit, so it’s up to you to decide when, where, and how you’ll host your auction!

2. Types of Charity Auctions


In a silent auction, items to be bid upon are placed on tables throughout the venue where participants can easily view them.

A silent auction is one of the most engaging fundraising events you can host because you’ll have plenty of time to communicate with your donors as they shop their way through your auction.

Silent auction bidding takes place either through a mobile bidding app on participants’ phones or the old fashioned way, by writing bids on bid sheets next to the packages.

When you use resources like mobile bidding software, you’ll make your event far less chaotic for your donors. They won’t need to run back and forth from item to item to check on their bids. Instead, they’ll have the chance to chat with you and other supporters while learning about your cause.

To see more of the benefits mobile bidding provides, check out BidPal’s mobile bidding features and see for yourself what these amazing tools can do for your next auction.


Online auctions make it easy for supporters all over the place to get in on the fun of your fundraising auction. Bidders can browse items and place bids all through your auction website.

These virtual auctions are easiest when hosted through a charity auction software provider.

In order to hold an online auction, you’ll need a website that houses your items and supports online bidding.

You can also pair your online auction with an in-person event and sell tickets and items on the site as well. When you add an online component to your auction, you’ll be able to maximize your fundraising potential and engage a whole new audience!


Live auctions are traditional, where the bidding takes place with an auctioneer listing off each item and taking bids for them. Participants use paddles or call out to the auctioneer to place bids.

The bottom line: Each type of auction has its pros and cons, but you’ll want to focus on your donors’ experience in any case. Don’t forget: auction software can help you organize your auction so you and your donors have time to enjoy the event.

3. Planning Your Auction

Goals and Objectives

You’ll first need to decide how much you’re looking to raise and how much you’ll need to spend to make the event a reality.

You’ll probably want to think about the following:

  • How many items will you sell?
  • How long will your event take?
  • Who can you invite?
  • How much will it cost to rent a venue?
  • What resources can you use to run the event?

Decipher your goals and objectives well in advance so you have time to plan out other elements.

Recruit a Team

Put together a logistics team.

The logistics team will take charge of setting the date and location, finding the entertainment, and hiring the auctioneer!

Your team should definitely be led by someone from your nonprofit, but it can also include volunteers.

Find a procurement team.

They’ll be the ones to secure your auction items. Your event relies heavily on the items to be sold, so your procurement team’s involvement is crucial.

This team can be made up of board members and volunteers. Try to pick individuals who have a network to draw from or have experience from prior auctions.

They’ll be in charge of tracking the items’ worth, information, retail value, and bids as well as the winners’ contact information.

Be sure to choose items that are unique and will appeal to your bidders, like gift baskets, signed memorabilia, and travel packages.

Check out Double the Donation’s list of charity auction item ideas for more tips on finding the right items!

Make a promotions team.

In order to get bidders to your event, they’ll have to know about it! Have your promotions team spread the word about your auction through social media, email, phone, letters, and word-of-mouth.

Secure event volunteers.

You’ll need volunteers to help put your event together, too. With so many components, you’ll want things to run as smoothly as possible — that’s where your event volunteers come into play. From running check-in to assisting the auctioneer to cleaning the venue, your event volunteers will look over the small (but crucial!) details of your event.

Select your hosts.

You’ll need to find someone who is skilled in fast speaking and can bring passion and life to your event. If your auctioneer is excited, your bidders will be too, which will encourage higher bids.

For online auctions, you’ll look for an individual to take the lead on setting up and customizing your auction page.

This host will be in charge of using your auction software, customizing your auction site, and fine-tuning everything in between. Your digital venue is a huge component of your online auction, so make sure you’re making the most of your site!

Find a Location

Picking the right venue is a vital element of an in-person auction. Auctions can take place in an array of different places, but here are some popular locations to help you think of a good spot for yours:

  • Museum
  • Hotel
  • School campus
  • Theater
  • Gymnasium

You’ll want to choose a place that makes sense with your nonprofit and appeals to your supporters.

Procure Your Auction Items

Seeing as your products are the fuel to your auction’s fire, procuring auction items is a crucial part of your event’s success.

To help you select and secure the best choices, we’ve broken down the procurement process.

Take a look at your data.

Like we mentioned before, you’ll need to choose items that appeal to your audience. You can look to the data stored in your nonprofit CRM to get a clearer picture of what your donors would like and be able to afford.

Once you have a good feel for where your supporters’ interests lie and what their average income status is, you can put together a list of item ideas for your procurement team.

Secure your items.

Give your team your list and let them begin this process by asking family, friends, peers, and coworkers to donate items to your auction. Remember to look for items that are unique and range in value.

When asking individuals for donations, let them know what cause the money is going to and stress why your cause is so important. Your passion will encourage donors to give.

You can also ask local business to donate products or services. Offer to feature them in your event’s advertising or on your website, and plenty of people will be happy to help out.

Track your items and collect your data.

Your software will be instrumental in helping you organize all your important item and donor information.

As you procure auction items, you’ll want to keep a record of every item along with:

  • A detailed description of the item.
  • The contact information of the donor.
  • The item’s retail value.
  • The item’s starting bid.

During the event, you’ll also want to record the name and contact information of the winning bidder.

Your event fundraising software can help you create a master list as well as item groups, and then automatically populate that data into your online site and mobile bidding platforms. No manual data entry required!

Promote Your Event

Round up your promotions team because it’s time for their job to begin!

Get the discussion flowing by promoting it the old fashioned way. Send out letters and fliers to donors, inviting them to your event, or give them a call!

For more innovative communication, use your email newsletter and social media sites to reach a larger audience at once. You can use your dedicated event site, generated by your event software, to promote your event and provide key details in one central location!

Set Up Your Event

When it comes to in-person events, you’ll need your event volunteers to help out and to make sure your participants have access to the correct bidding tools so your event can run seamlessly and professionally.

For silent auctions, you’ll need your team to help set up:

  • Tables. When organizing your tables, keep a traffic pattern in mind. Create a loop where people can walk freely.
  • Item displays. You’ll need to organize your items into categories and display them accordingly. Make sure you have enough room to display every item!
  • Table tents. Pop-up table signs will be useful for displaying each item’s information, including a description, lot number, starting bid, and retail value for bidders to read and consider.
  • Booths. Auctions require merchandise, registration, and checkout booths. Luckily, with mobile bidding tools and your event software, unruly lines aren’t an issue! Guests can pre-register their payment methods so registration is much more streamlined, too.

For live auctions, your team of event volunteers will help by:

  • Getting items ready. Line up every item backstage and in the correct order so they’re ready to be brought to the stage as soon as they’re introduced by your auctioneer.
  • Arranging tables and chairs. You can use your software’s seating planning tool to simplify this process. Make sure your layout is conducive to bidding, and the stage is visible from every seat in the house.
  • Testing the sound system and projector. Make sure the auctioneer can be heard and the auction items can be seen even from seats all the way in the back! Bidders will need to see and hear everything to be sure they want to place a bid.
  • Setting up booths. Instead of hosting long lines of people waiting to register and check in, use your software to handle these details beforehand.

Your auction’s success relies on your organization and setup. There will be plenty for your event volunteers to manage, so make sure you have enough hands on deck.

The bottom line: Fundraising auctions require a great deal of organization and planning, including forming committees, securing items, and final event-day prep. Use your auction software and volunteers to keep the plans on track.

Now that you know how to organize your fundraising auction, all that’s left to do is host it. With the right tools and resources, your auction is sure to be a success. Recruit your teams and start planning!

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2 thoughts

  1. Your advice to let people know where the money is going to when asking for donations and explain the importance of the cause would be important. This would be useful for getting more profit for the cause. It could also help with getting items to use in the auction based on what it’s for and your target auction, such as if people will donate wine, paintings, or any other items that would fit the auction and bring in the most money.

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