Charity auctions are a staple of the fundraising event.
Whether you’re organizing a live, silent, or online auction (or some combination of all three!), there are ways to remain innovative and fresh while taking on such a classic fundraising strategy.
Quick disclaimer, while we're specifically discussing charity auctions here, even if you're not a 501(c)3, you can still host a fundraising auction. And, many of these tips will still be relevant and helpful for you.
In this article, we’ll go over a few ways you can combine your charity auction with other popular fundraising techniques to maximize engagement and fundraising dollars!
Here’s a sneak peek of the topics we’ll cover:
Ready to plan the perfect auction? Let’s get to it!
Crowdfunding is a fundraising method that allows individuals to set up online profiles and raise money for projects, special causes, or charities.
All crowdfunding campaigns work similarly in that they thrive on community support and social engagement.
Not sure what kind of crowdfunding service is right for you?
Check out Double the Donation’s list of the best crowdfunding websites out there.
How can you implement it?
Oftentimes, crowdfunding campaigns (and their sister fundraising method, the peer-to-peer campaign) conclude with a special event. For you, that means your charity auction!
But, fully incorporating your crowdfunding campaign into your auction means more than just hosting them side by side.
As you plan out both your event and your preceding fundraising campaign, remember that both tactics should come together to create one cohesive fundraiser. If you’re raising money for a specific cause (for example, a new school building), make sure that both components reflect that.
On auction night, call attention to your campaign. If you met or exceeded your goals, celebrate! Have your emcee or auctioneer publicly thank your highest contributors.
If you didn’t meet your target or would like to raise more, extend your campaign to include the night of your auction and dedicate time at the event for guests to make last-minute contributions and receive special rewards for doing so.
Since crowdfunding is a social experience, utilize your nonprofit’s social media and online presence to advertise both your fundraising campaign and your auction event. Your online communications should let donors know that this campaign will conclude with an auction event and provide them with an opportunity to buy tickets.
To most effectively promote your fundraising campaign, create content that’s valuable and shareable. Get creative!
Some best practices to keep in mind:
Be visual. You want to catch a potential donor’s eye as he scrolls through his newsfeed. Videos, photos, and colorful infographics are all excellent ideas for attracting a donor’s attention — and compelling him to share the content himself!
Tell your story. Relatable content is shareable content, so speak to your audience on a personal level. Talking about why your cause matters is more likely to connect with your donor on an emotional level than a basic donation request.
Provide incentives. While not every organization is at a place to follow this tip, providing incentives is a tried-and-true way to motivate followers to donate. Consider offering extended bidding time, special seating, or even event night shout-outs to those donors who give big.
Why should you include it?
There are a number of benefits to making a crowdfunding campaign part of your fundraising strategy.
Although it’s still relatively new to the fundraising world, crowdfunding campaigns have collectively raised an astounding $34 billion! That’s a lot of fundraising money you could be adding to your campaigns.
Crowdfunding is quick, too. Most campaigns reach their goals in only 40 days!
In short: Crowdfunding is a simple, smart way to raise money online and promote your auction. By effectively getting the word out to your social circles, you might just be able to meet your fundraising goals before your event.
2. Product Fundraising
Your donors are already excited to walk away with their auction prizes. Why not provide them with even more fun custom products to take home?
Your nonprofit can easily raise funds by selling custom branded content. By working with a dedicated product fundraising tool, you’ll be able to personalize your items to match your event, cause, or organization.
There’s virtually no limit to the kinds of products you can create, so you can perfectly tailor your designs to fit your audience.
How can you implement it?
Depending on the platform you use, you may have a number of options for how you run your campaign.
Decide if you’d like to create a product that’s event-specific, organizationally-branded, or maybe something different altogether!
You can set up one fundraising page that facilitates all your product sales, or gamify your campaign by taking a more peer-to-peer approach. In the latter case, your donors would set up their own individual fundraising pages and be responsible for promoting among their own networks.
Here are a few ways to make your fundraiser a key part of auction night:
Offer auction-related incentives for top fundraisers. If your product fundraiser is part of a peer-to-peer campaign, you can motivate your donors by providing prizes for the top sellers. For example, you could give away additional raffle tickets as a fundraising incentive.
Set up a merchandise table. In addition to selling products online before your event, it’s also a great idea to purchase extra items to sell at your fundraiser. That way, even those who are outbid are able to take home great products and contribute to your cause.
Why should you include them?
Online product-based crowdfunding tools make it easier than ever to design, promote, and sell merchandise to benefit your cause or organization.
Not only are they profitable and easy to execute, they’re also a great promotional tool after your auction ends! Your custom items will remind your donors of how much fun they had at your auction, and they’ll be a walking advertisement for your cause.
In short: Incorporating promotional items into your auction is an excellent way to increase revenue, promote your event, and spread the word about your nonprofit. Find a fundraising tool that works for you and start designing!
While not necessarily a fundraising technique on its own, procuring sponsorship for your auction can be a valuable way to cut back on event costs and ensure a profitable fundraiser.
Sponsors are individuals or companies that provide funds, products, or services for your event in exchange for marketing and promotion onsite.
How should you implement sponsorship?
One of the most foundational approaches to obtaining sponsorship is crafting a sponsorship letter that presents your request to the potential sponsor.
If you need a little help with your first draft, Fundly provides a thorough guide to writing and sending the perfect sponsorship letter.
Sponsors can provide a host of different services to you, from food to decor and everything in between. Since you’re organizing an auction, consider asking sponsors to donate big-ticket items or unique experiences you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Perhaps the local museum would be willing to donate a private, guided tour to a lucky bidder. Or, ask a restaurant to offer a three-course meal as an item.
Why should you include it?
Obviously, a good sponsor can provide something for your event that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Sponsorships allow you to focus less on covering event costs and more on fundraising for your cause.
There are a few less-obvious advantages to securing sponsorship, too. For example:
Sponsors help your nonprofit build long-term relationships in the community. When you partner with a company or individual sponsor, you’re signing on to more than just their support at a single event. If a sponsor demonstrates an interest in your organization, use his sponsorship as a first step to more partnerships in the future.
Your organization can strongly benefit from promotion at sponsors’ places of business. Ask your sponsor to post event flyers at their store or give your event a shout-out online. You may be able to attract new donors who are excited to support a cause associated with their favorite business.
In short: The right sponsorships can take your auction event to the next level. Consider partnering with local businesses or individuals who can add value to your event by providing goods, services, or auction items.
4. Fundraising Consultants
If you’re organizing a larger-than-life auction event and aren’t sure where to start, consider hiring a professional fundraising consultant to help you strategize, organize, and totally exceed your fundraising goals.
Generally speaking, fundraising consultants provide educational resources and strategic planning assistance to nonprofits at any stage.
In addition to helping you coordinate large-scale events, he or she can work with you to define your fundraising objectives while helping you determine how to meet those targets.
From general to very specific, fundraising consultants can help your nonprofit in almost every area.
When should you implement one?
If you know you have especially aspirational fundraising goals (such as a capital campaign) and think a charity auction event might help you get there, a fundraising consultant might be a wise choice for you.
Additionally, if you would like high-level feedback to improve the practices of your organization as a whole, a fundraising consultant can give you the resources you need.
Think of it this way: a fundraising consultant is the expert you want in the room when you’re asking big questions about the way your organization raises money.
Why should you include one?
Especially when held in conjunction with large fundraising events or used to chip away at exceptional goals, hosting a charity auction can be a big undertaking.
That’s where a fundraising consultant becomes the missing piece of the puzzle.
From inspiring you with new fundraising ideas to providing invaluable education, the right fundraising consultant can truly transform your organization and re-energize your mission in a great way.
In short: While not every nonprofit is in immediate need of a fundraising consultant, hiring one at the right time can provide your organization with resources you won’t find anywhere else. Consider bringing on a consultant to work with you as you plan your upcoming auction event.
The Bottom Line
A charity auction is a classic way to engage donors at your fundraising event while bringing in major donation dollars.
If you’re looking to add a fresh take on your next auction event, consider pairing it with one of these popular fundraising techniques. Trust us: your donors will thank you!
Thanks to guest blogger Adam Weinger for his expert advice!
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.