5 Ways to Increase Donor Participation at Your Next Auction

Auctions are a valuable opportunity for nonprofits to raise a lot of money while actively engaging their supporters. However, an inefficient and ineffective fundraiser will do a poor job of engaging supporters in order to raise revenue.

That’s why as you’re planning your event, you should make sure to keep donor engagement and participation at the forefront of your mind.

Between all of the moving parts of your auction planning process, there are multiple opportunities that arise to improve donor participation, each with specific strategies related in order to facilitate this improvement. These opportunities increase participation in:

  1. Sponsorships and solicitations
  2. Donor attendance
  3. Auction activities
  4. Additional event activities
  5. Future events

Auctions have a lot of moving parts. To get organized and keep each of these opportunities and their related strategies in mind during each stage of the planning process, you’ll need a comprehensive nonprofit event software solution at your disposal.

With the right tools and the right mindset, your auction will run smoothly, meeting and exceeding your fundraising expectations.

Ready to learn more about increasing participation at each stage of the auction planning process? Let’s dive in.

1. Increase participation in sponsorships and solicitations

  1. Increase participation in sponsorships and solicitations
    When you think about donor participation for your auction event, you probably jump to your attendee’s participation. However, there are some donors you need to think about before you even start marketing the event: sponsors and prize contributors.

Developing relationships with sponsors can make or break your auction event. Auctria’s auction sponsorship guide explains that you should have both macro and micro goals for your sponsorships:

  • The macro goal of sponsorships is to use the contributions from these contributors to cover the entire cost of your event.
  • Micro goals of sponsorships involve picking a single cost of the event for sponsors to cover. For example, a sponsor may cover the $2,000 it takes to book the auction venue.

Micro goals make great asks for your potential sponsors. Knowing that their contribution is going to a specific aspect of the event makes the sponsorship itself much more appealing.

Make sure your sponsors know that they’ll receive something in return for their contributions. Consider offering verbal mentions during the event, a spot for their logo on decorations or on t-shirts for an event giveaway, or acknowledgment on social media.

**Before the event, you’re looking for more than just sponsorships, you’re looking for auction items as well. **

In order to make the most of your item solicitation asks and encourage more participation, try these strategies:

  • **Ask your sponsors. **They’re already invested in the event and might be compelled to contribute an item. Plus, it increases their visibility at the event.
  • Consider popular items. Knowing what types of items your audience will take interest in can guide your asks so that you get the most valuable items.
  • Ask past supporters. If your CRM shows that your past donors have business connections, use those relationships to make an ask.
  • Turn rejections into asks. If a company says no to a sponsorship, ask if they’d like to contribute to the auction instead. This is a lower-level contribution that they’ll feel more compelled to participate in.

If you’re worried about crafting the actual ask for sponsors and item contributors, try working off of templates like these. This will help ensure you have all of the necessary elements in the letters. Then, you can personalize them and brand them to your nonprofit.

Finally, be sure to keep records of each sponsorship and solicitation ask and which ones are successful. This can help guide your asks for future events.

2. Increase donor attendance

Attending events is a vital part of the donor journey. It gets your supporters actively engaged with your nonprofit rather than just from their computer screen. Therefore, it’s important that your marketing plan reflects the interests of your supporters to encourage them to take part in this journey.

During your planning and marketing process, you should make sure to engage your supporters by:

  • Personalizing outreach. Segment your donors before you start marketing. Doubleknot’s segmentation guide defines the term segmentation to mean, “the practice of separating your overall donor population into smaller groups.” The commonality held by these smaller groups can then be used to personalize outreach for everyone on the list. For example, you might create an email template to send to past auction participants encouraging them to come back.

  • Carefully choosing auction items. When you’re choosing auction items, make sure to think about those that will most interest your intended audience. Then, when you create marketing materials, you can feature those items based on the interests of donors. For example, if someone attended your golf tournament, you might tell them about the clubs you’re auctioning off.

  • Promote early. Start promoting your auction early! Don’t leave the marketing to the last minute. You should make sure your supporters have enough time to schedule your auction into their plans. Plus, promoting your event early helps build anticipation and excitement for it.

  • Make supporters feel special. Do you have major prospects you’re inviting to the event? Incorporate aspects that will set them apart. For instance, send individualized invitations for them to attend. Encourage them to buy a ticket for a VIP table at the auction. Take time to make conversation with them at the event about their interests.

  • Don’t forget to ask about special requirements. If you’re serving food at the event, be sure you have options for those who have dietary restrictions. Ask the question upfront if there’s any way you can better accommodate your guests. From wheelchair ramps to nonalcoholic beverages, make sure you cover your bases to make sure attendees feel comfortable.

CharityEngine’s nonprofit CRM guide explains that the right CRM not only records the engagement activities your supporters are involved with but also guides them to new activities, expanding the donor journey.

3. Increase participation in auction activities

When it comes to the auction itself, encouraging more participation not only encourages guest engagement, but it also drives auction revenue. Consider this: when more supporters bid on the same item, they drive the price of that item higher and higher. Making it easier and more enticing to bid will help the overall success of your entire event.

To increase the participation of your guests in the auction itself, we suggest:

  • Mobile bidding. Mobile bidding allows your event attendees to bid from their seats. This makes it easy to engage in conversation, keep item tables from getting too crowded, and alerts supporters when they’re being outbid by someone else.
  • Allow early bidding. To generate more excitement about your auction items, open up the bidding before the auction even starts! This encourages early bidding and allows people to get a sneak peek at your top items.
  • Acknowledge top contributors. As people bid, acknowledge those who contribute the most. You can do this with a “top contributors” board or by announcing the top donor after the bidding ends.
  • Set a specific closing time. Make sure the end of the raffle doesn’t come as a surprise. Having a specific time to close the auction creates a sense of urgency in your supporters to bid on their favorite items.

Make sure that the tools you use to encourage auction participation don’t hinder your nonprofit’s [financial recording process.](https://www.auctria.com/blog/auction-financials/ You’ll need to keep very detailed tabs on your finances because, after all, fundraising is all about raising money!

Knowing details from the original price of different auction items to the amount you paid for them to the payment processing fees required for your winners will help you better predict financial outcomes.

4. Increase participation in additional event activities

Although you’re hosting an auction event, your auction doesn’t have to be the only activity available for people to participate in. You can provide plenty of other opportunities for supporters to get engaged and to contribute to your nonprofit.

For example, you might supplement your auction revenue with:

  • Raffles. Raffles are a great supplement to your auction and provide suspense and surprise as to who the winners will be.
  • Additional donations. Open up the option for supporters to give as they feel compelled at the event via text, online gift, check, or cash.
  • Branded item sales. Sell your own items at the auction to help supporters remember the event. Make sure they’re branded to your nonprofit.

While supplementing your revenue is important, remember that your event is also a great opportunity for stewardship. Make sure to include elements to the event that are not revenue-generating. For instance, you might decide to provide:

  • Dinner or appetizers. Who doesn’t like free food? Plus, this will give your supporters something to do at their tables while they engage in conversation.
  • Reading material. From table pamphlets to larger signs around the venue, make sure your supporters can read about your mission and your latest projects.
  • A social media hashtag. Encourage supporters to take pictures at the event and use your special event hashtag when they post it online.

Participation in your auction is great, but it shouldn’t be the only activity for your supporters. Make sure you provide other opportunities that will drive value for both you and your donors.

5. Increase donor participation in future events

Even after the event ends, your supporters’ participation doesn’t end there! You’ve just created an unforgettable experience for those supporters, so don’t let them forget it after they leave.

Be sure to continue the engagement with your supporters by:

  • Sending personalized thank you cards. Handwritten cards can go a long way for your donors. Try adding a detail that you learned about the supporter during the event to show that you paid attention while talking with them.
  • Following up with a survey. Ask your attendees about how the event went overall. A survey not only provides feedback for your organization, but it also encourages supporters to reflect on the time they spent at your event.
  • Thanking your sponsors. Don’t forget about your sponsors! Make sure to thank them for making the auction possible. Also, follow through on any marketing or promotion promises you made them in order to secure the sponsorship.

By continuing to engage your supporters after the event is over, you increase the probability that they’ll come to your next event or continue to engage with your nonprofit in other ways.

Be sure to create a donor segment in your CRM for those who attended your event. Then, you can reach out to the same group next year, reminding them of the fun they had and asking them to attend again.


Engagement and participation go hand-in-hand. Your event attendees can only be engaged with your auction if they participate in the different activities you have planned out. Make sure your next auction is one to be remembered with these participation strategies!