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Three Things You Need to Know About Hosting a Charity Auction

Resource Center - Foundation

By Brad Wayland

An auction can be one of the best ways to raise money for your cause—provided you know what you’re doing, of course. Here’s a bit of advice to help you get started.

Fundraising drives are all well and good, but they don’t always bring in the money our causes need. If you really want to put some serious coin towards your charity, an auction might well be the best option. With just a little upfront spending, you can potentially bring in thousands, and maybe even attract the attention of donors who might not ordinarily be interested.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? With that in mind, you’d think more people would run auctions more often. Here’s the thing, though: they’re a bit more complicated to pull off than your standard fundraising drive.

That’s only true if you go in unprepared, though. We’re here to make sure you don’t. Here are a few things you’ll need to account for if you’re looking to host a successful charity auction.

First, Take Care of the Basics

Let’s start simple. The three most important, foundational elements of your auction—more so even than your cause—are the people, the sale items, and the marketing. Get those three right, and everything else will fall into place.

To that end:

  • Hire a professional auctioneer. Assuming you aren’t running a silent auction, you want to get someone who can work the room, generate excitement and entertainment, and play up the most important, valuable items. He or she has to be sharp-eyed enough to notice bids in the crowd.
  • Bring in people to control the crowds. In auctioning terms, these are known as ‘ringmen’: men and women who stand in the crowd looking for bidders the auctioneer may have missed. They can also act as event security for the auction. 
  • Advertise over the right channels. Promote your auction (and the prizes available) over both social media and more traditional media. Make sure your prizes are also prominently displayed at the event. Get people excited about the stuff they might win to generate interest.  
  • Choose your items wisely.  The best items you can offer at an auction are those that offer some form of value to the people buying them: backstage passes to a popular band, a locker room experience with a professional sports team, etc.
  • Don’t value your items before the auction. Avoid assigning dollar values to anything you’re auctioning off.
  • Prep your venue. Ensure that you have a professional sound system available at your venue and that it’s large enough to accommodate everyone who wants to attend.

Understand That There Are Many Ways To Run An Auction

Not every auction needs a shouting auctioneer up at the front of the crowd.

Thanks to modern technology, there are a bunch of other ways you might drum up interest, bring in donations, and sell your prizes. You could, for example, host a raffle or a silent auction. You could allow people to login to your auction and bid via a web portal. You could even consider selling merchandise at the auction so none of your guests go home empty-handed. 

Consider which approach would work best for your cause. An online auction could actually end up bringing in more funds than a face-to-face one. It all hinges on who your donors are, how they typically engage with your charity, and which avenue you’re most confident working with.

Don’t Forget to Emphasize Your Cause

Last but certainly not least, remember the reason you’re hosting this auction: to drum up support for your charity. Ultimately, that’s the most important aspect of what you’re doing here, so you shouldn’t be afraid to make that clear. Tell people what your auction is meant to support.

Give people attending an opportunity to engage with your charity in other ways than bidding. You might be surprised at how many people choose to simply donate to your organization in lieu of participation. Not only that, by advocating your cause throughout your auction, and in the days and months leading up to it, you’ll ensure people are far likelier to participate than they would otherwise.

After all, it feels good to give to a good cause. 

A Charity Auction Is a Smart Bid 

An auction is a bit more challenging to pull off than a fundraiser. After all, there’s a lot more you can do wrong. At the end of the day, however, it’s immensely more rewarding, and can bring in much more for your cause. And now that you know what’s involved in success, you’re far less likely to fail. 

Now get out there and start changing the world!

Brad Wayland is the chief strategy officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.


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