So you want to host a charity auction. That’s great! Auctions can be a fun way to engage your supporters and raise funds for your worthy cause. Plus, bidding on a unique item can be just the right motivation your donors need to give.

If you’ve started planning an auction, you know that it can take a lot of work. To get the most out of your event—whether it’s virtual or live—you need to maximize your donation potential.

This article will guide you through the process to help you raise the most funds from your event. Let’s take a look at the steps:

  1. Find well-rounded auction software.
  2. Choose your auction items wisely.
  3. Promote your event and items to generate excitement.
  4. Accept online and mobile bids.
  5. Engage with supporters during the auction.
  6. Set up a place to accept donations from those who don’t win.

Keep reading this step-by-step guide!

Charity auctions can be a great way to raise money for your nonprofit.

Step #1: Find well-rounded auction software.

Think of your software as the foundation for your charity auction. It will help you prepare for all the planning that’s to come!

Charity auction software helps you set up your event and track your items. Additionally, it allows donors to bid online with mobile phones (or any device, for that matter), enabling widespread participation and making bidding easier.

That’s why auction software is so crucial. But, what features do you need? Let’s look at a few that can help you raise even more money:

  • Event websites with item listings. Your nonprofit will have a unique site dedicated to your auction. Your site will be the place where supporters come to register for the event and where you can promote your items. You can even open up online bidding on your items before or after your in-person event to raise more!
  • Secure payment processing. Before the bidding has even started, donors register their payment information. If they’ve won an item, their cards are securely and automatically processed.
  • Scoreboards and fundraising thermometersKeep participants updated on the top bidders with visuals that they can easily access on your site.
  • Tracking and analysis. Choose software that lets you track your progress, learn about your donors’ giving habits, and gives you other insights that will help you hone your auction.

Of course, every auction software platform has different features, so look for a provider that meets all of your needs. If you’re looking for more help on how to pick the right auction software, BidPal has a useful guide.

The final point: Maximizing your auction’s full potential starts with getting the right software. Choose one with features that will better promote your event and make it easy for donors to give.

Choose your charity auction items wisely.

Step #2: Choose your auction items wisely.

The next thing you want to consider is your list of auction items. To get your supporters excited, you need to collect items that they’ll genuinely want. Usually, unique, one-of-a-kind items or experiences perform well.

Donors will be more motivated to bid if the items can’t be found elsewhere. Additionally, when multiple donors have an interest in one item, they can drive the bids higher.

So before you go out and procure items, think about your target audience. Which supporters are you trying to target with this event?

For instance, you don’t want to pick items that are priced too high, especially for donors that don’t have the financial means to give that much.  However, if you’re hosting the event for your major gift donors, then you should absolutely aim for those big-ticket items!

The type of items you pick will depend on your donors, but make sure there is a mix of options so that everyone can find an item (or experience) that they’re interested in.

Some ideas for your auction items can include:

  • Tickets to a local museum or theater
  • Technology (laptops, phones, TVs, etc.)
  • Signed sports equipment
  • Plane tickets to an exotic location

The final point: Your auction items are what make your event unique. Find things that cater to your donors’ interests, so they’re more motivated to bid.

Promote your charity auction items wisely.

Step #3: Promote your event and items to generate excitement.

Before your event begins, you need to start promoting your auction and the items. That way, donors can get excited and start figuring out what they want to bid on.

You should promote your event in a way that reaches the most people, so use multiple channels to reach out to your supporters.

We’ll go over a few strategies you can use to market to your donors:

  • Use social media, text messages, and email to spread the word. Use as many channels as you can to share your event with donors. Include links to your auction page and encourage your supporters to spread the word.
  • Educate donors on the bidding process before the event. Send out emails before the event with instructions on how to make bids online or through their mobile phones. Additionally, if you’ve set up an auction site, it should include a page that teaches donors how to participate in the auction. That way, donors are already prepared on the big day.
  • Create a catalog of your auction times. Your catalog can be online on your auction site or in print. Either way, each item should have high resolution images and a description. When your participants know about the items, they’ll be more excited to bid on the day of the auction.

The more hype that surrounds your event, the more supporters you can get to participate. Additionally, a strong interest in your auction items will increase the bid activity so that your organization will raise more.

The final point: Promote your event so that donors have plenty of time to get interested and share it with their friends and family.

Accept online donations during your charity auction.

Step #4: Accept online and mobile bids.

According to BidPal, mobile bidding generates about 10-30% more funds than traditional bidding. Coupled with the convenience of online auctions, your organization’s auction fundraising potential is greater than ever before.

Auction software lets donors bid no matter where they are. With more bidding options, donors will be more receptive to participating in your auction, since they can do so in the way that’s preferable for them!

Aside from an increase in funds, online and mobile bidding offer other advantages, such as:

  • Instantly alerting donors when they’ve been outbid.
  • Fewer elements to manage (i.e., keeping track of bid sheets or manually keeping track of bid activity).
  • Bidding on the go, which enables more supporters to participate.
  • Faster payment processing.

Additionally, mobile bidding makes it easier for you to engage with donors throughout your auction (more on this soon!).

The final point: Accepting mobile bids makes it easier for you to manage the auction and improves your fundraising. What other reasons do you need?

Maximize donations at your charity auction.

Step #5: Engage with supporters during the auction.

As we mentioned in the last section, mobile bidding makes it easy for you to engage with your donors on their mobile phones. During the event, your donors are already spending a significant amount of time on their phones, so it makes sense to interact with them through this channel, too.

For example, you can use your mobile bidding software to:

  • Update donors on your fundraising progress.
  • Showcase items with the highest bids.
  • Highlight items that have fewer bids to focus more attention on these items.

Interacting with donors keeps them just as excited about the event as it’s happening as they were when it started. Additionally, interaction with donors gives you the opportunity to cultivate your relationships further.

If you’re hosting a live event, you can learn about their interests and preferred giving channels.

All this information can help you make improvements when planning your next auction so that you can raise even more funds!

The final point: Interaction with your donors isn’t just about raising more funds; it’s about getting to know your supporters on a more personal level.

Accept donations during your charity auction.

Step #6: Set up a place to accept donations from those who don’t win.

Unfortunately, not everyone can win in an auction. And without the right setup, those donors who don’t win will leave without giving to your nonprofit (aside from paying for their tickets, of course).

Luckily, you can address this by having a donation station set up (if your event is live) or by sending reminders at the end of your event encouraging donors to give through other channels (for example, text-to-give). If you’re using mobile bidding software, donors will also have the option to make a donation right from the platform.

With other donation channels in place, supporters who don’t win and had every intention of giving won’t leave without donating, helping you maximize your donations. Plus, guests will be happy to leave your event feeling they’ve supported you in some way.

The final point: Encouraging the participants who didn’t win to contribute still is an excellent way to raise more funds during your auction.


With this step-by-step guide, you can increase your fundraising potential and make the most out of your next charity auction.

Now, it’s up to you to start using these strategies. If you want more ways to maximize your fundraising, check out next year’s trends to help you raise even more.

Use @Pay for your charity auction.

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