The Ultimate Guide To Running Your Own Charity Auction

Auctions are a wonderful way to generate funds for your charity organization and advocacy. It is a good way to get the donors involved while raising money for the benefit of others. However, running your own charity auction is not an easy feat. The event itself requires plenty of preparation and manpower. 

If this is the first time you are embarking on this project, this guide will give you an idea of how to run a charity auction

Decide the type of auction.

There are different types of auctions you can pick for your charity event, and understanding the differences can help you decide which one is perfect for your charity fundraising event.

The three main auctions are:

  • Online Auction

Going digital is a good way to reach more donors for your organization. It offers convenience for those who are unable to join live events. The online platform also saves cost as you do not have to prepare for a physical venue or get a lot of volunteers to host the event. However, the lack of urgency is the downside of using this platform.

  • Silent Auction 

This is where items are being displayed around the venue, and the attendees will place their bid on the bidding sheet. This auction-style allows you to interact with the donors, and they take the time to check on each item. 

There is no need for an auctioneer for this type of event. It also has a less formal feel making it easy to incorporate in any event, but it can be a challenge to keep the bidding moving because of the relaxing ambiance.

  • Live Auction

This is the traditional way of bidding and is usually held in a formal event. An auctioneer will do the bidding while the attendees try to bid the items. Unlike the silent auction, bidders are not anonymous and thus encourage healthy competition during the auction. 

Live auction tends to cost more because of the many aspects of running a live event, such as hiring a host, auctioneer, etc.

How do you get items for charity auctions?

Picking the items for auction is a challenge because you need to know what items can bring much excitement for the donors. One good tip is to find an item that is not materialistic in nature. Experimental items are best for auction because they cannot easily be bought in stores. 

Donors donate because they want to do something meaningful. They want the connection rather than the physical aspect of a bid item. Experiential items can create this connection. Examples are day tours, vacation trip, and visit to the site where your organization is working.

Another way to find items is to do solicitation. This will require a bit of work for your team since you’ll need to do a bit of research and look into your database for potential individuals or companies and leverage available connections. You can also start from your own circle, which is your family and friends. 

Don’t just solicit for any item. Look for ones that are rare. Make sure it comes in a price range that your supporters can afford to avail and something that is connected to your charity’s work.  

When doing solicitation, make sure your team has few things ready like solicitation letters, invitations, a list of people, items to procure, and a donation pledge. This will make the procurement of items easier.

Be creative with the auction.

Whether you conduct an online or live auction, it is important to keep the supporters occupied and entertained. A dull event can really kill the energy to participate in something meaningful, which is fundraising. One way to do this is to look for ways to let everyone be happy at the end of the event.

There are couples of things you can add to the auction event aside from bidding. Bear in mind not all bidders are able to purchase the item they want, and giving them other options to participate can be fun. 

Do a raffle activity where you can make them feel lucky for the night, or prepare freebies and give them to those who attended the event. If your charity is all about orphans, then hand-crafted souvenirs are a wonderful way to thank the donors. 

Aside from freebies, allocating time for games will add to the fun of the event. It will definitely keep the donors engaged.

To encourage more bidding, especially for online and silent type auction, use available technology such as SMS or bidding app notification informing them someone made a bid on the same item.

Going straightforward by requesting for donation is also a smart way to remind them what the event is all about.

Promotion and marketing

No matter how organized, if you do not have promotion and marketing strategies for the event, you will not have a successful auction. Marketing the event is necessary to attract bidders and supporters.

Aside from attracting supporters, a good promotion can do a couple of things. One is getting the word out about the event. The wider the reach, the more people can participate. It will also encourage early registration and giving the attendees a glimpse of items that will be at an auction. Marketing will create excitement and build anticipation for those who will get involved. 

The best way to get a wider reach is to use multiple channels available. This means aside from the typical invitation and the charity’s registration website, there are plenty of ways to get the word out. Tap into the power of social media, blog sites, and email marketing. Get a few influencers to help you spread the news. 


Also, make sure that the charity’s website, the registration form, and online catalog is functioning properly.

Create a team

It takes a team to make a fundraising event a success. An auction committee dedicated to the project can make a huge difference and help simplify tasks. Since there are a lot of parts involve in planning an auction, create a central hub to streamline communications. The committee can then be divided into sub-committee; event, procurement, marketing, and operations.

  • Event committee

For this committee, the focus will be defining the theme, coordinating, coming up with a list of speakers, venue and set-up planning, selection of suppliers, and fundraising presentation.

  • Procurement committee

This team is responsible for creating donation letters and requests, securing and tracking donations and doing follow up and sending out thank you notes to all the donors. 

  • Operation Committee

Managing item details, pricing, bidder assignments, coming up with bid sheets, printing pages, sheets, and catalog, and closing out the auction process are some of the responsibilities of this team.

  • Marketing Committee

Promoting the event, online catalog, selling raffle tickets, and reaching out to influencers and other social media pages and brands. Maximizing online resources for the charity.

What are the rules of auction sales?

  1. An auction sale is considered a public sale because the goods are sold in public gathered in a specific place. (1)
  2. The buyers are the bidders, and the price is the bid. The good goes to the one who offers the highest bid. 
  3. The one facilitating the sale is called the auctioneer and is considered as the agent of the seller. 
  4. A sale is considered completed when the auctioneer announces the winning bidder. A bidder can cancel his bid prior to the announcement. 
  5. A seller can reserve his right to bid, and he can assign a person to bid on his behalf. 
  6. It is unlawful when a seller’s representative bid on his behalf when the seller is not in the form of his right to bid. 
  7. Pretend bidding to raise the price of the item makes the sale voidable. When this happens, a buyer can choose not to honor the contract. 
  8. An auction can be subjected to a reserve price. This means the auctioneer can decide not to sell the item if it’s below the reserve price.
  9. Items sold in lots will be considered as a separate contract for each item.

What happens if the person bids at an auction and can’t pay?

According to François Curiel, chairman for Europe and Asia’s well-known auction company, Christie, the number of non-paying bidders in the industry is fairly negligible (2).

What happens to the bidders in case they failed to pay really depends on the situation. However, there is a probability of getting sued. In a case of an art dealer in New York, Anatole Shagalov was sued by Sotheby because he failed to pay 6.5 million for an artwork. Although Sotheby was able to find another buyer who then bid it at a lower price, Shagalov was still demanded to pay $2.13 million for the incident he caused. 

Aside from being sued, the bidder will be banned from joining any auction events.

What happens if no one bids at auction?

When there is no bidding during the auction, the auctioneer can bid on behalf of the seller to get things moving. However, when the bidding didn’t reach the reserve price, the auction will probably pass. 

Some negotiate privately with the highest bidder, but this doesn’t often end with a sale. For the seller, it might indicate that the reserve price might be too high for such an item/property. The item can be put back to the auction.

Create a lasting impression

Once you’re done with the charity auction, do not stop there. Do a follow-up and send appreciation notes to the donors in order to gain their long-time support. 

Running a charity auction is not easy. It requires planning and commitment to make it happen. This guide is to help you get things started and make the fundraising project a success. 

References: 1. 2.