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A Beginner’s Guide to Throwing a Fundraising Auction: 5 Tips for Organization and Execution

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This is part two in a two-part series. Read part one

So, you’ve started the exciting process of procuring items for your fundraising auction. Now what? In this blog post, I’m giving you practical tips and tools for staying organized as you store the items and prepare for your event.

Tip #1: Track your progress. 

During the procurement period, organization is key. In order to stay on top of everything, create a document, spreadsheet, or other tool that you can use to track the auction items. You should include things like where every item is coming from, who the contact person is if you need to reach out with a question about the item, and when it arrived. Once you’ve got that together, share this information with your team.

If an item has been promised to your organization, be sure to document that as well so you can follow up if needed. Once you start receiving items, have a system for where the item is stored and accounted for. Make sure you store the items in a safe and secure location.

I recommend saving your procurement list from your first auction (and every auction thereafter) so you start with a solid set of leads for the next event. When you start planning for the next auction, go back through your list with your team and see what was donated previously and what items were popular at your event so you know what might interest people this time around.

Tip #2: Use fundraising auction software. 

I recommend using fundraising auction software to help you stay organized during the procurement phase and to make bidding easy for guests during the event. Here are some capabilities you should look for when choosing an auction software:

  • Allows you to enter and organize your items into categories while also assigning them item donors, price points, and pictures
  • Allows guests who are not present at the physical event to participate by bidding online or via an app
  • Includes detailed reports that you can use to track the success of your event

There will likely be a cost associated with the software, but ultimately it can save you a lot of time and make bidding even easier for guests.

Tip #3: Create a layout that is visually appealing. 

Just like you’re more likely to purchase something that is presented in a visually appealing way at a store, making your auction look nice can result in a higher perceived value and higher bids!

I recommend watching YouTube tutorials or searching on Pinterest or Instagram to see examples of how you can put together baskets or add a few nice touches to present solo items. These can be as simple as adding a ribbon or using some other low-cost material to make the item look more presentable.

Tip #4: Don’t crowd your tables.

If you’re throwing an in-person event, make sure your items are evenly spaced out. They shouldn’t be crowding the same table because this will overwhelm your guests and may result in certain items being overlooked. When arranging your items, consider alternating items like gift cards and physical items so that the tables don’t get too crowded with just one type of item.

You should also take care with where and how you present gift cards or certificates. It’s better to be safe than sorry so don’t put them out on the tables where they can be easily stolen. Work with your team to find a way to keep the cards out of sight or safe during the bidding period.

One way to avoid any issues with overcrowding is to work with your venue to ensure there is plenty of room for your auction—items, signs, and all!

Tip #5: Make the checkout process as smooth as possible.

Your fundraising auction software should be able to help you arrange the items in a way that makes it easy for your supporters to see and bid on items. To make the checkout process smoother, once an item has been pulled, pull the item’s sign with it so you can keep visual track on what items are left to be picked up. Be sure your supporters know how to claim their items if they purchased them online or had to leave the event before the auction closed.

At the end of the day, organization and communication are key when it comes to throwing a successful fundraising auction. Brainstorm with your team any pitfalls that may arise during the event and try to plan ahead for how to avoid them and what you could do if an issue takes place. With these tips and tools, you have a better chance for a smooth and successful auction from start to finish.

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