Procuring Quality Charity Auction Items

Benefit auctions can be a successful fundraising strategy for Nonprofits and a great way to raise awareness. Before your Nonprofit can host a benefit auction, however, you first have to procure exciting and appealing silent auction items. Even with a dedicated and knowledgeable auction committee, this can feel like an overwhelming task. Follow these three tips to make the process smoother and easier to manage.

1. Calculate How Much You’re Trying to Raise

When you ask Nonprofits how much money they want to raise, most are going to say there is no such thing as raising “too much money”. However, determining a concrete goal will keep your Nonprofit focused on procuring the right quality and quantity of items to make that number possible. As your procurement team begins the process of gathering items, take the time to determine the Suggested Retail Value and Estimated Yield of each item as they come in.

Suggested Retail Value is what the item would typically retail for, which is the forward facing price that your donors should see on the silent auction table or when presenting the item to a live audience.

Estimated Yield is the amount you think the item will actually sell for, minus any costs associated with it. In other words, it is the amount of net fundraising dollars you think the item will actually generate. It’s usually a good idea to be conservative when establishing this dollar amount. 

Keep records of these numbers as your auction items start coming in. This will give you a ballpark idea as to whether you have the right quantity and mix of items to achieve your goal.


2. Have a Brainstorming Session

In order to come up with new and interesting ideas for auction item procurement, gather your committee and brainstorm. Depending on the size of your organization, host a brainstorming session with multiple committees – like one with your Board of Directors and one with your procurement team.

Write everything down. During your brainstorm session, write down each idea—no matter how bizarre it might seem. Then spend time going through the list and narrowing it down. When deciding which items to eliminate, be sure to keep in mind who your audience is and what their interests are.

Need ideas for unique, valuable auction items? Download the list of over 400 ideas for items that raise excitement and get bids.


Once your list is finalized, assign individuals on your procurement team to obtain each item. You can assign multiple people to pursue larger or harder-to-get items. This may involve tapping into connections and resources certain committee members have and are willing to utilize.

3. Start Asking

Don’t be shy! Nonprofits often have a hard time asking for donations because they don’t want to seem too forward or become a nuisance. Just remember: in order to receive donations, you need to ask for donations. People do want to help; they just need to know how!

All about “The Ask“.  Prepare your procurement team to be direct when asking local businesses to donate their services and make sure they are ready to effectively explain your cause and the importance of your mission. Inspire your team to show their passion when doing an “Ask”. It will motivate those they solicit to not only contribute items, but possibly contribute more.

When a business or individual decides to donate an item, make sure you or you procurement team has documentation with them ready to be filled out. Do all the “paperwork” for the donor – don’t ask them to fill out any forms! Make sure your solicitors fill out the procurement packet completely and getting signatures right then and there… this saves a lot of phone calls later on to fill in the details.

Procuring quality auction items is not a small task, but putting these three quick tips into practice will save you a lot of time and heartache as you get closer to your event. Try to have fun with it! Your passion and energy will spread to your team and have positive repercussions throughout the procurement process.