How to Promote Nonprofit Auction Items through Email

With so much attention focused on the benefits of social media as a marketing tool, it can be easy to forget that email is still the most effective medium for promoting Nonprofit auction events. Email marketing is the most personal medium that allows you to address your supporters directly.

The most important part of an effective Nonprofit email campaign is establishing a clear strategy and schedule. Every message you craft needs to be carefully considered and planned so your emails don’t end up in the trash. Here are a few tips to help you promote your nonprofit auction items event more effectively through email marketing.

Nonprofit Hope Gala Newsletter

Click Here to enlarge this example of an effective email campaign.

1. Have something to promote

It helps to have some “sizzle” in your message when you are promoting a fundraising event. One way to do this is to secure your big-ticket nonprofit auction items early so you can use them to pique interest and encourage people to click on your email.

Highlighting your biggest and best auction items early will also increase engagement and get people talking about the event sooner. This can be difficult to do if you rely soley on donated items which often don’t materialize until the last minute.

Promoting your nonprofit auction items early will also result in more bidding during the benefit auction. By giving your audience a “Sneak Peek!”, you will get them thinking about how much money they may want to spend at your event.

Experiential travel packages, for example, appeal to just about everybody and can be reserved for your event months in advance, giving you more time to pursue other big-ticket items that you can promote later. Showcasing travel Experiences early on may also catch donors who have untapped travel budgets and are in the market for purchasing a vacation.

2. Create an engaging subject line

The email subject line is crucial because it is the recipient’s first impression of your promotional campaign. It needs to be short and powerful – so each word matters.

Having big-ticket nonprofit auction items to promote makes it much easier to come up with compelling subject lines. You can offer a “Sneak Peek!” or a chance to “Bid on Your Dream Trip!” to draw attention and get supporters to click on the email. Here are some more tips to keep in mind when crafting your subject line:

  • Use no more than 60 characters. (Example: “Win a Trip to Napa Valley at the 2014 HOPE Gala!”)
  • Give readers insight to what the email is about.
  • Be engaging and choose words carefully.
  • Pique their interest. A headline like “Save the planet and win a trip to Italy!” will get your supporters to want to learn more.


3. Include compelling body content

Once the email recipient clicks on your email, you want to keep them engaged. This is why highlighting your best nonprofit auction items is so beneficial – it gets recipients to scroll through the entire email. Following are a few strategies to help you communicate effectively and encourage readers to attend the event:

 Keep it short:  Emails aren’t meant to be long, and too much content will overwhelm recipients. Although there are many elements you’ll want to include, such as a personal story, big-ticket items, a call to action and information about your mission, it’s important that everything is condensed and concise. In other words, keep it short and sweet.

 Make it personal:  One of the advantages of email marketing is that you have the chance to make your message personal. Use the donor’s name and tailor your messages to individuals or groups of donors. What might be persuasive to one group of recipients might not be to another; with emails, you have the ability to connect with donors in different, more unique ways.

 Tug at their heartstrings:  Appealing to donors’ emotions is an essential strategy for Nonprofits. While your mission statement provides information about your Nonprofit’s goals, including a quick personal success story will put a real face to your cause. To enhance the message, complement your words with a picture.

 Entice them to attend your event:  Donors want to support a good cause, but they also want to be offered a good time and exciting auction items. If your event is going to have a theme or some form of entertainment, mention it in the emails. Provide more information about the Experiential travel items you will be auctioning at the event. Instead of advertising all of your exciting items together, you can keep readers’ interest by revealing one item per email. Mentioning big-ticket items one at a time is a sure way to create buzz around your auction.

 Inspire action:  When promoting your event through email marketing, the main goal is to inspire recipients to buy tickets to attend the auction. Write a clear and straightforward call to action, and make it easy for donors to buy tickets or donate by adding links within the message.

4. Time it right

The timing of your emails and how often you send them can either help or hurt the effectiveness of your campaign. While there aren’t any hard and fast rules, it’s usually best to start promoting tickets and auction items about 3-4 months prior to the event.

Start with one email every couple weeks for the first few months of promotion and then increase it to one email per week in the last month leading up to the auction.

When you’re ready to send out an email, carefully select the day and time for the most impact and views. The best time to send emails is in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Marketers often recommend that you don’t send out emails on weekends, Mondays or Fridays, as people are not checking their emails as frequently.

With the right strategies in place and exciting Experiential travel items to promote, email marketing can help you increase attendance and excitement for your event.

Get the most out of your email campaigns! Click here to download the free eBook, “Beginner’s Guide to Email Event Promotion,” with bonus content calendar to help plan and organize efforts.