Improve Attendance at your Benefit Auction

What’s the point of hosting a fabulous benefit auction if nobody shows? Okay, it’s unlikely that any event you plan will have zero attendees, but you get the idea. You want your benefit auction filled with supporters ready to bid and help your cause!

To boost both attendance and spending at your next benefit auction, follow these five tips and make it a smashing success:


1. Know the Social Calendar in Your Area

You can’t account for every little social gathering that is coming up in the future. You can, however, do some research to make yourself aware of major events that will be taking place in your local community.

Search events in the local newspapers or any online social calendars in your community. Attend chamber of commerce meetings or ask members of any events that are taking place around the time of your benefit auction. You can even ask key donors what their event schedule looks like to find out about similar events happening in the area.

Construct a social calendar of your own based on the information you find and select a date that makes the most sense. Once you’ve selected a concrete date for your event, return to each of the resources you used in your research to get your event posted as well.

2. Incentivize VIPs to Invite Friends

One of the better techniques to increase attendance and spending at your event is to make sure your largest contributors from previous events bring guests. Many organizations will give their biggest spenders from the previous year’s auction some complimentary tickets to invite their friends. The general thinking is that their circle of friends has the same socioeconomic level and spending habits, which is a great way to bring some new folks into the mix.

3. Advertise

Although advertising might seem like an obvious marketing strategy, many Nonprofits are hesitant to spend the money. Just remember, you have to spend money to make money! Place full-page ads in local or even major newspapers. Secure an ad spot on prime-time radio. If you have a local NPR member station, try contacting them for support or consider underwriting a few show segments.


If you do plan on spending some money on advertising, make sure the audience you’re targeting contains your target audience demographic. If you’re targeting 50+ year-old couples, for example, don’t waste money on a radio commercial on the local pop radio station.

Make sure you track the effectiveness of your campaign to assist in becoming more targeted each time you hold the event. To do this, include a question on the ticket registration page about where they heard about the event and include specific options for each ad campaign you have running.

4. Boost Interest with Email Newsletters and Social Media

Not all advertising costs money. Social media and email newsletters are the meat and potatoes of online advertising and offer a quick and easy way to share information about the event for free.

Social media is a great way to keep your supporters updated about the event for free. Create a Facebook Page for the event that people can “Like”, which allows you to post periodic updates about the progress of the event. You can even link the posts from your Facebook Page to automatically post to your organization’s twitter feed.

A few months before the occasion, create a Facebook Event and spread the word through your online friends and followers. If you don’t have many followers, find those in your organization or amongst your supporters who do and solicit them to help you pump out information about the event.


Email newsletters are one of the best resources you can use to market your event. Acquiring one active email subscriber is better than 100 twitter “followers” or 50 Facebook “likes”.

Most online email companies, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, offer a level of service for free that is usually based on the number of people in your mailing list. If you have an existing Rolodex of contacts that you can use, put them on a spreadsheet and import them into one of these online services once you’ve created an account. Even if you go over the number of contacts allowed for a free account, the cost is reasonable and totally worth it.

If you already utilize an email newsletter service and have a contact database you are actively in contact with, send emails once or twice a month with updates about the event, links to the Facebook Event page and information on how to reserve tickets.


5. Prepare Guests & Follow Up!

Get attendees ready to spend some money! Unlike advertising in newspapers, you can make social media posts and email newsletters more personal and in-depth.

Give updates on the planning process, share stories revolving around your mission and inform your audience of any major monetary or auction item donations. Give supporters a glimpse at what’s to come by sharing a few of the high-yield items that will be offered at your event. Sharing big-ticket items will generate more buzz around the event and entice people to show up and spend more.

Sharing Engaging Pictures of Volunteers and Showing you careEvery step of the way – whether it’s on social media or in your email newsletters, include engaging pictures of your volunteers and the event planning process!

Even when your guests RSVP “yes” to a social media event, it isn’t a guarantee that they’ll attend the auction. As the event approaches, follow up with an email or phone call to remind donors of the event and why they agreed to go in the first place. A simple reminder can be a powerful strategy that helps ensure guests attend.

Following these marketing strategy tips in preparation for your benefit auction can make a huge difference in attendance and spending on the day of the event.



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About Jeff Cova

Jeff Cova, President of Winspire, Inc., has over 17 years of experience in the nonprofit and fundraising industry. Prior to Winspire, Jeff worked for 5 years as the Director of Development at Cal State Fullerton before co-founding a company specializing in producing charity auctions for Nonprofits where he successfully produced the auctions for 250 of Southern California’s most successful fundraising events.

In 2008 Jeff founded Winspre with the goal of helping nonprofits across the country increase their event fundraising revenue and identify new fundraising sources. Jeff and his team at Winspire have helped over 12,000 non-profits to date. You can also find Jeff on Google+.

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