Killing Your Fundraiser


Charity auction items are the bedrock of a successful fundraising event. They offer a fun and engaging way for guests to interact, spend money for a good cause and even take something special home at the end of the night. All too often, however, auction items at Nonprofit fundraising events garner too few bids, don’t raise much money and generally aren’t worth the amount of time it took to procure them. So what gives?

Usually it comes down to a few easy-to-rectify mistakes that can kill the earning potential of the auctions items you spent months procuring. Generate record fundraising numbers at your next charity auction by avoiding these five mistakes:

Mistake #1: Ignoring audience interests

Items up for auction must appeal to the people attending the event. That’s why understanding audience interests before you start procuring items is key. For example, if you know you have a lot of foodies and wine enthusiasts on your guest list, tailor your auction items to include culinary workshops, dining packages or travel experience to wine country. For music gurus, tickets to the local concert hall or an auction package to a nationally televised awards show will draw big interest. Use the knowledge of audience interests to your advantage so you can procure items and select experiences that will inspire fierce bidding.
— For more read: 3 Ways to Procure Auction Items Based on Donor Interests

Mistake #2: Lack of advertising

Unveiling everything on the day of the event might seem like it would create a nice surprise factor, but this strategy often backfires. If you have amazing auction packages for this year’s event, advertise them early on! This builds excitement prior to the event and lets attendees gauge their interest before they even enter the building. When you get people coming to the event already knowing they are going to bid for a particular item, you’re positioned for a very active and successful auction.
— For more read: 5 Tips for Using Auction Items to Generate Buzz For Your Event

Mistake #3: Boring on-site displays

Picture this: a luxury auction package for an all-inclusive trip to Mexico up for bid at an event, but all attendees see is a black-and-white flyer on a table. This display does nothing to entice or excite. Jazz up the display with a little marketing magic. Photographs, videos, sand, seashells, margarita glasses or other objects representative of the trip can make for a stunning display that will attract attention and bids.
— For more read: 3 Tips for Displaying Auction Items to Attract Fierce Bidding

Mistake #4: Minimal information for bidders

Auction packages that feature vacations, event tickets, unique activities and more are all big-ticket items. If you want people to spend larger amounts of money, give them all the details about what they are bidding on. Have promotional pieces that highlight the package, and include key details and logistical information. It’s a smart idea to also provide printouts that go into the details and have a volunteer available to answer any questions potential bidders may have.
— For more read: Bid Sheets 101: Improve Your Silent Auction With Better Bid Sheets

Mistake #5: Cramped and confusing auction area 

Attendees need to be able to comfortably view auction items up close and move freely from table to table. Too many auction tables crammed together makes for a hectic, uninviting environment. Furthermore, don’t forget the simple things, like proper lighting and large font sizes on printouts to make it easy for everyone to read and make bids.
— For more read: 5 Tips for Maximizing Your Fundraising Event Space


Knowledge is power! Now that you know the most common mistakes related to auctioning packages at events, you can take simple steps to avoid them. Do you have any mistakes that you’ve learned from while putting on a charity fundraising auction? Please share in the comments below!

Winspire Communications Director

About Ian Lauth

With an extensive background in marketing and design, Ian’s role at Winspire is to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue.

Ian serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Winspire News, creating and managing blog content,  newsletters, eBooks and other resources for Nonprofit fundraising professionals. You can also find Ian on Google+.

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