Event Planning: Attracting Attendees

Once you are three and sixth months from your fundraising auction, it’s important to narrow your focus toward attracting attendees. Make sure the following tasks are on your to-do list and you are well on your way to getting them done.

1. Determine Guest List.

Creating a guest list will help you remember to invite all potential and important donors. Look at last year’s guest list to get started. Be sure to include those who couldn’t attend last year as well as those who showed up without a direct invitation. Compile the list and check for complete contact information from each guest, including email and mailing address.

2. Identify Your VIP Guests.

Begin personally reaching out and confirming the attendance of your VIP guests who usually spend the most at your events. These “big spenders” usually have friends or colleagues with the funds to support your cause, so take the opportunity to encourage your VIPs to bring new guests.

You can offer free tickets and even entire tables for those who promise to bring groups of guests, but be careful how many tickets you give away. Your VIP donors know you are trying to raise money, so don’t hesitate to discuss with them the spending propensity of new guests. 

3. Design “Save the Date” Cards and Invitations.

The “Save the Date” card should go out first, as soon as you have a date and venue set or about 5-6 months before the event. It’s important to get a head start on the invitations as well, which are a crucial part of promoting the event and shouldn’t be left to the last minute. We recommend sending invitations out between 2-3 months before the event. The invitation should include details about the event, highlight sponsors or underwriters and showcase some of the big-ticket no-risk auction items that will be available. You should also include clear directions for guests to RSVP online.


Both your invitations and “Save the Date” mailings should look professional, exciting and intriguing. If your design skills aren’t up to par, hire a professional, recruit a talented Board Member or volunteer, or take advantage of the many online sources you can use such as www.paperlesspost.com.  

If you’re on a budget, you can also ditch the snail mail option and utilize an online event invitation resource, such as www.eventbrite.com.


4. Set up an Auction Catalog.

Donors are going to be curious about what sort of items will be auctioned off at your event. Begin setting up a print or online catalog to showcase your auction items as the procurement committee brings them in.

When setting up your online auction catalog, use pictures and descriptive imagery for each item. You want attendees to show up to your event eager to bid!


Highlighting your items – especially any priceless experiences or other big-ticket items – will get your invitees excited and possibly increase the attendance of your event.

5. Set up Online Registration.

As soon as you begin promoting the event and sending out invitations, guests should be able to go online and purchase tickets and register for the event. Test out the system beforehand to make sure the online registration process is straightforward and clear. A frustrating website can cause people to exit out and decide it’s not worth their time.

6. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise.

Once your online catalog and tickets are set up, start advertising as much as possible. Utilize different channels including TV, radio, newspapers, social media and flyers. To generate more buzz, reveal your big-ticket items in your pre-event promotion so attendees will show up prepared to spend money.

Staying on task is essential when planning your big fundraising event. By creating a to-do list, you’ll stay ahead of the game and be much more effective as a party planner.

Auction Item Procurement Starter Kit Auction Item Procurement
Starter Kit

A free resource with helpful templates to get the auction item procurement process off the ground.
We’ve created two general templates for the Procurement Letter and Donation Form to get you started. 

The Starter Kit includes:

  • Donation Form TEMPLATE (.docx)
  • Procurement Letter TEMPLATE (.docx)
  • Procurement Letter Example (PDF)