5 tools for promoting your charity fundraising event on a budget

An auction, whether live or silent, can be an excellent fundraiser for your nonprofit. Such an event raises not only money but much-needed buzz about your organization among donors, potential bidders, other supporters and staff.

One of the keys to getting the most out of your auction is promoting the event early and often.

An effective promotional campaign can have a profound affect on whether or not your event is well-attended. It’s all about getting the word out – and there has never before been such a wide array of low-cost tools and open channels to communicate with your audience!

Here are the top five cost-effective tools for promoting your fundraising event.

1. Email campaigns

Email is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching out to your organization’s broad contact list, and it offers the advantage of crafting your message toward very targeted groups. 

Your email campaigns will be most effective if you build anticipation by planning a series of email campaigns leading up to the event. A major part of that excitement will be generated by your ability to promote your big-ticket auction items early, sparking interest and improving your click-through rate.

Winspire twins only smallWhat is an email’s click-through rate?

Click-through rate (CTR) refers to the number of email recipients who clicked on a link in a given email. Measuring the number of users that clicked on a specific link is a good way to gauge the effectiveness of that particular email campaign or call-to-action.

By securing large items like no-risk travel packages early, rather than waiting for unknown donations to come along, you will be better able to engage your target bidders and get them talking about your event from the start. For example, shining the spotlight on a unique experiential travel package such as our Cancun Paradise Vacation will allow you to build some fun-in-the-sun excitement early on during your promotion efforts, even providing the theme for your email campaigns.

Another best practice is to ask supporters what travel experiences are on their bucket list well before your promotional campaign begins and use the response for guidance in selecting those packages most likely to ignite excitement.


2. Websites

Another very inexpensive but effective means for promoting your auction event is to use your organization’s website. In addition to providing website visitors with the basic information about your event, take things a step further by actively engaging potential bidders.

Build a landing page devoted completely to your event so that your email campaign can link directly to your website’s auction event information page. As with email campaigns, promoting an item early that is high in the “wow” factor will help to build traffic to your site. Play up the unique, luxurious experience of a trip with photos, video and exciting descriptions.

Sample NP website page

Try some new ideas on your landing page that aren’t typically what your supporters expect when coming to your website. Launch a new discussion board focused entirely on an auction item like a travel experience to get the buzz going and sustain it up to the time of the event. Utilize other engaging features, like polls, surveys and voting, to increase the number of return visitors.

Besides your own organization’s website, look for opportunities to provide information to community portals and other frequently visited sites targeting your area.


3. Social media

In addition to promoting your auction event on your organization’s existing Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages, create a new page or profile devoted entirely to your auction event. As with other means of promotion, it is the perfect place to showcase one or more awe-inspiring auction items, such as luxury travel or sports memorabilia.

Include plenty of photos and video, and develop posts that engage donors in the excitement of the moment. Ask questions of your followers and hold online contests that relate to the top auction items. Be sure to engage your existing supporters in helping to invite others to follow your event’s page.

Writing a Press Release

Related: Write a Killer Press Release for Your Charity Auction EventPress releases are a crucial tool every Nonprofit should be using to get news coverage for their fundraising event.Read More →

4. Traditional media

While online promotion is important, there is still a place for traditional media in promoting your auction event. In fact, depending on the demographics of your target donors, traditional media may be a better avenue than digital media.

Develop a series of media releases leading up to the event will help to build excitement. As with other promotional efforts, highlight that standout auction item for best results.

Look for opportunities to promote your event with your local radio or television station. Stations in smaller communities are often very welcoming of special guests, particularly when there is a good cause behind the organization they represent.

If your budget allows, buy some air time and print advertising to help round out your promotional efforts. Most newspapers and magazines provide advertising packages that offer a combination of online and print advertising.

Target your advertising as much as possible by utilizing your knowledge of your organization’s most likely bidders and supporters. One of the biggest—and most costly—mistakes organizations make with paid advertising is failing to properly target their efforts.

5. Community involvement

Media outlets aren’t your only avenues for promoting your event and the exciting items that will be a part of the auction. Your community likely has a number of community events, festivals, meetings and trade shows that offer the opportunity to set up a booth, request a spot on the program or otherwise draw attention to your auction event and organization’s cause.

Many public forum, including sporting events, rallies, conferences, meetings and similar events, offer the opportunity for a few moments on a public address system. Attend meetings of local groups and organizations and ask for a few moments on the program. Use volunteers, community members, donors and past bidders to spread the word about the auction.

A portion of your budget can be used to create stickers, buttons and other items people can wear or display to help promote your auction. Signage, ad boards and flags are also effective displays for drumming up interest.


Even with a small budget, you can still put a big effort into paving the way for a successful auction event. By promoting key auction items early on that are sure to grab the attention of potential bidders, you can utilize a number of low-cost and no-cost marketing channels for creating excitement and building anticipation for your event.

What tools do you use to promote your event? We want to hear about them! Leave a comment below to let us know what has worked for your fundraising events in the past.