Charity Auctions: The Ultimate Auctions Guide to Hosting A Better Charity Auction for Your Nonprofit

Charity auctions are some of the top activities you can host at your next fundraiser. Not only can auctions generate excellent sources of revenue for your programs, they also provide a great way to generate rapport with your guests and transform them into long-term supporters and donors.

What’s more, you can reach many more donors through a charity auction these days thanks to online tools that let you hold auctions in an in-person venue, virtual space, or a combination of the two. And with an online platform like PayBee, many of the tasks involved in planning, marketing, and managing your charity auctions can now be automated, making the process much easier for your team.

If you’re new to this, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to hosting profitable auctions based on our experience with hundreds of charity fundraisers. We’ll go over the types of auctions you can host, the tools that will be most helpful to you, and top tips for making your management process simpler.

Charity Auctions You Can Host at Your Fundraiser

You can host a variety of auctions using today’s technology. Each enables you to connect with a different type of donor that may prefer certain types of auctions to another.

Silent Auctions

Silent auctions allow you to display your products in an in-person or virtual space where bidders can write their offers on paper sheets or a mobile bidding app on their smartphone. You can offer virtually any item at these auctions, from gift baskets to exotic getaways.

The great thing about these auctions is that they can be held over the course of several days, allowing you to generate immediate revenue even before your main charity fundraiser starts. And if some of your products or services prove particularly popular, these auctions let your products sell for a higher price than live auctions since people have more time to place offers.

Live Auctions

Live auctions resemble the high-energy event you see on TV or in the movies. Here, an auctioneer will present each item and manage your event in front of an in-person audience. This audience can be in-person, virtual, or both. Guests raise paddles to signify their bids or place them via a mobile app.

While these auctions may only last a few hours, they can generate a lot of aggressive bidding in this short period. A lot of this depends on whether you get an auctioneer who can hype up the crowd and get them excited. If you do get a good auctioneer, your guests will have a very positive experience which will reflect well on your nonprofit.  

Online Auctions

Thanks to current virtual technology, you can now host auctions (and for that matter your entire charity fundraiser) completely online. This can be silent, requiring you to list all your products on a web page, or live, requiring you to livestream your auctions so your guests can see your auctioneer present each item.

You may have already seen or participated in online auctions like those featured on Auctions International. These virtual events allow you to reach out to a much wider audience. Your donors can participate from literally every corner of the world if they have access to an Internet connection. This allows you to build a larger support base and improve your chances of generating more revenue for your charity.

Hybrid Auctions

Charity auctions don’t have to be entirely in-person or virtual. Some of the most successful auctions combine the best of virtual and in-person auctions to create hybrid auctions that reach an even broader audience. With hybrid auctions, you can livestream your in-person auction so online guests can participate at the same time your in-person audience does.

While hybrid auctions can be challenging to manage (some events use two teams to oversee the virtual and in-person parts of a hybrid gala), they can also generate a lot of excitement. Again, you can make either a silent or live auction a hybrid gala.

Online Tools to Host an Auction

While some nonprofits continue to use paper invites, ledgers, and notepads to run their auctions, a platform like PayBee can offer many more useful tools to make running auctions easier. We recommend using the following:

Auction software

PayBee software supports your event by helping you build a live or silent auction campaign, list your products, track them, and even build seating charts for your in-person guests. We also make it simple to print physical paddles with QR codes for your in-person audience that make the bidding more fun and easier to keep track of.

PayBee also offers features specifically designed to make your auctions more convenient for your guests. For instance, our Buy-It-Now feature lets you set a price or fee for each item that allows bidders to simply purchase the item immediately, saving them the trouble of updating their offers (and earning you an immediate profit). Our Auto Max bidding feature lets participants automate their bidding using increments and limits they determine.

Registration software

Guests should be able to sign up easily on your registration page to purchase tickets. Likewise, your staff should have tools like the PayBee App that make check-in and check-out a fast and simple process. Your registration software should be able to acquire payment information from guests and accept multiple payment options. For instance, PayBee accepts credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, checks, and more.

Mobile bidding tools

Mobile apps like the PayBee App make it easier not only for a guest to place a bid but also for your team to keep track of your activity and create accurate reports of your fundraiser, keeping things much more organized.

CRM database

Successful fundraisers require you to know key information about your guests, including everything from contact information to dietary restrictions. This will help you accommodate each guest and encourage positive, long-term relationships with your donors. Your CRM database should be able to store this useful information to help you prepare for future events.

Marketing software

A good auction needs to be promoted in advance on the social media channels your target audience frequents. PayBee lets you inform others of your fundraiser on multiple popular social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Planning Your Event

When you’re getting ready to host an auction, it’s important for your team to first decide on what type of auction you’ll be hosting — live or silent — as well as where you’ll be hosting it (in-person, virtual, or in a hybrid space). Be sure everyone is clear on your budget and goals.

Give yourself enough time to setup your gala by scheduling it anywhere from six to nine months ahead. This will let your teams procure your items, as well as rent a venue, hire an auctioneer, and get a catering service (if you’re planning on hosting an in-person fundraiser). This will also give your guests plenty of time to buy tickets.

PayBee can help automate many of these tasks. For instance, our platform makes it easy for you to build a website to promote your auction and create listings. You can even bulk upload your items once you acquire them and include enticing descriptions and photographs of each item which will help make your events more successful.

Promoting Your Fundraiser

Start marketing your auction months in advance to generate excitement about your upcoming fundraiser. We recommend promoting your auction on multiple channels, including:

  • Social Media: Concentrate on the channels your target audience frequents (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.)
  • Email: Your upcoming auction should be featured in your e-newsletter if you have one. Also, send out invitations to the supporters in your network, informing them of what they can bid on in your auction.
  • Offline marketing channels: Word-of-mouth and strategically placed flyers can still attract a lot of interest from your local community
  • Supporters’ social media: Your staff and volunteers can promote your fundraiser to their own peer networks. Make sure they provide links that will direct people to your website and auction.

Create interest in promoting your auctions by offering prizes to supporters who help market your event on social media or create their own content (blog posts, videos etc.) to alert others to your fundraiser. Make sure to highlight the top offerings in your auction on your social media posts and include a direct link to your registration site so people can register for your fundraiser.

Strategies to Improve Auction Performance

During your actual auction, there are multiple strategies you can use to maximize your fundraising opportunities.

The quality of your products will directly impact how much interest there is in your charity auction. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest in high-ticket items. In fact, you should base your offerings more on your audience’s personal interests than how much they normally cost. If procuring items proves to be a challenge with your budget, there are plenty of products and services you can acquire for free or for a low price, particularly if you create partnerships with company sponsors.

If you’re holding an in-person live auction, take advantage of the paddles PayBee automatically generates. We’ve found that holding a physical paddle stimulates participation and our QR codes will help make check-out easier. It also goes without saying that recruiting a professional auctioneer will help increase energy at your event and motivate guests to bid more. Your auctioneer should be well-versed at working an in-person and online audience, particularly if you plan on hosting a hybrid auction.

The PayBee Mobile App, Buy-It-Now option, and Auto Max bidding feature are all essential tools for your events. The mobile app can also be used for live auctions, particularly if some of your participants won’t be in the same room. 

Preparing for Your Next Event

Even after your auction concludes, there’s still plenty of work to be done. All your winning bidders need to be checked out and pay any outstanding donations. You’ll also need to arrange for pickups or deliveries of the winning auction items, particularly if any winners weren’t at your physical venue.

In addition, be sure to thank all your attendees, including those who didn’t win. Let them know in emails or written thank you cards how much you appreciate their support and get their feedback on your fundraiser. Their input can help you host better future auctions that keep your charity in the minds of your donors and supporters.

PayBee helps generate detailed reports on your auction’s performance (and all your activities). Take time to review and analyze your performance to see where you can improve. Identify top participants who used the Buy-It-Now option, and spent the most money. You’ll definitely want to keep these people on your contact list and regularly reach out to thank them and inform them of your future charity auctions.   

You can also conduct wealth screenings of your attendees to see which ones have the ability and motivation to make generous charitable donations to your charity based on their past performance at other events. While keeping in touch with all your supporters is important, prioritizing the ones who can make the largest impact is essential to running successful fundraisers.

Moving Forward

As you gain more experience hosting fundraisers and charity auctions, you’ll learn the top strategies to earn more revenue for your charity’s programs. That said, it’s also useful to learn from other charities’ experiences with event management, which is why PayBee regularly puts out blog posts detailing winning strategies for hosting multiple types of charity auctions. Follow our blog to learn useful strategies.

And make sure you have all the tools you need to host winning auctions by signing up for a free demo of PayBee’s platform. See for yourself how easy-to-use our software is by participating in a mock live auction hosted by the PayBee system. Ask all your technical questions to our team of experts. See why hundreds of nonprofits regularly use PayBee to host their auctions by signing up for a free demo today!

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Nonprofit Fundraising
Nonprofit Tips
Michael Jung


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