Charity auctions can be great fun and raise large amounts of money for good causes. They’re also reasonably simple to organise, especially if you follow this easy-to-understand guide.
Choose your type
One of the first decisions you need to make is what sort of auction you want to hold. The two main types are:
What happens? You create a list of auction items and receive bids in writing. When a set time period ends, the person with the highest bid wins the item.
You can decide to hold a longer-term auction, held over a period of weeks, or an in-person fundraising event where people turn up to bid at a particular time.
Why choose it? This may be the right choice for you if you want a relatively low-key event that is as simple as possible to coordinate.
What happens? This is a far more entertainment-focused event, which can be both fast and loud. Bidders can hold up signs or shout out to bid.
Why choose it? Live auctions can be great fun and can make lots of money when bidders take on each other. The downside is that they can be quite frenzied and you might need a professional auctioneer to ensure that proceedings go smoothly.
Things to consider
- If you are planning to hold an in-person auction, you will need to organise a relatively large venue. If you have to pay for this, you will make less profit.
- Will you accept sealed bids before the auction?
- Can people make telephone bids or internet bids if they cannot make a set time and place?
- If you are planning an in-person silent auction, how will you keep people entertained as items are examined and bids are placed?
- How big an event do you want to run? Are your ambitions manageable?
Source your items
Leave plenty of time to source items to auction, especially if you’re going to be asking strangers or businesses for donations. It can also pay to set your schedule to avoid ‘peak’ fundraising periods.
You are likely to get a much better response from benefactors if you ask for donations in February, for example, rather than if your request coincides with countless others in the run-up to summer or Christmas fair season.
How to get your auction lots
Second-hand items – Trawl your local charity shops and car boots and ask family and friends to donate unwanted items. Make sure that all items are in good condition and factor in costs if you decide to buy items.
Ask businesses to donate products but remember that they will probably get many requests throughout the year. Try to make your request stand out and approach businesses which have an affinity with your cause, whether that is because they are in your local area or because the owner has a personal connection.
Don’t be afraid to be creative when it comes to who you ask for donations. Try celebrities who hail from your area or who have spoken out about a particular cause.
Try to source at least one ‘star’ item that will draw in the crowds.
Promise to award benefactors with a mention or small ad in publicity material.
If appropriate, consider running a bar in conjunction with your auction. Provided that you adhere to licensing laws, this can be a great way of raising extra money and getting bidders in the mood for buying.
Ask a local auctioneer to donate their time in return for some publicity.
Publicise your event
You might have the best lots, venue, entertainment and refreshments but if people don’t know about your event then it’s not going to be a success. Get those posters printed and the fliers dropped off and make sure that the local media is informed.
Planning and preparation are key. Make sure that you and your helpers know what you are going to be doing on the day and that your bidders know how exactly how the event is going to work.
Print out auction leaflets with important information about the auction procedure or include this in your auction catalogue.
On the day
Make sure that you give people plenty of time to view items before they have to place their bids. It is also vital to make careful notes to record who wins.
You also need to know exactly how people are paying for their items and where they are picking them up from. Giving bidders this information beforehand is vital.
Consider whether to offer a delivery service (for a fee) and set a date by which payments must be received.
Top Tips & Things to Remember
- Don’t be afraid to be creative, both in the way you approach benefactors and when it comes to putting on your event.
- Limit your expenses. You may have big ambitions but profit is key.
- Don’t aim too high. It is better to organise a successful small event than a huge failure.
- Make sure that everyone knows what they are doing before, after and during the auction.
Have fun. Don’t focus solely on the selling. Arrange an entertaining event and bigger profits are likely to follow. Happy people buy more!