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Plan a successful Fundraising Auction | Auction Planning Checklist

5 min readNov 1, 2022


What is a Fundraising Auction?

A fundraising auction is an event hosted by nonprofit organizations to raise money for their charitable cause. These auctions can be standalone or a part of a large event such as an Annual Gala. Typically you will have a large assortment of items for sales, these items will either derive from donors, sponsors or internal budgets. The items can range from travel packages, event tickets, signed memorabilia, fine art, gift baskets, and more. During the auction the attendees will bid on items, these types of events solidify donor engagement.

Why Should You Plan an Auction?

Auctions have been proven to increase one time and recurring donations for charitable causes. This gives you an opportunity to celebrate your successes with your donors and sponsors while simultaneously increasing your fundraising efforts. Remember to create a space to spotlight your sponsors and show appreciation for their continued support. Overall charity auctions can have a great outcome for all parties involved when planned and executed properly.

If your auction is part of an annual Gala, our Gala Events Checklist can help you in planning the event.

What Type of Auction is Right for your Organization?

Live Auction
In general a live auction typically has an auctioneer that calls out items and bid amounts. This can be very engaging and create competition for the crowd. This may be a form of entertainment during large events such as Galas or Banquets. The role of the auctioneer is very important as he/she will create the energy in the room and encourage bidding. Ask for recommendations when choosing an auctioneer from other organizations or within your network.

Silent Auction
Silent Auctions do not have a live auctioneer, these bids are either placed on paper bidding sheets or mobile bidding software. Instead of the auctioneer there will be a time limit and when the time runs out the highest bidder will win the item. If you have a large amount of items you wish to sell and want to keep your costs low then a silent auction may be the right choice for your organization.

Virtual Auction
A virtual auction is held solely online therefore a physical venue would not be required. Essentially virtual auctions have the same concept as in-person including goal setting, item procurement, bidding, and raising funds for your cause. The difference is, it’s hosted in an online format which comes with some benefits. The benefits of virtual auctions are they significantly cut back on costs, logistics efforts and can reach a larger number of donors.

1. Planning

Begin your auction planning 6–8 months before the event. A well planned auction is the recipe for success, as there are many elements that go into an auction event. First and foremost create a well detailed strategy for your goals and budget. Plan how you will procure items, this process may take time to secure auction items.

Once you receive a few items you can use this as a sneak preview in your email campaigns and on social media. This will get donors engaged and excited about the upcoming event. Think outside the box while determining the types of auction items your donors would be interested in. Do you know any local businesses, perhaps they are interested in participating in the auction.

If you are hosting a Live Auction the auctioneer holds a very important role for the overall engagement of the attendees. The displayed physical items should be well lit and showcased in a visually appealing manner. Determine a theme that is appropriate for your donors, time of year, and auction items.

Start your overall planning process as early as possible to allow time for all aspects of the event to run as smoothly as possible. The goal is to host a memorable event where guests will want to return in following years and are inclined to give to your charitable cause.

2. Action

One month before the event is your final push to increase attendees, procure auction items, and finalize all of the venue details. Use your marketing materials to ask for donations, pledge and gain genuine excitement about the event. This is the time to begin to organize volunteer and staffing schedules. Use of seating chart software will make seating a breeze and allow table captains to assign seating accordingly. Open your auction 24–48 hours before the event can cause greater bidding and excitement for the day of. It is also recommended to have a rehearsal before the event, this will allow time to test all technology, run through staffing responsibilities and finalize decorations.

3. Go Time

On the day of the auction arrive as early as possible to ensure all aspects of the event are in place. You would have already had a rehearsal so use this time and for any last minute adjustments. Perform a walkthrough of the venue checking all decorations and auction items are in place. Plan to test the technology including mobile bidding and online check-in. Post a day of schedule for all staff members to reference. Also check in with vendors as they are arriving to ensure everything is running according to schedule. Remember to have fun at the event your team’s energy will come across to the attendees.

4. Follow-up

One week post auction, show appreciation for your donors by thanking them. It is a best practice to send top donors and sponsors hand written thank you notes. Address everyone that attended in emails and newsletters as well as social media platforms. In the written communications include the total amount raised, they will appreciate knowing how their contribution made a difference. Make time to evaluate your goals. Did you meet or exceed these goals? Did technology perform as expected? How you can improve the overall experience in the following years. Document all of this information for reference to continue to improve your auction events year over year.

Click here to download a comprehensive Charity Auction Checklist.

Gala Event and Auctions are key fundraising avenues for nonprofits and the elaborate nature of these make planning and organizing them a stressful task for nonprofits. LiveImpact’s robust donor management, events and auctions feature make it a breeze to organize these events. Learn more by seeing a demo of LiveImpact.




LiveImpact is a fully integrated, easy-to-use platform that is built for nonprofits of all sizes and offers fundraising, program management and volunteer manage