Charity auctions are some of the most profitable events nonprofits can host. They provide donors with a new way to support your nonprofit and they’re highly cost-effective. Not to mention, they’re incredibly flexible and can be adapted for a variety of audiences and goals.

Especially right now in the midst of COVID-19, organizations can’t risk losing supporters’ attention and engagement. Because of this, you’ll need to go into your nonprofit’s fundraising auction with an informed perspective. To help, we’ve compiled a list of tips to set your next charity auction up for maximum success. 

Whether you’re brand new to the charity auction space or are a seasoned fundraising professional, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some best practices. Ready to learn how to create a profitable and memorable auction? Let’s get started!

1. Host an Online Auction.

With social distancing guidelines still in full-force, you’re likely sticking strictly to virtual fundraising events, and an online auction is a great choice! But once the pandemic dissipates, you’ll still want to continue offering online bidding options, so consider creating a hybrid event by coordinating online bidding with your in-person auctions.

Online bidding works for a number of reasons. For one, supporters who want to participate might be unable to attend an in-person event, may arrive late or leave early, or may simply be hesitant to attend due to health concerns. By giving them the tools they need to bid from anywhere, they can support your cause and join in on the fun from afar. Here are some best practices for keeping remote bidders engaged:

  • Host a live stream. Online fundraising events often lack the face-to-face element that event organizers need to engage attendees. Luckily, live streaming resolves this issue! When going remote, there are a number of different options. One popular choice is to host a stream where you present items and ask for donations. You might also consider pre-recording a video introduction followed by a live finale stream where you thank attendees and highlight top bidders.
  • Provide them with a mobile bidding app. With mobile bidding, attendees will be able to bid across the globe or even without cellular signal using their smartphone. So long as they have internet access, they can participate without being glued to their computers throughout the entire event. Plus, instant push notifications and text updates will notify them when they’ve been outbid, so they can jump back in. This also goes for your in-person attendees who can stay engaged no matter where they are at your event.
  • Add photos or a video to each item in your catalog. Since your remote attendees won’t be able to see your auction items in person, high-quality images or embedded videos are the next best thing. With images and videos, they can see exactly what they’re bidding on, so take time in choosing the right angles and lighting for the most visually appealing results.

Whether you plan to go fully digital or just incorporate mobile bidding into your physical event, using technology doesn’t mean your events have to be any less engaging than traditional ones. Incorporating the above tips will help you create a positive online bidding experience. Learn more about making the shift to digital events with this guide which provides tips and ideas for successful digital fundraising.

2. Market Your Auction Well in Advance.

Prior to hosting your event, you’ll need to proactively promote it to supporters. Market early and often to effectively spread the word. After all, if no one hears about your auction, attendance will be very limited.

To start, you’ll need to take advantage of multiple marketing outlets. With numerous platforms available, you’d be remiss if you didn’t take advantage of them. From here, you can incorporate the following practices to take your marketing strategy to the next level and amp up support for your next charity auction:

  • Leverage social media. Don’t overlook the power of the share button! As part of any strong digital strategy, social media is crucial. Simply put, it allows supporters to share your auction with their personal networks, expanding your reach to a much larger audience. With nearly 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, it’s an excellent opportunity to market your charity auction.
  • Include the link to your auction site in all marketing materials. An auction site houses all the important information regarding your event. This includes event details, information about your cause, your auction items, and more. Using an auction site eliminates the need to print out a physical catalog and makes it much easier to share key information in each message.
  • Highlight your top items and packages that will be up for bidding. Your auction items and packages are one of the main attractions for your event. Incentivize potential attendees to register by showcasing bidding items that are tailored to their interests.

Marketing is a critical step in the planning process. Refining your promotion strategy well in advance gives you plenty of time to spread the word and boost registrations. The above tips will serve as a solid starting point, so you can start generating buzz around your upcoming auction.

3. Use Nonprofit-Specific Auction Software.

Charity auctions have several moving pieces, which can be overwhelming to many newcomers. With the right software though, you can streamline the entire process, from registration to item distribution. The right tools can alleviate stress and make hosting an auction a breeze.

Don’t just settle on the first auction platform that comes your way, though. Instead, go with a solution that’s specifically designed for nonprofit use. Nonprofit-specific auction software will give you a range of functionality without having to piece together individual solutions, starting with easy management and planning tools. 

Let’s take a look at some of the features you’ll need access to, so your charity auction is the best it can possibly be:

  • Mobile bidding app. As we touched on earlier, mobile bidding allows people to bid at their convenience wherever they are, whether they’re socializing at your auction or in the comfort of their own homes. Apps account for nearly 90% of people’s internet time on smartphones, so bidders will be very receptive to this approach. Make sure your tools offer instant push notifications, an intuitive interface, and secure checkout options.
  • Gamification. Gamification tools add a layer of friendly competition to your charity auctions. Keep energy high with tools like leaderboards that showcase top bidders, a countdown timer to drive those last-second bids, and a live fundraising thermometer so people can see their bid’s impact in real-time.
  • Live streaming capabilities. The best charity auction software will offer its own live streaming tools which will allow you to stream directly within the app or the web platform. This way, the bidding experience won’t be interrupted by making participants access the stream elsewhere. What’s more, you should be able to promote items directly under the live stream to drive participation.
  • Robust reporting features. Reports will help you gain deeper insights into your bidders’ behavior and your auctions’ performance. This will help you tremendously in pinpointing areas of improvement, so you can refine your strategies for future auctions, launching your team towards success.

The tools you use for your auctions can mean the difference between an engaging, successful auction and one that falls short of expectations. Taking the time to choose the right tools upfront will lead to greater results later on. Looking for the above features will help you make a much more informed decision, putting you on the fast-track to success.

If you need guidance in finding the right charity auction software for your team, check out Handbid’s complete nonprofit auction software guide. You’ll learn about key features to prioritize in your search and gather some tips for making the most of your tools along the way!


Auctions are some of the most effective and reliable fundraising events that nonprofits can host. This is especially true when they’re developed creatively and tailored to your audience. So long as you back your efforts with intuitive nonprofit-specific auction software, you’ll be well on your way to hosting a successful event.

As you get started planning your next charity auction, take these ideas back to your team and adjust them to suit your needs. In no time, you’ll have a fully-engaging and profitable fundraiser on your hands.

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