Event & Auction Fundraisers Shine the Light on your Charity –

auction fundraisersFundraising events shine the spotlight brightly on event day, event week and beyond, if you do it right. Why should we run auction fundraisers? Each organization has a different answer to this question. There are pros and cons to each type of fundraiser, depending on the audience, your in-house capabilities and your resources.

In this article we will:

  • Outline pros and cons of choosing an in-person event vs online only vs hybrid event
  • Discuss the audience and staff ability and capacity to run an event fundraiser
  • Talk about how to use the event energy and goodwill to carry the momentum post-event for additional fundraising opportunities

In-person event fundraisers are fun!

Pros, cons and logistics of an in person event fundraiser. It’s an opportunity to meet face to face, socialize and get to know your supporters. Events give people a reason to come out and support the cause and are the perfect backdrop to share how your charity makes a difference. The high points of the event are testimonials and sharing the impact that has been made by contributions all year long.

In-person events like galas, benefits, and dinner parties are formal fundraisers, and a great way to celebrate your organization’s achievements, connect with supporters, and raise funds. These events aim to showcase the work that the nonprofit has accomplished on behalf of the donors, and is also a great opportunity to involve beneficiaries to share their stories.  These types of events will run for a few hours and include food, drinks, entertainment, and a fundraising activity such as a live or silent auction. For events like galas and benefits, there is usually a set program with speakers, and most often an honoree, who is a committed supporter of the mission. 


  • Social competition can be healthy for raising bids.
  •  Anonymity for bidders makes the shy bidder more confident to bid and donate. 
  • Auction activity can occur while socializing and  mingling.  Good feelings are translated into higher bids! Actual goods can be on display. 
  • Many times at an event alcohol is available, donors tend to be more generous in a spirited atmosphere. 
  • Last minute bidding frenzy can increase final bids and an energy that can be felt in the room.

Cons of an in person of a silent auction is that it limits bidding to attendees only.

  • Auction items need to appeal to the audience that does attend and are in the room during those few precious hours.
  • Attending the silent auction event usually incurs a couvert charge, attendees may use their philanthropy budget on attending the event rather than bidding on auction items.
  •  Location, date and time may encumber a high attendance rate. During the silent auction filling the time between open and close entertainment must be provided to keep donors on location and bidding.

Logistics. Each attendee is assigned a bidder number to retain anonymity. Each auction item has a bid sheet placed in front of the goods and/or a display page. Donors bid silently on bid sheets until a set time. When time is called the bid sheets are collected and the highest bidder is the winner.

Online event fundraisers can broaden the reach!

It’s true auctions can reach a much broader audience however it does take work. You can’t just open up an event fundraiser and hope that people participate. Online auctions add a layer of flexibility for both the auction itself and the participants. Similar to traditional silent auctions there is a start time and end time. The bidding process takes place in between but completely online.

Pros of online auction fundraisers. Increase the number of bidders simply by sharing the auction website. Online allows bidders to bid from the comfort of their own location. Bidders can live and be anywhere there is internet access. Auction websites can offer detailed descriptions of auction items and many photos. Bidding and rebidding can be instantaneous. Auction can be open for any timeframe. Extend the auction time from a few hours to days. Online boosters include max-bid functionality and bid extension.

No need for the additional workload or making and marketing an actual event. No need to sell tickets for an event that may compete with the pocketbook for bidding on auction items

Cons of online auction fundraisers. The social backdrop to the event goes away. Donations need to be delivered or shipped after the event has concluded. Lessens a personal connection to the event

Logistics. Create an event website that becomes the home of the fundraiser before, during and after the event. Use it pre-event to promote the event, solicit auction donations, solicit for auction items. Then let the bidding begin.

Hybrid event fundraisers, is this really the best of both worlds?

auction fundraisers

Maybe, but first let’s define hybrid. This term has different meanings to different people. In general it means running a live in-person event with some form of bidding and donating possibly paired with a virtual view. Back to the maybe, a hybrid may be the best of both worlds but takes some serious planning. Because in addition to running an online auction you are also putting on a live event simultaneously and can stretch resources.

Pros of a hybrid auction. The entire auction process including bidding, donations and checkout can happen online. That’s the easy part. Contactless bidding is easy. Using Display pages and QR codes bids can soar.

Cons of a hybrid auction. You are now running two events that run concurrently. Communicating how to participate is a little more work. Supporters may choose not to attend since they know they can still bid and donate online. In essence you may be competing with yourself.

Logistics. See above for In person and online auctions and events.

Audience & Staff, be honest here!

It may seem daunting seeing all the types lined up in a row however you can quickly whittle it down based on your team capability and audience participation. Here is how that decision tree looks.

Audience & Staff or Volunteers

  • Will people show up to an event? AND Do you have staff that can create and run the event?

Yes → you can run an in-person fundraising event and perhaps include a hybrid component

  • Has attendance at prior events been weak? HOWEVER Do you have staff that can improve on the fun factor and get people out?

Yes→ do lots of surveying of your donors, supporters, partners and volunteers. A hybrid event might be the best match.

  • Have supporters been strong YET there are not enough helpers?

Yes, → an online auction is the best way to limit the work and maximize the reach

Click these links for Timelines, checklists and roles and responsibilities to help make an informed decision.

Plan Your Post-Event Communication

matching giftFor all those who made a contribution, in time, effort or money, a more personal thank you will be greatly appreciated. You can tackle this list by assigning personal phone calls, emails, or handwritten cards to the appropriate staff. This is a great way to build a closer relationship with your key supporters. You may even get additional donations through this process and also facilitate pledge payments.

Thanking supporters now is an insurance policy for asking for support again later. Whether it is small or large in time and effort or a financial contribution, each of these supporters deserve a sincere thank you. Fatigue can easily set in after the exhaustive efforts of fundraising and you want to ensure your team is prepared and ready to support your next event. A show of appreciation goes a long way to get them excited to continue supporting your cause.

A more general post-event thank you should go out to all attendees. Regardless of contributions, these folks made the time to attend your event, so show your gratitude. Be sure to collect contact information for any new supporters and guests. This will be the first point of contact for these individuals who have just learned about your organization and a key cultivation tactic.

Share photos and videos from the event if you send out an email campaign, and post them on your social media and website. You can also highlight your sponsors in these pieces of communication.

Share your success!  It’s human nature for people to want to associate with winners and to be around winners. It is important to celebrate meeting your event’s fundraising goal with the people who made it happen – the attendees. You can also share this success more widely with all of your constituents, and share your organization’s latest events and news for those who were not able to attend the event.  Remember to explain how the funds raised will be used and how it will help further your organization’s mission. Numbers and data can be mundane, so seek emotional connection. Segmenting the messaging makes it even more impactful.

Some examples:

  • More than 500 children will be enriched through free after-school tutoring. Funds raised at last night’s event will provide more than 2,000 nourishing meals for the hungry.
  • Thanks to you, more than 100 families will have a safe shelter this winter.

Continue to update and intrigue your donors through a strategic communication plan, including regular email campaigns and content sharing on all of your digital platforms. Share a testimonial from a beneficiary of the funds raised from the event, share a photo of a building that is renovated through your donors’ support, and create interesting and informative content that illustrates not just your organization’s work, but also provides helpful resources and highlights your supporters and beneficiaries.

It is imperative that you take the time to establish trust with new supporters. Set up a new supporter email marketing campaign that provides information, updates, stories, as well as opportunities for them to get more involved with current information, data and updates.  Share the story of the cause and progress you have made through the written word, photos, and videos.  Social media makes this part easy.  The needs assessment must be accurate and clearly stated.  Determine the gaps in current conditions to what NEEDS to accomplish as opposed to WANTS.   Emotional connections create and re-affirm empathy for the cause that in itself leads to the close, so show how past fundraisers have funded past promised needs.

Planning and executing a successful marquee event takes a lot of hard work – so maximize the success and re-use the content created for and during the event. Continue to build relationships with carefully crafted communication and your guests will return to your annual event year.

Be ready for the attention and use the momentum to carry out a year-long fundraising plan. Hosting a marquee event provides an opportunity for your supporters to gather, either in person or virtually, to support the mission. Silent or live auctions, sponsorships, ticket sales, and donations will bring additional fundraising revenue. The key is to engage with your audience through effective storytelling before, during and after the event and auction fundraiser.

Fundraising events  that you see in photos with fancy tables and floor-length dresses are just one type of celebration. There is a huge variety of fundraisers, ranging from  galas, hoedowns, carnivals, holiday parties, spring flings, to many more. Some are family-oriented, some are adults-only, it all depends upon the audience that you are trying to reach and engage with.

What will your next one be? Make an emotional connection with the audience. Give supporters the opportunity to help!

About the Author

Auctria is an easy to use, powerful tool to run your fundraising events.

Since 2011 we have been taking auctions and event fundraisers to new heights, raising more money for your cause!

Laurie Hochman has a passion for helping groups exceed their fundraising goals. After using Auctria for many auction fundraisers, she joined the team to help others boost their auction fundraising for many wonderful causes.

“The beauty in what is done with the money raised with Auctria is what motivates me every day to help auction teams succeed. Hope all your bids soar!”