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According to Nonprofit Finance Fund, 43 percent of Nonprofits reported that state funding has decreased in the last couple of years. As these funds decrease, organizations rely more on alternative fundraising sources such as special events to not only help their mission, but to survive. A charity auction offers a unique option.


A charity auction is one where people bid on the items in the auction, but the money from the sale goes to a charity. Usually, the items to bid on are given as donations to the auction for the charity. These auctions can be done in person or online.


Why a Charity Auction?


An auction has the potential to generate great funds for a charity. Generally speaking, an auction is not a time intensive project to plan. It is certainly much easier than individual calls and asks for support. You can earn a substantial amount in one event.


Auctions offer a platform to educate both those donating items and those bidding on items about your cause. It gives you an opportunity to share the need you are addressing. You can share your mission and vision. This education can give the donors more confidence in where their money is going and how it is being used. It can also encourage them to work with you again.


Auctions draw more support than some other more traditional fundraisers. They are fun events to attend and socialize. Bidders have a win-win in donating to a worthy cause as well as getting something for themselves (or a gift!) they can be excited about. Rather than selling them something they may not really need, you have items they really want. When an auction is paired with another event that has already been proven popular, such as a dinner, a party, or casino night, there is even more fun to be had and more funds to be made!


Auctions can be something your donors get excited about. If they come to an enjoyable event and purchase something they really love, they will be excited to talk about it with their friends. Word will spread about your organization to others who may want to get involved as well.


Types of Auctions


There a few different types of benefit auctions:


In Person

This type of auction is the typical type that you may think of when you hear the word auction. A professional auctioneer will drive the show and bidders call out their bids. On one hand, the fun rivalry and sense of competition between bidders may drive the process up and lead to higher proceeds for your organization. On the other hand, it is a more formal event that provides bidders with less opportunity to interact and socialize.


Silent Auction


In a silent auction, there is no auctioneer. All the items are put on display with a sheet of paper including the starting bid, or lowest bid that would be accepted. The people place a bid by writing an amount down on the paper. The next person can write a higher amount and so on. A bidder can bid as many times as they choose. At a given time the bids are closed, and the winners are announced. This is a more casual setting that provides a lot of opportunity for socialization. However, silent bids tend to be less effective at driving the prices up and generating more proceeds for your organization.


Online Auction


An online auction is just as it sounds. The organization hosts a webpage containing images of all the items and the starting minimum bids. They can also include descriptions of the items and summaries of the organization and its goals. Bidders register on the site and provide payment information. They are then able to place a bid. Like silent auctions, there is a set time when the bidding closes. The benefit of this type of auction is its simplicity and the ability to reach bidders all over the world at the same time. The downside is that there is little or no interaction between bidders with each other or with the organization.




A popular combination option is a silent auction with ability to place bids online. This way you can reach participants wherever they may be and still have participants in person to interact with one another.



This is not truly another type of auction, but a tip. If your organization already has an event that is popular an auction can be run alongside it. If you typically have a dinner, a presentation, a dance, a casino night, a festival…. You can add an auction to go with it. Even an event that another organization is hosting, who is willing to allow you to join in, is an option. Anywhere that you already know there will be a crowd is an opportunity to piggyback!


Top Items


There are many types of items that could be included in a benefit auction. It is important to think about those who are invited to the event and what they would be interested in. Here are a few of the most popular items.


  • Travel Packages
  • Signed Memorabilia
  • Gift Baskets
  • Custom Artwork
  • Services – Salon, house cleaning, organizer….
  • Lessons – Golf, art, music…
  • Tours
  • Unique Experiences



Statistics indicate a growth of 4.1% in overall fundraising. Also, there has been a surge in the number of people actively participating in fundraising events. This participation is in the form of donations or volunteering for the event or both. A nonprofit can consider planning a charity auction to generate funds for a cause. LAWSON & CO is an auction house and full-service real estate company. Give us a call at 317-745-6404 or visit us at LAWSON & CO to see how we can help you with your event!


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