How to Ask for Online Auction Donations

How to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser is easier than you might think. 

If you’re new to this and need a few ideas and tips on the most successful ways how to ask for online auction donations, read on.

Did you know that donating makes you happy?

Everyone should know this!

Donating to a charitable organization, or helping others, feels good.  This good feeling stems from your brain secreting dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, and hormone associated with pleasure and reward.  

When you reach out to local businesses to ask for donations, remember that donating will make them happy! 

“When we do things for other people, it makes us feel much more engaged and joyful,” says Dr. Susan Albers at the Cleveland Clinic. “That’s good for our health and our happiness.”

Dr. Susan Albers

Donating is more than a transaction

When a local business donates to your nonprofit’s online auction fundraiser, it provides more than an item to auction off.

It’s about a business being committed to its community,  caring about others, and willing to help. Their community views the business as generous and committed to helping others. And business-wise, it’s a terrific way for the business to position itself, or build its brand within your community. It’s not a transaction — it’s an investment in their community and their company-a great incentive for any business.

Another important consideration when asking for donations is ensuring the business owner understands what your nonprofit organization does for the community. Let them know what it will do for their business, exposure-wise if they donate. Tell them how you will promote their business to the community (audience) via advertising and marketing for the auction, emphasizing the value.

And remember that there is more to asking for donations than a sales pitch. The ten tips below are the backbone of your “ask.”  

How to ask for donations for your online auction fundraiser: 10 tips to secure donations

You have a built-in support team with three friends sitting on couch talking

1. You have a built-in support team

You can’t do this by yourself—well, yes, you could. But why do this yourself when you have an army of support right in front of you?

Your spouse, church, work—the relationships you’ve cultivated are there for you now. You just have to ask for their help!

How can they help you? Aside from the obvious “can you do this and that,”  like errands, sending emails, picking up things, etc., they can provide their contacts at local businesses to help facilitate a donation meeting. Your friends and family want you to succeed—they’ll help you in any way they can. They may even have some new ideas for you.

The biggest perk of your network is asking them if they know any business owners they can introduce you to. This is a terrific way to get your foot in the door with an edge. All you have to do is learn how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser and your network will hook you up with leads!

you got this

2. Set goals 

You’ll be surprised at the power of goal setting. 

Your contribution to the fundraiser is to ask local businesses and organizations to donate nice items for your online auction fundraiser. No pressure, but your fundraiser auction’s success is directly related to your success. Remove the pressure altogether by setting goals and learning how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser. 

Before you call on local businesses for donations, spend a few minutes reviewing the prospects your committee prepared for you. Let’s say you have 100 prospects on the list and set your goal to secure 90 donations, each with an anticipated donation value of $200 or more. Set up a timeline to visit the business owners and go from there.

While you’re motivated by your commitment to your nonprofit’s cause, often cash incentives are offered by your organization for meeting your donation goal! A success tip is to review each meeting with the business owners to note what you thought went well and what did not. This way, you can fine-tune your “pitch” so that prospective donors become donors.

Honing your words will allow you to make more calls in less time, as you now have your pitch down to a science. You’ve learned how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser like a pro.

You can “cold call” businesses that aren’t on your prospect list, but be sure you’re not calling on a business that has been assigned to another committee member. Cold calling is a good way to compensate the businesses who have said, “No thanks.”

Keep track of who you’ve contacted and what the outcomes were in a spreadsheet or a CRM (customer relationship management) platform on your computer for easy access so that next year, all the notes are available for the new donation team.

All you have to do is ask for the donation

3. All you have to do is ask  

That’s right. Now that you know how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser, you’ll never be afraid to ask for a donation again. 

People like to help. As you’ve learned, giving makes people feel good. That’s why you should include the “why” they should give, such as “your donation will make a difference in the lives of children, as our fundraising dollars go directly toward helping children who need teaching beyond the classroom for them to complete their public education successfully.”

When coupled with promotional opportunities a business receives for donating, it would be hard for any business to turn down the rewarding opportunity to donate.

Plus, there are business owners who have new models or new products they’d like to showcase to the community. Donating the products for auction is ideal for both instances.

You can be persistent without being pushy

4. You can be persistent without being pushy

Don’t give up because you couldn’t reach the owner or decision-maker at the local tire shop! Create a system that reminds you to call them back soon. Some systems are as simple as a calendar, a spreadsheet, or a CRM.

If you stop by the business only to find the owner or decision-maker is gone, ask the store manager when is the best time to reach the person. They might volunteer more information that gives you greater insight into the decision-maker’s schedule and patterns. Don’t give up!

man and woman sitting having a difficult discussion

5. Don’t take rejection personally

You’re cruising along, making the daily goals you’ve set for yourself. You’re bringing in more donations than anyone on the donation team. You are now a pro at knowing how to ask for online auction donations!

And then you get a big “no” from a local business owner. Maybe they cut you off rudely. Or they had their assistant tell you they’re not interested and please don’t contact us again. They may have already donated a large amount to another nonprofit. There are dozens of reasons a business owner doesn’t want to hear your pitch.

Do not take it personally. It has zero to do with you and everything to do with them. It’s about them and where their head may have been when your paths crossed. Who knows, maybe they just had an argument with their spouse, a fender bender, or someone called in sick, and they’re in a foul mood.

If you’re told no and clearly told never to come back, then that’s what you’ll do.

If you’re told no, not now, come back later, then that’s what you’ll do.

The best way to handle rejection is with a smile of understanding and a thank you for their time. Maybe next year will be a different story.

cat cookies

6. Leave a place better than you found it

Take a tip from Girl Scouts.

One of the first things Girl Scouts learn is to leave a place better than how they discovered it (Boy Scouts, too!).

It’s different when all you have to do is clean up the forest floor after a picnic. Try figuring out how to leave a business a better place than you found it!

What does this mean? Be creative, but a good idea is to leave a little thank you note card for the business owner along with a few pieces of candy, cookies, or a decal of your organization—some trinkets of sorts. By doing this, you’re planting a memory in the business owner’s mind—and it’s a positive one!

This shows you’re thankful, thoughtful, and kind. And that’s a great person to be in fundraising.

Man looking at laptop with spreadsheet on screen

7. Keep track of donations as you get them

Don’t delay adding confirmed donations to your spreadsheet. You don’t want to leave donations and related conversations to memory. Keeping a daily account of meetings, donations, etc., is much easier than waiting to sit down and fill in the information from memory.

shot looking down on table of people looking at laptops

8. Team accountability helps reach goals

While you may have your action plan fine-tuned, what about your team seeking donations from businesses? How are they keeping themselves organized and motivated?

It is a good idea to share your planning skills with the team to help hold them accountable. You may be flying high and reaching your goals beyond expectations. But what happens if your donations team isn’t putting that level of commitment into donations acquisition? It’s a good idea to help all members reach their goals so that your overall fundraising goals are met and, hopefully, exceeded. 

Teach them how to ask for online auction donations, too.

green door on brick building with sign reads were open

9. Deliver on your promises

 A tenet of trust is doing what you say you’ll do.  Even if it’s an “I’ll call you tomorrow” promise, you better call them tomorrow! Living up to your word is something that a business owner can trust and count on. (Another reason to take notes!) In fact, it could mean that the business owner donates to your nonprofit instead of a request from a different organization.

Three women walking down the street smiling

10. Be sure to have fun

 Did you ever think it would be fun to learn how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser?

Do you think if some employees had a little fun at work, they might like it better and work a little harder? It’s likely.  

Even if you love your job, you’ll love it more if you have a little more fun doing it.

This holds for your role as a donation recruiter. You’ve got to mix a little fun here and there to keep the dopamine flowing and the smiles coming. 

How can going door to door be considered having fun?

Be creative. How about having a team contest where the team buys lunch for the person who secures the most donations in a week? Or set up a happy hour for the team. Or you can be a little corny and buy team t-shirts to wear at happy hour. Whatever you do, make it fun. 

You’re all set to hit the pavement and ask for donations from local businesses for your online auction fundraiser.  

If you have questions, please contact us. We’ll help you every step of the way. We’re here to teach you how to ask for online auction donations for your fundraiser!

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