man in suit standing handing check to man in suit sitting at desk

Receiving a check from a donor is the easiest way to reach your fundraising goals. Businesses that have compassion for your cause may decide to donate money instead or in addition to donating services or merchandise. They can write off the donation on their taxes, saving them money while helping a cause dear to their hearts. It’s a win-win.  Your volunteers who are on the donation team should be familiar with this concept to use when speaking with potential donors.

Another thing to remember about donations—sometimes you’ll find that a volunteer thinks they’re being pushy when asking for donations. If any of yours feel that way, it’s an easy fix: the businesses in your community ARE the community. They’re a part of it and are proud to be. They like to support their community, especially for a good cause. There’s nothing pushy about asking for donations. You may discover a business owner doesn’t want to donate anything. That’s fine. They may have another cause they’re committed to.

How do you get items and services donated to your charity auction?  It’s a process, for sure. It begins with the creation of a volunteer committee and assigning roles. There’s a lot of brainstorming involved in identifying donors.  Once donors are identified, and volunteers have their assigned roles, it’s time for marketing—you have a list of potential donors you need to send each a compelling solicitation letter, then follow up with phone calls or in-person visits, and ultimately send thank-you notes. By now, you are probably thinking, “We should have a marketing person on our team..” And you are absolutely correct. A marketing person will make all the difference in your bottom line.

Charity auctions are a great way to raise funds for your nonprofit.  And they are so much fun to create. One of the most valuable secrets of a successful charity auction is to have unique auction items to entice and encourage bidding and buying by your guests. Follow our steps below to create a dynamic charity auction team that takes the right steps to meet or exceed your fundraising goals. And have fun.

How to Get Items Donated for a Charity Auction

Create a Donations Committee

Recruit volunteers from your organization to help secure meetings with high-profile businesses and organizations, as well as popular stores, restaurants, and services, to ask for donations.
Consider forming a donations committee with subcommittees for volunteers with less time to give so they can be assigned specific tasks to complete. It’s important to understand how much time each volunteer can provide and assign them roles they can accomplish within those times.

Brainstorm with Your Committee Members

Once you have a group of dedicated volunteers who can help gather donated items for the auction, have a brainstorming session. Important topics that you should tackle include whether you are open to any donation or only items of a particular type, whether you will be auctioning individual goods or packages of different things, and other questions regarding the value of the items to be donated.  Your auction may have a theme, so you want to keep donated items relative.

Once you’ve determined what types of donations you’d like to have in your auction, get to work brainstorming ideas and which businesses can support those ideas. An example might be having a dozen charming “pamper me” gift baskets to donate. For these, you would reach out to stores that sell spa items, fragrant candles, soaps, etc. Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, you can create beautiful baskets to sell at your auction.

Pro tip: Gift baskets sell like crazy at auctions. Use the same idea for the “pamper me” basket mentioned above to create other themed gift baskets. For example, try making a gift basket that has a romantic weekend getaway tucked inside, filled with romantic items such as massage oils, candles, chocolates, and romantic music—you get the idea!  What other types of baskets can you create? Kids, sports lovers, bicyclists, chefs, bakers, wine enthusiasts, hikers—whatever fits into your location’s seasonal hobbies and getaways.


Create a Donor List

One of the best things about having auction volunteers is that most people know others in the community. By others, we mean business owners. Be sure to ask your team if anyone knows any business owners that they can contact.

To create your list of potential donors, consider the owners of local businesses, community members, and anyone whom you think will be willing to contribute a product or service or even offer a cash donation. Make sure the list includes the prospect’s phone number, mailing address, e-mail address, and other means of contact. The address is important because letters and thank you notes will be sent in the future.

Write a Solicitation Letter

Draft a donation letter, otherwise known as a solicitation message. The message should include a brief background of your organization, the organization’s vision and objectives, the reason behind the solicitation, and why you are organizing an auction. You should also put the details of the event and whom to contact in case the recipient has questions. If you have a specific item that you are hoping the business or person will donate, you can include it in the message as well. Ask the head or chairperson of the auction to sign the letter. Most importantly, make sure the donation letter is on your organization’s letterhead.

Send Letters

Some teams choose to have their donations volunteers send letters to their potential donors, letting them know that they’ll be calling or stopping by to discuss a donation. Business owners like to know the person who is asking for donations so they can put a face to the name. You are more likely to get a donation in person than by sending a letter.

When the letters are ready, either mail them or give them to your potential donor in person.  You may also consider emailing the letter to the prospect.

Follow-up with Phone Calls

After the letters are sent, call to see if they have received the letter and set an appointment with them. Or they might just tell you “yes” on the phone and to stop by to pick up the donation.

Send Thank-You Notes

Once you receive items for the auction, promptly send thank-you notes to the donors. And send a final thank-you note when the auction is over to share the success with them, highlighting how you couldn’t have done it without them.

If you want to have a great fundraiser auction, you need a great fundraiser auction platform.

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