How to Find Auction Items That Bring in Big Bids


Charity auctions are an effective and fun way to get funds for the cause you are truly passionate about.

However, holding a charity auction entails plenty of planning and preparation. In particular, you need to pay keen attention to getting the right auction items for your fundraising event.

But how exactly do you do that?

What makes a good auction item?

Quite simply, not every item makes an excellent auction item. There are a few crucial factors that you need to consider when soliciting for these items.

  • First, you want to choose items that appeal to your target audience; otherwise, you might have a difficult time getting bids for these. Study your target audience carefully and craft your strategy based on your evaluation of your potential bidders.
  • Next, make sure that your auction items are within the budget range of your bidders. The things you solicit or get from charity auction consignment companies may be enticing, but these may get fewer bids than you would expect if the price is well beyond the spending capacity of your audience.
  • Finally, make sure that your auction items are either rare or unique. You wouldn’t get a lot of bids for things that your audience can easily buy online or in a brick-and-mortar store.

How should you plan for success?

Before heading out to solicit items from potential donors, it is critical to set aside time to plan things out. This will enable you and your team to map out a strategy that will allow you to get the best possible results from your charity auction.

During this planning stage, it is important to list a few things down. These include the assets and other resources currently available to your team, potential donors, and your approach to soliciting auction items from these donors.

Again, it is crucial to remember that your overall goal may be to sell a lot of items. The achievement of that goal hinges on finding the right pieces to auction off.

You want to reach out to the right people. You don’t want to receive $25 gift cards as an item or multiple of the same thing, as this will oversaturate the auction.

Who should you approach first for auction items?

Before knocking on the doors of potential donors, it is an excellent idea to start with your non-profit organization’s own people, including your own board and other individuals and groups you are currently working with.

This is critical for a couple of reasons. For starters, these stakeholders are already on board with your goals and will readily lend a helping hand. They might also point you in the right direction. Through their extensive networks, you will find donors who will readily get behind your cause with little coaxing because of their familiarity with the members of your organization.

Before venturing out of your own network, make sure that you call your people first. The advantage of this approach is that you’ll be starting on the right foot because these people know who you are and what your cause is. Then, if you need extra items, you can branch out to the general public for help.

How do you approach people outside of your organization?

Before venturing outside of your organization, remind team members tasked with soliciting donations about what makes a right auction item.

From there, start moving from inside your network and out. After speaking with members from your own circle, team members can then take advantage of their networks. These include friends, colleagues, and companies that they work for or regularly meet.

Only after that can you move on to local businesses operating within your community. It is a good idea to assign specific team members to different areas in your community as well as to various industries. For example, there should be different members gathering donations from restaurants and a separate team for other establishments.

You can solicit donations from these people either through phone calls or emails. If you are approaching a local business, you can have a face to face meeting with the manager to discuss the cause as this may make them more inclined to help.

How do you craft effective solicitation letters?

When writing a solicitation letter, the vital thing to remember is that “simple gets the job done.”

An effective solicitation letter contains some critical information that potential donors should know.

  • First, it should introduce your non-profit as well as the cause you are promoting.
  • Second, it should detail the specifics of your charity event.
  • Third, it should tell the reader why you are soliciting.
  • Finally, the letter makes a direct request. All of these should be contained in a single page.

Along with the solicitation letter, you should include a pledge form and a self-addressed return envelope.

The pledge form contains a few key details that the donor will fill in. These include the type or amount of donation, the date the donation will be sent to your organization, and your target deadline. Do not forget to set a deadline as this allows you to create a master list of auction items to promote these both online and offline as well as ensuring you recieve the item before the event, in the case that the donor is shipping it to you or delivering it.

Although finding the right auction items is just one part of your preparation for your fundraiser event, if you get it right, the chances of success increase substantially. This is why it is critical to pay attention to this critical detail at the onset.


Darran Brown is the CEO and Founder of Go Charity. A graduate of UMASS Amherst, Darran has spent the last 20 years managing auctions across the United States. Having run some of the most successful live and silent auctions in the US, Darran has the insider know-how to every aspect of the industry. From memorabilia to trips and experience hospitality to fundraising 101, Darran is the leading expert on auction management and fundraising success.