Event Planning Resources

10 Tips for a Successful Auction

Auctions can be a fun and effective way to raise money for Seattle Children's and a great way to get and keep people involved. But there's no question: auctions are a lot of work! 

Here are 10 valuable tips to help the process go smoothly and ensure a successful event.

1. Start Planning Early

Start planning at least 11 to 12 months ahead to make sure there's enough time to secure a venue, recruit volunteers, procure items and organize and publicize an auction. Ask companies one year in advance to include you in their annual giving budget.

2. Have Clear Objectives

Outline your auction objectives, set clear financial goals, create a budget and establish a timeline of tasks.

By planning ahead, you can accurately determine how much you'll need to raise through auction revenue to reach your goal, and you can set in motion the steps needed to get there.

Once you know the who, what, where, when and why of your auction, remember to tell us about your upcoming event.

3. Get Help

Don't do it alone. Establish a committee of dedicated guild members and divide up areas of responsibility including procurement, sponsorship, decorations, entertainment, speakers, registration, volunteer coordination and so on. You want people who know people, have time, work hard and follow through.

Respect your committee members' time (stick to meeting agendas and conclude on time), communicate goals and motivate your team.

4. Procure Items

Procuring auction items is one of the most important parts of planning an auction.

On your procurement team should be people who are friendly and persuasive with large circles of influence. Find out who knows whom and then ask early, ask often, ask everyone.

Seek unique items and experiences that money can't buy.

If you don't get an answer, keep trying! If you get a "no," ask someone else. If you get a "yes," ask if the donor is willing to donate two.

Use a Procurement Form (DOC) to capture donor information, validate the donation and track the item.

5. Build Your Audience

Now that you have the auction items to sell, you need people in the room to buy them.

You want to attract the right number of people who have the capacity to give, will enjoy participating in your auction and, ideally, are connected to your cause.

Promote your event early and often.

Ask table captains or guild members to fill one table each.

Consider calling and personally inviting guests who attended and gave generously at last year's auction. Remember to include us on your mailing list!

6. Secure Sponsorships

To help underwrite the costs of an auction, ask companies or individuals to sponsor event components such as the silent auction, the printing of the catalog or the dinner. This can mean a cash or in-kind donation.

Offer tiered sponsorship levels and benefits so potential donors can choose from the options depending on how much they want to give and get in return.

Offer public recognition in exchange for a company's donation.

Consult with us before approaching potential sponsors. We want to avoid burdening our strategic partners with multiple requests.

Learn more about how to get sponsorships.

7. Plan a Fun Party

Make your auction a unique, memorable and fun event. Treat your guests like guests by providing good customer service, recognition, special touches and inspiration.

Entertain them. Surprise them. Wow them. They'll be sure to come back next year – and maybe even bring some new guests along.

8. Make a Special Appeal

Everyone at your auction is there to support your cause. Maximize their giving by presenting a specific need that will appeal to the majority of the audience.

Sometimes called "Fund an Item," "Fund a Need" or "Raise Your Paddle," this gives guests the chance to make a tax-deductible donation to the cause.

Remember, you raise more than money at your auction. You also raise awareness for Seattle Children's.

9. Use Professional Tools

From hiring a professional auctioneer to purchasing auction software, you can greatly benefit by using existing resources.

An auction database can help you track registration, auction items, sponsorships, table seating, guest purchases, donations and more. It can also help you turn over the information in an organized way to us for donor recognition and financial reporting purposes.

Contact us for recommendations on auctioneers and auction software.

10. Give Thanks

Do it quickly, do it frequently and make it personal. Send thank-you notes to guests, volunteers, sponsors, donors and vendors.

We can provide a ream of letterhead and a box of envelopes to your guild annually. Request event and project supplies .