Many community and non profit agencies use auctions as a way to raise funds. This is a fundraising technique that has been used successfully for many years. Often live auctions are the center of attention for a special event. Silent auctions can be a natural add-on to other fundraising plans. And finally, online auctions have brought this technique into the 21st Century.

1. Silent Auctions – The most basic auction type is the silent auction. The reason for calling it the most basic and for listing it first is that it’s the easiest to plan if your group has never done an auction before.

Items for the auction are displayed during a special event and participant bid at their leisure. Bids are written down on specially prepared bid sheets near the item. The silent auction be be designed to require that bidders write their signature with the bid. Another option is to assign bid numbers in advance so that bids are anonymous. The winner of the item is the person with the highest bid when the silent auction officially closes.

2. Live Auctions – Live auctions require an auctioneer to verbally call and sell each auction item. Live auctions work best when there are items of high dollar value and/or a special interest.

Often live auctions will have a theme which relates to the mission of the charity. For example an arts organization may have an art auction. A Humane Society may feature items of interest to pet owners, and so forth. Non profit groups can also consider partnering with existing live auction events to raise funds.

3. Online Auctions – One of the internet’s most popular websites is eBay. Now charitable organizations can use the power of internet auctions to raise funds without the need for an in person event.

Besides eBay there are auction software providers such as cMarket that cater specifically to non profit organizations. Now with such user friendly software just about any group can hold an online auction at a reasonable cost.


When planning a charity auction consider how it will fit into your organization’s overall fundraising strategy, to your existing special events and to the interests of your audience.

Posted on 10 July 2007

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