Online auctions are a great way for you to raise money for your school, church, sports team, or other nonprofit organization. With just a little bit of planning, you can hold an exciting and successful online auction fundraiser.

Getting Started

  • Decide what you want to raise money for. Be specific about how the funds will be used. People will be more eager to donate if they know exactly where their money is going.
  • Set a fundraising goal. This will help you estimate how many items you need to collect for the auction. Aim high but be realistic.
  • Choose an online auction platform like eBay’s Giving Works or BiddingForGood. These sites are designed specifically for nonprofit fundraising auctions.

Collecting Donations

  • Make a wish list of items you’d like to feature in your auction. Dream big and get creative! Even small items can bring in decent bids.
  • Send donation requests to individuals and businesses in your community. Follow up with personal asks. As the Great Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
  • Post on social media and spread the word. Share photos and stories of items as they come in. This builds excitement for your auction.

Promoting Your Auction

  • Create event pages on social media and send email blasts. Provide a link to the auction site and key details. Use attention-grabbing graphics.
  • Add countdown timers to your event pages. This creates a sense of urgency that drives bidding. This is usually provided in the auction software you choose.
  • Ask supporters to share and repost your promotion posts. Word of mouth is still one of the best forms of marketing. Expand your reach!

Maximizing Bids

  • Set minimum bids but don’t make them too high. You want as many people as possible to participate.
  • Consider using a proxy bidding system. This allows bidders to place their maximum bid and the system will automatically bid up to that amount on their behalf as needed.
  • cmarket auctionAdd a “Buy It Now” price to high-value items. This gives bidders the option to purchase at a fixed price. As they say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
  • Schedule your auction to end in the evening or on a weekend. More people will be available to monitor and place last minute bids.
  • Offer combined shipping discounts. This encourages bidders to win multiple items.

Closing the Auction

  • Send winning bidders payment instructions right away while your auction is fresh in their minds. Provide a deadline to submit payment.
  • Follow up with non-payers after a few days. Consider relisting their item or offering it to the next highest bidder.
  • Send thank you notes to donors and winning bidders. Show your appreciation for their support. A little gratitude goes a long way.
  • Calculate your total profits. Congratulate your team on a job well done! Consider breaking out the sparkling cider to celebrate like the champions you are.

With some creativity and hard work, your online auction can be a huge success. Bring your community together for a great cause while raising money to help your organization thrive. The sky is the limit when people come together for the greater good!

See Also: Katydids Candy Fundraiser


What items should I collect for the auction?

Aim for a mix of big-ticket items like vacations and electronics that will attract bidders, along with lower-priced crafts, gift cards, event tickets, and other items to appeal to bargain hunters. Get creative – even small homemade items or services can pull in good bids if they are unique and fun.

How do I collect items from local businesses?

Reach out through email, phone calls, and in-person requests. Clearly explain how their donation will help your cause. Be prepared to explain how you will promote their business through the auction. Offer advertising and receipts for tax deductions. Follow up persistently but politely.

What is a good length of time to run the auction?

Typically 5-10 days is ideal. This gives people enough time to browse, share and get excited about items, without losing momentum. Avoid holidays or other busy times when bidders may be distracted.

Should I use a minimum bid and what price?

Minimum bids are generally a good idea so bidding starts at a reasonable level. Price them low enough to encourage interest, but high enough to make a decent profit. Consider the item’s value when setting the minimum.

What is the best way to promote our auction?

Use social media marketing including posts, targeted ads and creating events. Email supporters, community groups and local media. Post flyers and send press releases. Ask supporters to spread the word to maximize exposure.

How do I collect payment from winners?

Provide payment instructions and a deadline right after auction ends when it’s fresh in their minds. Follow up with non-payers after a few days. Accept various payment methods – PayPal, credit cards, checks, etc.


Child Uses Online Auction to Raise Money

My Grandson entered a auction on ebay to help the flood victims of LA and MS.

He baked cookies with all proceeds to benefit the American Red Cross. What made this a unique auction is that my grandson at the time was 6 years old and even at this age, he knew the importance of helping others in need, and wanted to help. No it was not my idea but his own.

He was too young to donate money per say, but he loved to make cookies. I took a picture of him baking the cookies and had that in the listing, this way people interested in bidding on these cookies, could see this was genuine.

He assisted with the listing, adding input on what he was doing and why. The outpouring of support for this charity was immense do to the fact that a child was willing to give of himself and help others with no benefit to himself.

I would suggest to put the reason if personal in the listing, make it unique and most of all truthful.


Charity Auction for Grieving Parents

My local school district had recently suffered an unimaginable tragedy. One of the sixth graders had been eating in the school cafeteria and had choked on a sandwich. Despite repeated attempts to revive him, the teachers and medical staff were unsuccessful. Although he had prior health issues, this news came as an incredible shock. What was even more shocking was the cost of medical care and funeral arrangements that the family mentioned they had to pay. A few teachers and I began to think that we should help out the boy’s family who desperately needed the money.

We decided to raise money by having a revolutionary auction on eBay. Since I was fairly computer-savvy, I set up and eBay account, and the staff asked for donations for anything that could be sold. Everything was sold for 100% profit due to generous donations. Descriptions on the items indicated what the auctions were for, and we received several substantial donations as well. In the end, we raised over $5,000. This money was donated entirely to the family to help offset the costs that they had to pay.

The most important thing that I learned while doing this fundraiser is to be willing to ask for help. Selling the items on eBay was easy; however, I needed countless volunteers to package and ship the items. Also, I learned not to be afraid to ask people for donations. Once I did, many generous eBay bidders did so.

In the end, our fundraiser was a huge success. Because of the generosity of others, the family’s grief was reduced.

Matthew H.
Hagerstown, MD

How to Have a Fantastic Online Auction Fundraiser

I held an online auction two years ago with fellow members of a global health interest group at my university. The money was to help pay for a volunteering trip overseas; there was an organization that was willing to take us as summer interns, but we needed to pay for the costs of room, board, food and so on.

We chose an auction because we thought it would be better for people to bid on items that they found interesting and wanted to have or could use; instead of selling one item, there would be many different ones to choose from.

It was very easy to get items for the auction, as it was going to a volunteer project and not something that people might think was a waste of money. Also, donors thought that we were doing something to help others, and could bring knowledge back to our school in return.

We contacted all other clubs that were related to the interest at all, put ads in the free newspapers in our city, on the school website, and so on. We also sent out a reminder email to every address that we had approval to use on the morning of the auction.

The online auction is fantastic – you do not physically need to be there in order to man the items, people do not have to come to the event (can reach people all over the city!) and there is more competition for items. As long as you can get help with setting up the auction and payment systems it is definitely the way to go.

The number one thing to do when fundraising is emphasize what the ‘customer’ gets out of it. They know what you are getting out of it, but there is a limit on the number of people who are willing to just hand you cash for being yourself.

You’re trying to sell a product, so treat it like a job – make sure you have an event you can wholeheartedly support!

James H.