Donation Form Abandonment: 5 ways to recapture event donors

By: Aidan Augustin at Feathr

If you’ve ever planned an event like a charity auction or gala, you know how important it is to follow a planning process. Not only does planning the event from start to finish make it run more smoothly, but it also ensures you end up with the greatest possible ROI. One way to maximize this ROI is to incorporate strategies to boost donations. 


Recapturing the donors who don’t end up completing their donation forms or event registration forms can help your organization raise more and expand its donor pool. Donation form abandonment can happen for plenty of reasons, such as the supporter getting distracted and forgetting to complete the form or giving up due to a long, complicated donation process. If your nonprofit struggles with high donation form abandonment rates, you’re not alone — many nonprofits see abandonment rates as high as 50 to 70%!


While this problem can be discouraging, there are ways to combat it. In this guide, we’ll discuss how you can maximize revenue at your next event by incorporating tactics to recapture donor support:

  1. Optimize your donation pages.
  2. Engage the right audience.
  3. Retarget supporters to your website.
  4. Encourage continued support during and after your event.

To make the most of each event and retarget donors who abandon their event engagement forms, you may need to invest more heavily in tools that enable you to launch nonprofit ads and email campaigns. Let’s get started by discussing how to develop your donation appeal strategy.

1. Optimize your donation pages

When supporters first consider getting involved with your upcoming event opportunity, they’ll likely register to attend, contribute to a campaign for the cause, or even sign up to donate their time as a volunteer. For most events, this all takes place on your organization’s website.

The first step to address donation abandonment is to prevent it from occurring in the first place! By optimizing these conversion pages, you’ll capture as many of your passionate supporters as possible and limit the logistical challenges they’ll encounter while trying to get involved. Not to mention, you’ll create a stronger appeal that captures the audience you’re looking for. 

These tips can help you improve your appeal strategy to reduce the chance of donation form abandonment in the first place:

    • Use donor data. Do your research before choosing your approach to soliciting donations. Look for information like past giving behaviors so you know how much to ask for as a registration fee or an additional donation. For example, you might offer a series of suggested giving amounts on a donation page that supports your event campaign. 
    • Make the process convenient. Keep convenience in mind as you design your donation and registration forms. Keep these forms as simple as possible to avoid supporters getting bored or distracted during the process. For example, you might provide suggested giving amounts to make it easy to choose the gift size to contribute to your cause. 
    • Use compelling storytelling. Tell a story that will pull on your donors’ heartstrings or one that engages them and prompts them to get involved. For example, you could highlight a past success story that follows a family that was positively impacted by your organization or discuss the amazing event activities from last year.
  • Keep donation pages short. Avoid creating donation pages that are long and tedious — donors may end up abandoning the page if it takes too long to complete. Keep unnecessary questions out of this form, sticking to only what you need to know to complete the donation process. If you decide to use images, stick to only one to keep the page from loading slowly or cluttering the form.

An optimized donation or registration page will also make your association’s marketing strategies more impactful. For example, let’s say your marketing efforts are perfectly tailored to your audience and lead them to your donation form. You’ll want a donation page that is quick and easy to complete so your marketing efforts are more likely to result in a conversion.

2. Engage the right audience

Imagine you see an online ad for an event that looks like something you’d enjoy — an event featuring gourmet food, an auction, and even a talent show. However, once you click through the page, you realize that the event is meant to be for families with young children. Since your children are now in high school, you decide it would be inappropriate to join and exit the page.

This story shows how strong, engaging marketing can lead supporters to registration and donation pages. But, it also illustrates why effectively targeting the right audience is so important to combat donation form abandonment. Conducting an audience analysis before rolling out your marketing efforts can help you direct ads to the right people, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.

To reach audiences who will want to register for your events and contribute to your cause, consider the following strategies:

  • Get to know your audience. Ensure you’re reaching the right people by researching your audience and their interests, hobbies, and reasons for giving. Demographic information like age, gender, and household income can also tell you more about them so you can direct your message to the audience that is most likely to complete your donation form.  
  • Segment donors. Most mission-driven organizations’ audiences can be segmented into several groups based on similar characteristics. For example, you might create segments based on psychographic differences like your supporters’ motivations to give. Then, you can target them with donation appeals that match their personal values or reasons for giving, leading to higher conversions.
  • Use social media marketing. Take advantage of your audience’s screen time with social media marketing strategies like working with nonprofit influencers, paid ads, and Facebook and Instagram retargeting campaigns. For example, you might ask your keynote speaker to promote your event on their social media account. When their followers click through (and if they abandon the registration page), they can then receive retargeted ads reminding them of the opportunity. These methods can effectively target niche audiences, leading people who are already interested in your cause to your registration and donation pages.
  • Make use of your email list. With email marketing, you can reach out to existing supporters directly to remind them of your event. Since these supporters already submitted their email addresses to your nonprofit, they are likely very invested in your cause and willing to donate or attend your event. You can even take things a step further by launching an email mapping campaign that matches the emails in your database to cookies that allows you to target these same people with ads.

Getting the initial word about donation opportunities out to your nonprofit is crucial. By marketing to interested donors from the get-go, your organization can decrease donation form abandonment. Focusing on discovering the right audience and the appropriate ways to reach them helps you find attendees and donors who are the most likely to register or donate.

3. Retarget supporters to your website

Sometimes all donors need is a reminder to prompt them to return to your website and complete the form. After all, 60% of potential donors abandon the form with the intention of coming back to it later. 

Retargeting is one of the most effective ways to combat donation form abandonment. According to Feathr’s guide to nonprofit marketing ideas, retargeting ads allows your organization to reach the supporters who previously visited your website with targeted ads. These ads help guide your supporters back to your site, picking up where they left off with a donation or registration form.

Web campaign

With this campaign, you can retarget members of your current audience with ads across the web. Your nonprofit can choose specific segments of your audience to target, including those who visited your website without completing their donation form. Or, you could target those who visited your events page but failed to register. 

The ads your audience sees will appear on the websites they choose to visit. So, while they’re reading a news article or looking up a recipe for dinner, they’ll also see an ad for your nonprofit. Use these ads to remind them to return to your website and complete their donation or registration form so you can recapture the donors who may have gotten distracted or simply forgotten.

Social media campaign

If you use social media, you know just how easy it is to start mindlessly scrolling through your favorite app. Your donors are no different, and chances are many of them have been pulled away from your donation form or registration page because of social media. However, with a social media retargeting campaign, you can remind your supporters to pick up where they left off.

This retargeting strategy is similar to a web retargeting campaign, but its ads appear on your audience’s Facebook and Instagram feeds rather than the websites they visit. Remember to confirm that your audience regularly uses these social media platforms before launching a social media retargeting campaign.

These techniques are very effective for decreasing donation form abandonment, but they can also benefit your nonprofit in other ways. Retargeting ads can also promote events, webinars, and online fundraising campaigns. You can even drive traffic to specific pages, like the catalog for your upcoming online auction, to drum up excitement for those events.

4. Encourage continued support during and after your event

While expanding your donor pool is important to growing as an organization, don’t forget to think about your long-term goals, too. For example, you may win over a new supporter with an engaging event or persuasive ad. However, without making efforts to keep them coming back, you might find that your hard work bringing them back from abandoned donation or registration forms only had a short-term impact.

Making efforts to steward and retain your supporters for the long haul can create a base of loyal donors who never miss a chance to attend an event or make a donation. Here are a few ways to engage and retain donors for long-term, loyal support:

  • Note highlights from your events. Denote the high points from your events. You can include these in follow-up emails, social media posts, and end-of-year marketing. These highlights can remind attendees of the fun they had or show supporters who didn’t attend what they missed out on.
  • Encourage donors to become monthly supporters. Recurring monthly donors enjoy a high retention rate of about 80% after year one. After you’ve drawn supporters back to your site and they’ve given to your cause, encourage supporters and event attendees to join your recurring donor program. This creates a sustainable revenue source and encourages higher retention rates.
  • Send appreciation messages to your supporters. Email marketing is a great way to make donation appeals, send out event invitations, and, of course, show your appreciation by thanking donors. Showing your appreciation will encourage donors not just to come back to your registration page for this event, but to continue returning to future events that your nonprofit hosts. 


While garnering new supporters is exciting (and important), don’t underestimate the power of your existing donors. Strategies like following up after events and showing supporters that you appreciate them make them feel valued and keep them coming back to make donations. When your organization is near and dear to them, they wouldn’t dream of abandoning their donation form.



Aidan Augustin is the Co-founder & President, Feathr

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading tech company building marketing tools specifically tailored to the needs of associations and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 associations and 5,000 conferences, trade shows, and virtual events grow attendance, member engagement, and digital sponsorship revenue. Based out of their Gainesville, FL headquarters, Aidan leads the sales and marketing functions of Feathr and spearheads industry engagement. He is an actively involved member of both ASAE and IAEE and a regular speaker on the topics of digital marketing and event/association technology.

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading software company making digital marketing more accessible to nonprofits and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 nonprofits and thousands of events know, grow, and engage their audiences. When he’s not steering the ship at Feathr, he’s playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.

Event Follow-Up: Making Recurring Donations a No-Brainer!

Events are exciting, from live auctions hosted by a great auctioneer to all-night galas full of food, music, and friends. With all the planning that goes into making an event great, it can be easy to lose sight of one of the most important parts of your event: the follow-up. After all, a memorable event only matters if it motivates attendees to then take action for your nonprofit.


After an event, you’ll want your attendees to perform at least one of several actions. This could be donating, buying a piece of your nonprofit’s merchandise, signing up to volunteer, or buying a ticket for your next event. Among these, one of the actions with the highest return is signing up to become a recurring donor.


Recurring donors provide nonprofits like yours with a reliable source of revenue from month to month, and nonprofits will usually need to establish a strong connection with a supporter before they agree to become one. A well-run event is the perfect opportunity to form that relationship, and the right follow-up strategy can nudge attendees in the right direction towards becoming recurring supporters.


This article will explore strategies your nonprofit can use to make the most of your post-event follow-up, including how to:


  • Send personalized messages
  • Share your impact
  • Make donating easy
  • Optimize your donation form


Additionally, keep in mind that a strong follow-up message is also a fast follow-up message. Plan your follow-up strategy in advance so you can get messages out to your event’s attendees as soon as possible after your event wraps up. Let’s dive in.

Send personalized messages.

Whether you’re messaging a donor a member of your staff was able to speak to one-on-one or a quiet guest who spoke little during a virtual event, your message should be personalized to help solidify your nonprofit’s relationship with them.


To make each message feel more unique, create templates that can be customized with details specific to each guest. For instance, you should always address each donor by name. Strive to go as in-depth as possible by referencing details such as whether it was a hybrid event, the guest’s history with your organization, if they won any prizes at your auction or raffle, or if they made a donation during the event.


Your CRM should help you record and leverage personal details about your donors for your follow-up messages. CharityEngine’s guide to nonprofit CRM features specifically recommends investing in a CRM with integrated event and communication tools, so information collected during your event can flow seamlessly into your donor profiles and be used for future messages.

Share your impact.

Donors want their contributions to make a difference, and your nonprofit can increase the number of your potential recurring donors by demonstrating your organization’s impact in your messages.


When drafting your event’s follow-up messages, be sure to share your nonprofit’s impact and explain how the attendee’s continued support can help. You can accomplish this by:


  • Referencing the event’s goal. All of your fundraising events have a specific goal, whether it’s to collect enough funds to launch a new initiative, gather support for an ongoing project, or spread awareness about an essential aspect of your mission. In your follow-up messages, thank your supporters for attending your event and remind them about the impact they’ve already made so far by buying an event ticket.


  • Provide examples of potential impact. Individual donors may be unsure if their contribution will make much of a difference in advancing your nonprofit’s mission. You can help them visualize their impact by providing examples of how your nonprofit can use their donation, even detailing specific examples of what a $50 donation could do in comparison to a $25 donation.


  • Share stories and statistics. Your supporters are motivated to give by a variety of factors. After an event, your attendees will be familiar with your nonprofit and your work, but they might still be missing that extra incentive they need to make a donation. You can encourage them to give by sharing a story about your constituents and providing factual statistics and data to help inform their decision.


Event follow-up messages are also often a great opportunity to share impactful photographs with your supporters. These could be images from your event, photos of your volunteers at work, or even pictures of your constituents. These visuals help supporters get a better sense of your nonprofit’s work and understand the connection between a fundraiser and the mission it’s supporting.

Make donating easy.

After going through the process of connecting with a supporter and getting them to attend your event, the last steps they’ll need to take to make a conversion should be as easy as possible. When you present your event attendees with the option to donate, make sure the process to do so is straightforward and can be accomplished in just a few minutes.


Your first step should be to make sure your nonprofit has an easy way to give online, especially if your event was hosted virtually. This will make the transition from event guest to donor smoother and allow supporters to make that transition at any time.


You can simplify your donation process by:


  • Asking only the information you need. It can be tempting to use your donation form as an opportunity to gather more information about your supporters. However, given the importance of securing that initial donation, keep your questions limited on your donation form. You can reach out to donors to gather data later on in their donor journey as your relationship with them develops.


  • Making recurring giving easy. Recurring giving is so beneficial for nonprofits because it’s meant to be a set-it-and-forget-it method of giving for your supporters. Once they sign up, your nonprofit will automatically receive regular donations. Ensure the process of becoming a recurring donor is just as easy by letting donors make their gift a recurring one with just a click of a button.


  • Creating one-click upgrade options. For donors who are already in your system, you can make the giving process even easier with one-click giving opportunities. For example, after your event, you might reach out to an annual supporter to ask if they’d consider switching to your monthly giving program. You already have their financial information and an estimate of how much they usually give, so in that follow-up message you can propose the donation upgrade and just have them confirm it with a single click.


Additionally, remember to make sure that your donation form is accessible for all of your supporters. This includes adding features such as text descriptions to required fields instead of just color markers, ensuring the page is navigable by keyboard, and adding directions for each question outside of its entry field.

Optimize your donation form.

Even after your well-planned event and thoughtful follow-up message, there’s a chance supporters may not give quite as much as you were hoping. Along with creating a donation form that makes giving easier, you can also optimize your donation form to encourage increased giving and even nudge more supporters into becoming recurring donors.

You can earn more donations through your online giving form by:

  • Offering suggested giving amounts. Some of your attendees, especially those who are new to nonprofit giving, may be unsure how much they should donate. You can take the guesswork out of the equation by providing suggested giving amounts. Additionally, you can encourage more supporters to become recurring donors by displaying your recurring and one-time donation amounts alongside each other. Because the recurring donation amounts will be lower but add up to more in the long run, some supporters may decide it’s the better option for them than making a large one-time donation in the moment.


  • Making your form mobile friendly. Whether it’s an event hosting tool or a way to give online, mobile-friendliness has become essential for nonprofits. This is because chances are that many of your supporters will check your nonprofit’s follow-up message on their phone, and if they decide to give, they’ll likely follow the link to your donation form while also on their phone. If your page is mobile friendly, they’ll be able to give right then and there.


  • Adding matching gift opportunities. Some of your supporters may be able to effectively double the amount they can give with a matching gift. 360MatchPro’s matching gift database guide emphasizes that over 18 million individuals work for a company with a matching gift program, and if any of those people happen to donate to your nonprofit, you can tap into that matching gift revenue. Add a section to your donation form where donors can search their employer’s name to discover if they’re eligible for a matching gift.

If your donation form isn’t already optimized prior to your event, now is definitely the time to make some adjustments. Be sure to test that every part of your donation form is working and information is flowing smoothly into your CRM before sending a link out to all of your event’s guests.

Nonprofit events are a few hours of fun that can help your team connect with supporters while spreading awareness about your cause. Make sure your nonprofit has the right strategies in place to leverage all of the work you put into your event during the follow-up process and secure more donations. Good luck!

The Indisputable Advantage that Consignment Auction Items Have Over Donated Auction Items

There has been an ongoing debate among not-for-profits about the relative merits of donated auction items compared to consignment auction items. One common position is that donated items have a zero-cost basis so the amount of money raised is the amount of the winning bid.  Those in favor of using consignment items believe that they are a lot more interesting and bring more excitement to the auction experience for the bidders. Donated items tend to be more traditional and much the same in every other auction in town.

There is a different advantage that one of our customers recently mentioned to us that was interesting.  She said that the reason she recommended consignment items for her organization’s fundraising events is that since they can be sold multiple times* at auction they can raise more money with them than they can with donated items. We at BlueTree Marketing have certainly had customers sell an item multiple times at a significant profit. For example, a recent gala’s auction for an organization benefiting children in need located in Texas sold our Bali Trip 4 times and our Kentucky Derby trip twice, netting over $8,000 in funds for the organizations programs.

This is something that can’t be done with a donated item because the donated item, by its very nature is donated just the one time.



*If you are unsure about how an auction item can be sold more than once to increase auction proceeds, please click here or call 866-607-2616 and ask one of our fundraising consultants for assistance.


How to Sell an Item More Than Once at a Charity Auction

One of the most effective ways to turbo-charge your auction proceeds is to sell a consignment item more than once. This comes about because most consignment items have greater availability than the one unit. For example, if the consignment trip is a trip to Paris, there is no real limit on the number of people that can go on the trip. Even if there are tickets involved like a trip to the Country Music Awards, typically BlueTree can get more than one set. How this is implemented in a charity auction environment to increase fundraising proceeds can be a confusing topic but here is how it works:

A travel experience item has a consignment price of $2,000. During the auction there are three bidders that bid the item up like this:

  • Bidder A: $3,800
  • Bidder B: $3,900
  • Bidder C (the winner): $4,000

So, the winning bidder is Bidder C with the bid of $4,000. In an auction without multiple winners, the winning bid is the only winner and the charity would have a net revenue of $2,000 (the winning bid of $4,000 less the consignment price of $2,000). That is great but there is one issue: there are two other bidders willing to pay $3,900 and $3,800 respectively. They have the potential to provide more funds to organization, and the bidders have an unmet demand to buy what is being auctioned—they want to go on the trip!

What if you did this: Approach Bidder A and ask “are you still interested in the item at $3,800?” If they say yes, ask Bidder B, “would you be interested in the item at $3,800? (which is less than their maximum bid)” Then you would ask Bidder C, “if we reduce your purchase price to $3,800, would you be ok in our offering the item to the other bidders too we can raise more money?”

If Bidder C agrees, then sell the trip to all three bidders for $3,800. Now instead of bringing in $2,000 to your organization for the auctioning of the item once, you are now bringing in 3 x $1,800 or $5,400. This is the advantage of selling an item “multiple times” at a charity auction. Of course, there is no particular reason why we gave an example of the top three bidders. It could have just as easily been the two or four or five bidders. This works just as well in a silent auction or a live auction with an auctioneer.

Here are some considerations for selling something multiple times:

  • The winning bid must be sufficiently above the consignment price to make this worthwhile. In the same scenario, if the consignment price is $2,000 and the three final bids are $2,400, $2,300 and $2,200 the difference between having one winning bidder at $400 in profit vs. three bidders at 3 x $200 might not be worth the effort.
  • If every item or too many items are offered this way, the bidders will be conditioned to assuming that all items or all items of a certain type will be offered multiple times so there will be less emphasis on winning the auction. People may jockey for third position instead of trying to be the top bidder. This could lead to lower bids. In our experience, only those items bid significantly above their consignment price and those items that are the “signature” items of the auction (the most interesting ones) should be eligible for being sold multiple times.
  • When having a live auction, it is a best practice to determine in advance which items and at what final bid must be exceeded for an item to be sold more than once. BlueTree Marketing can help you with this. In fact, quite recently, we were on a conference call between the auction committee, the auctioneer and ourselves strategizing on which items and what target bid levels should be employed for selling items more than once.

Selling items more than once at a charity auction can be a very effective technique to multiply your organization’s fundraising.

Tips for Hiring a Great Auctioneer for Your Charity Auction

So, you have decided to hire an auctioneer for your charity auction. If you haven’t used a professional auctioneer before and are looking to hire one, the first thing we recommend doing is to find some referrals from trusted business associates who have used auctioneers at their events. There is nothing stronger than a personal referral!

Not every auctioneer you will find is an expert in auctioning items to a charity audience—it isn’t the same thing as auctioning cattle, foreclosed real estate or even artwork. Charity auctions, which are known as “benefit auctions” in the auctioneering industry, require some different skills. In fact, the National Association of Auctioneers (the “NAA”) has a special training and certification program for benefit auctioneers. A member of the NAA, with the benefit auctioneer designation will typically have a “BAS” after their name. Here is a link to their website.

There are nuances to charity auctions that make them different.  For example, the audience which is made up of more non-bidders than bidders and they are looking for the entertainment value of the auction. They don’t want to be bored—they want to be entertained! Additionally, the items are varied and the bidders need more seduction. They don’t “need” anything being auctioned and there are no professional bidders. At a real estate auction or cattle auction the audience is dominated by professional buyers that simply won’t bid on something they don’t need. They don’t need to be seduced. It would even come as a surprise that a recent art auction at the venerable auction house of Sotheby’s each lot is auctioned in an average of 45 seconds. Most art sales at art auctions are made up of bidders who are professional buyers—no seduction, or entertainment required.

If you don’t have a referral for an auctioneer, we have two recommendations on finding one. Firstly, contact the development director of a local charity that has recently had an event and find out who they used. There is really no reason why the other charity will keep it a secret. You can get a referral and a reference in one call as they can also tell you the auctioneers strengths and weaknesses and some best practices.

Another way to get the names of local recommended auctioneers is by contacting the state or regional chapter president of the NAA and ask him/her for a referral.  Google “{state name} auctioneer association”. Nearly every state has a state association. Make sure to ask for a BAS certified auctioneer.

With any auctioneer you are introduced to, it is very important to ask for and to check references. When checking references ask about results, of course, but also ask about how easy it was to work with the auctioneer and whether they were helpful in giving advice for organizing the event. Auctioneers who truly have a lot of experience in benefit auctions have been to a lot of charity events and should have a sense of what works and doesn’t work and should be forthcoming about advising you and your team. The auctioneer should be a resource committed to the event’s success, not just a gun for hire to do the auction itself.

Ultimately, you are looking for, not just an auctioneer, but a member of your team. It may be time consuming to get some auctioneer referrals but it won’t be difficult. The difficult part is going to be finding the best auctioneer, not an adequate one easily. Finding the best one is going to be based on checking references and spending the time necessary.

What to Look For in a Mobile Bidding Solution for Your Fundraising Auction

Technology has changed every business and the mobile bidding/online auction platforms (“OAPs”) have made a significant impact on charity auctions for fundraising. OAPs provide a number of basic features and then each of the products provide some or all of the advanced features.  These features include:

  • Mobile bidding – bidding from mobile devices (smart phones) during the auction is a basic feature. A more advanced feature allows bids to be recorded by text message.
  • Early bidding – bidding from PCs and smart phones before the event is a basic feature.
  • Silent Auction in Room Registration
  • Post auction processing – this allows the processing of credit cards to winner of auction items.
  • Event ticketing – this allows the generation and processing charges (cash, check and credit cards).
  • Event staffing – Some OAP companies can provide staff to run the auction for you entirely.

What is important is to understand what your needs are and then make sure you don’t pay for more system than you really need. Other considerations to think about:

  • Will you have WIFI and/or a strong cellular signal (from all carriers) at you event? If you will be dependent on internet connectivity for smart phones and tablets at your auction, it is important that there be a strong signal.
  • Do you have a strong group of volunteers available for your event? If not, you may want to consider using an OAP that can also augment your staff with their own paid staff.
  • Contingency planning is very important in case the Internet isn’t available. Make sure you have confirmed with your venue’s staff to ensure that the Internet is enabled during the event time. Also, perform an event walk-through in the afternoon before the event to confirm that the Internet is functioning. If you are using a paper based back up plan, have the paper bid sheets printed out and a box or two of pens at the ready.

When it comes to selecting an OAP system, it is important to do your due diligence about the system and the company that makes it and provides support for it. Prices for supporting a single event can vary from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand to paying for features you aren’t going to be using isn’t wise. Furthermore, it is important to realize that with most events happening on Saturday nights, the OAP company may be having to support all those events at the same time. If something goes wrong in the software for all those users, they will drown in the customer support and your event will be down the drain—contingency planning is critical. This is why checking references is so important. Ideally, you can get a reference from someone who had called customer service and can tell you about their experiences with customer service.

Finally, remember that using an OAP is about raising more money for your fundraiser and not about just increasing the cost and the work involved. We see a lot of event boards make the investment in using a system and only find out that few people actually used it and the overall impact on the auction money raised was minor.

To Get an Auctioneer or Not to Get an Auctioneer…That is the Question!

To use or not use an auctioneer is a catch 22 type of situation.  Should you spend more money to hire a professional auctioneer for your charity auction or just have a board member act as the auctioneer or just have a silent auction?

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

An Auctioneer vs. No Auctioneer:


  • There is no question that an auctioneer can raise more money. They can cajole the audience into getting higher bids and they can “sell” an auction item to the audience to generate more interest.
  • An auctioneer can be entertaining and provide the “life of the party” and a number of laughs at a gala. A live auction and a bidding war can be fun to watch and more fun to participate in.


  • Live auctions are time consuming and can easily consume too much time during the charity event.
  • An auctioneer is only helpful if you have the right kind of items. It is a waste to use an auctioneer for auctioning off a dinner for two at a local restaurant or any item with a value of just a few hundred dollars or less.

Best Practices:

Limit the number and type of items. It doesn’t make sense to use an auctioneer on an inexpensive item. Where possible, have the auctioneer sell things multiple times. For items on consignment, this means that more than one bidder can get the item. Imagine auctioning off a consignment trip or a piece of sports memorabilia. Verify if the provider can handle the sale of more than one copy of the item and if the bidding goes high enough offer the top few bidders the opportunity to take the item.

Professional Auctioneer vs. Volunteer/Amateur Auctioneer:


  • Charity auctions are known as “benefit auctions” in the auction world and auctioneers that specialize in benefit auctions typically have specialized training and a certification from the National Auctioneer Association.
  • Auctioneers that specialize in charity auctions have a lot of experience in charity auctions and galas and can add great suggestions from things like room layout, item auction order, staffing, catering, etc. and offer the benefit of their contacts to make your event more successful.
  • In all but some exceptional situations, a professional auctioneer will give you better results than an amateur. There are certain skills that auctioneers have and develop over time that an amateur is unlikely to have acquired.


  • Professional auctioneers are expensive and the incremental gain that a professional auctioneer provides has to exceed the cost. For example, if you are only auctioning off items that may just generate a few thousand dollars, how much more can a professional auctioneer raise? 50%? 10%? How much is that worth and does it provide a reasonable return on your investment.

Best Practices

The bottom line is that a charity auction has to have the chance to raise a significant amount of money for it to be worth having an auctioneer and more than that for a professional auctioneer. Professional auctioneers add value but they do so at a cost of typically several thousand dollars.

What Kind of Donations Should You Be Looking for in Your Charity Auction?

A successful charity gala starts with great planning and the auction is a key part of the fundraising. The best way to go about getting donated items is to come up with a plan that targets types of items your committee thinks should be at the auction and then assign individuals to solicit these items by category. This way there is an accountability because it will be clear that if there is a shortage of items in a particular category who is responsible. Of course, if a committee member or event volunteer has an “in” at a company outside their category, they should solicit them in coordination with the category leader.

In a charity auction, a wide range of donated items and these items tend to fall into one of several categories:

  • Beauty: Salons gift certificates, Botox and other rejuvenation treatments
  • Health: Massage, fitness gift certificates
  • Dining: Restaurant gift certificates, home catering gift certificates
  • Hospitality: Hotel gift certificates, use of a vacation condo, trips and once in a lifetime experiences
  • Donated Goods: most commonly things like art work from the artist but can be as different as a set of tires!

Like any sales effort, a sales person needs good marketing material and soliciting donations for your event is no different. Business owners or managers need to be convinced that making the donation is in their best interest and marketing material should answer the question “what is in it for me?” on behalf of the business owner.

Marketing material should highlight the mission of the charity, the specifics of the event and the planned attendance and demographics of the event. For example, volunteers soliciting donations benefit from being able to tell the business owner the mission of the charity, that the event is a black-tie gala and that there will be 400 high net worth individuals in attendance being introduced to the businesses product or services. For some volunteers with less experience it may also be helpful to provide some scripts of likely conversations they will have with business owners so they get the feel for the conversations they will likely have.

Local Firm Specializes in Charity Auctions

The adrenaline flows through the bidder as she excitedly watches the final seconds of the online auction wind down. She anxiously stares at the computer hoping to win that Napa Valley trip. FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE… “Congratulations, you’re the winner!” flashes on the screen. Does this sound familiar? Would you  Read More

Online Auctions: A New Source

Since we’re discussing auctions it seemed a great time to introduce a relatively new service in the world of Auctions. BlueTree Marketing now offers charity organizations, schools and churches and turnkey solution to efficiently take their fundraising efforts online. This week I received an email from the  Read More