Procuring Auction Items: Score Donations in 5 Simple Steps


Learn how to score auction items your donors will be dying to win in 5 simple steps.

As the items will be the star of your auction, soliciting them will be one of the most important steps of the planning process.

Here we’ve put together a step-by-step course in acquiring auction items so that you’ll have all the information you need to procure the perfect items, build awesome packages, and properly track them.

Read through the guide to learn about the entire process, or use the table on the right to jump down to a particular step.

Steps for Procuring Auction Items

Step 1: Review Donor Data

To pick the best auction items, you must first understand your audience.

Study the donor data you have on file to help you gain a better understanding of which auction items will most appeal to your guest list.

You can consult your donor database and your auction software (if you’ve used it to run an auction in the past).

Once you have a few ideas, create a list of suitable item ideas. Having ideas to draw from will help your procurement team focus their search.

Need some inspiration? Check out these ideas.

The Two Main Factors to Consider

1. What are my supporters interested in?

People will only want to bid on things that are personally useful, meaningful, or interesting to them. Consider the hobbies and interests of your supporter base to get a better idea of which items they might find most appealing.

2. What’s the general income level of my supporters?

You’ll need to choose items that fit into your attendees’ budget. Determine the general income level of your supporters to ensure they’ll have the capacity to bid on your items.


Step 2: Put Together a Procurement Team

Because securing auction items is such an important part of planning your event, you’ll want to put together a procurement team.

This team’s sole duty will be soliciting auction items.

Depending on your resources, the procurement team can be made up of either staff, volunteers, or both.

You’ll just want to make sure that whoever is on the team either has experience soliciting auction items (or donations in general) and/or has a large network of connections to draw from.

Step 3: Solicit Items

Now that you have a plan and a team together, it’s time to get out there and start soliciting auction items!

Procuring auction items is another job where it’s all about who you know. Your team should start by asking their coworkers, friends, family members, and other personal and professional connections to donate items to your auction.

If you still need items after your team has exhausted their networks, you can turn to local businesses and retailers to see if they’ll give their products or services as in-kind donations.

Many will be happy to donate, especially if you offer to feature them in event advertising. And as always, make sure to stay up to date with your item donors and thank them for their generosity!

What to Include in a Solicitation Toolkit

  • An Intro to Your Organization
  • Event Details
  • Donation Pledge Forms
  • Event Invitations
  • Solicitation Letter Templates
  • A List of Item Ideas

Step 4: Track Your Donations

As items start coming in, it’s important to keep track of your donations.

Every time you procure an auction item, you should make a record of it in a centralized place, such as your auction software.

Staying on top of tracking your items will help the whole planning process go a lot more smoothly for your organization.

Additionally, if you plan on hosting an auction again in the future, it will be much easier to look back and gain insights from your past events.

Learn more about auction software.

What to List in Item Records

  • The Item’s Name and Number
  • A Detailed Description of the Item
  • Name and Contact Info of the Item’s Donor
  • The Item’s Starting Bid & Minimum Raise
  • The Item’s Retail Value
  • Name and Contact Info of the Item’s Winner

Step 5: Print Out a Master List

Once you’ve procured all of your auction items, you’ll want to print out a master list.

The master list will be your physical record of all auction item data compiled in one place. If you’ve been tracking your donations in your auction software platform, you already have one!

Throughout the auction, this list will play a huge part in helping your nonprofit stay organized and keep track of all of your items.

With all data in one place, marketing, setting up, and auctioning off your items will be much more manageable.

Additional Auction Resources