Designing Your Auction with Donor Appeal: 3 Essential Questions to Guide Your Research

If you work for an organization that runs a charity auction, you know how many factors are involved in its success—timing, marketing, and the items that you have on offer being just a few. These factors can often be out of your control, but at Donorly, we know that one way to mitigate the everyday challenges involved in fundraising is to do your research!

Understanding the pool of donors (or potential donors) that you’re targeting with your auction can help you make important decisions on the one part of the auction that is entirely within your control: the list of items that you are putting up for bid.

Here are a few helpful questions you can ask as you conduct your research:

1. Where is your community located?

Do they mostly live in the city, or are they out in the country? Are they local to your headquarters, or are they spread out around the country? Looking at where your target audience lives can drastically affect the types of auction items you want to post. For example, if you are running an auction for a secondary school, you might consider where your students’ families live. The answer to this question, of course, will be different depending on whether it is a public school, a day school, or a boarding school. A dinner package at a downtown restaurant may be less appealing if everyone lives outside of town (or in another state!), whereas a vacation package or a service that is redeemable online may be just what your community is looking for.

2. What is your community’s capacity?

If you are able to get a sense of the largest amount that a typical member of your community might be able to spend on an auction item, it can help you determine how to spend your energy tracking down those items for bid. This information is usually discernable by researching publicly available records that indicate someone’s current job title and employer, the value of any property they own, or their track record of charitable giving.

Taking the example of the secondary school, if you know that the families in your community have a higher giving capacity, you might get some mileage out of a big ticket item. If the families in your community have a lower giving capacity, they are probably more likely to bid (and even keep bidding) on items they feel confident they can secure for hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands. Understanding the capacity of your community is also useful when you’re working out the income side of the budget for your auction.

3. What auction items will appeal to your community?

If you’ve done an auction in the past, spend some time analyzing the results – not only how much different items went for, but how many different bidders were vying for them. The items that are popular, and continue to be popular year over year, are solid bets for when you start organizing your next auction. If you don’t have that information, conducting a community survey is an easy way to learn about your community’s interests. Asking questions like: how many nights per week do you eat out? Do you enjoy attending the theater? Or even, how many people are in your immediate family? Can help you determine what kinds of items and experiences might be desirable to your community, but also the scope of each auction package. For instance, a family of five might not take any interest in a dinner for four.

There are so many factors that go into planning an effective charity auction, and we cannot stress enough how vital it is to take a little time to do the research. Seeking out the answers to just these three questions can go a long way to making your auction a success.

Stay tuned to Donorly on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog for more tips to help nonprofit organizations fundraise beyond their size.

This post appears courtesy of Donorly.