Silent Auction Donation Request Letter: The How-To Guide

Holding a special event is a great way for an organization to generate fundraising proceeds, engage new and previous donors, and build awareness for their cause. Including a silent auction can take your special event to the next level, but it requires your nonprofit to solicit awesome items for guests to bid on.

Securing auction items may seem a little daunting – but have no fear. We’ve put together tips and best practices for the perfect silent auction donation request letters to send to corporate sponsors and individual donors.

The less money you have to spend on bringing in great items, the greater the return on investment will be for your auction. And that equals more money to power your mission.

Donation request letters are essential for building your auction. The letters are the first introduction to individuals and businesses that you’re having an event, need silent auction items, and what recognition and visibility is included for auction donors. So, make it count!

To help you start the process of writing a silent auction donation request letter, we’ll cover:

Let’s get started!

How to Write a Silent Auction Donation Request Letter

Though many different types of organizations send out donation request letters, there are core elements to writing a great letter. Follow these nine steps to create a silent auction donation request letter that will surely have items rolling in in no time!

Address the decision maker

The first step in writing a donation request letter is ensuring that it gets to the right person. Do your due diligence up front to make sure your request reaches a person with decision making power. Take time to make inquiry phone calls or perform Google searches. It’s essential that your request gets into the right hands.

  • Avoid using terminology like “to whom it may concern.”
  • For individual donors, address them by their full names.
  • For businesses, address the decision maker for requests (i.e. the owner, manager, or director of public relations).

Finding the right person to address your donation request letter to will require a little more research upfront, but the reward will follow.

Acknowledge your donor relationship

To begin your silent auction donation request letter, first introduce yourself and acknowledge the relationship your organization has with the recipient. For example: “You have played a huge role in the success of our organization for years. We can’t thank you enough for supporting us as a frequent donor and volunteer.”

If you don’t have the capacity to personalize each letter, you can segment your donors based on how you’ve interacted with them in the past:

  • Current donor
  • Previous volunteer
  • Board member
  • Corporate partner
  • Local business partner

Utilizing the information that you've collected and maintained in your database about individual and corporate donors will help you succeed much more than a generic letter that could have been written to anybody

Begin storytelling

We aren’t saying you should write a novel about your organization or your event. Just remember that. as a nonprofit, you have one of the most impactful stories there is. Use your mission, impact, and history as the hook that connects your reader to your nonprofit and makes them feel compelled to give.

Be sure to include 3 key elements in your silent auction request letter:

  • Need: First, outline the need that your nonprofit addresses.
    • Explain who or what is in need of help.
    • Give real life examples of your organization’s needs.
  • Solution: Following the need is outlining the solution.
    • What result is your organization seeking?
    • What does it look like when that solution comes to life?
  • Hero: What’s everyone’s favorite part of any story? The hero. While your nonprofit is doing incredible work for your mission, it’s all made possible by the generosity of your donors. Make them the hero of your story – every time.

Provide a call to action

Now that you’ve established your reader as the hero of the story, it’s time to tell them how you’re calling them to help. Don’t assume they know what you’re looking for. Be as specific as possible in your request by including:

  • Specific items you’re looking for.
  • Category or theme of the item you’re looking for.
  • Items that you cannot use or accept.

It’s easier to get these details out of the way in the beginning of the letter. Take some of the work off of the donor and give them specific examples when possible.

Asking for specific items will take the pressure off of the potential donors to come up with auction item ideas – making it easier for them to say yes!

Explain the benefits

After clearly stating what you’re asking for from your donors, it’s time to introduce the “why.” Include the impact that your reader can make and how it will benefit them by outlining:

Including the “why” behind your request often distinguishes your request from others and builds a connection between your potential donor and your cause.

Invite them to the event

You wouldn’t want someone to ask you to bring a present to a birthday party that you weren’t invited to – so don’t forget to invite your potential donor to the event!

In your donation request letter, include:

  • Details of the upcoming event
  • Event website
  • Ways for them to get involved

Thank your donors and sign

Always, always, always be sure to thank auctions item donors. It’s such an important element of a donation request and sometimes overlooked in the craziness of auction prep. Be sure to:

  • Thank them for their consideration, time, and investment in your mission.
  • Avoid the temptation to sign the letter from your entire organization.
  • Choose an employee, board member, or key personnel to represent you.

Be sure to sign the letter personally. Signing from an individual helps cultivate the human-human relationship and reinforce the personal relationship your organization has with the auction item donor.

Provide a donation form

Included with your letter should be a silent auction item donation form to get additional and specific information about the item they’re donating. This information will be important for creating online item descriptions or bid sheets.

Item donation forms should include:

Contact information

  • Business/Donor Name (As it should appear in item catalog)
  • Donor Contact Name (If different from above)
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email

Silent Auction Item Information

  • Name of Item
  • Item Description
  • Estimated Dollar Value
  • Signature and Date
  • Delivery Method
    • Delivery by donor
    • Item pick up
    • Promotional material delivered by donor
    • Certificate provided by donor
    • Committee to create certificate

Additional Information

  • Committee Member Information: Important to include so that you can follow-up with your item procurement committee members about any questions you have on items.
  • Return by date: Make the donor well informed about when their donations is needed – this should be big, bold, and obvious.
  • Federal tax ID: Because this is information that donors typically ask for, include the number at the bottom of the form.

Follow these additional guidelines

Now that you’ve walked through the process of writing a silent auction donation request letter, be sure to follow a few additional guidelines:

  • Use your letterhead: Keep your letter professional by using your organization’s letterhead with full contact information.
  • Give them time: Send your donation request letters out a few months in advance of your event date. Your recipients may need some time to think about your request and what item, product, or experience they’d like to offer.
  • Keep it short: Keep your letter to one page or less (and always use spell check!) Save the letters you’re sending them to so that you can refer to them year after year.

Silent Auction Donation Request Template

Remember, these letters are essential for building and growing relationships with your donors. You are asking your reader for a significant donation on behalf of your cause, so make sure it motivates them to act. Here’s a donation request letter template to help you get started:

Dear Mr./Mrs. [Donor’s Name],

My name is [name] and I am in the [position] for [organization’s name]. Our team works hard to support and bring awareness to [organization’s cause]. I am so [grateful for the role you’ve played in pushing our mission forward/grateful for the opportunity to get you involved].

In the last year alone [statistic about the need that your organization addresses]. Ever since [year of founding], our team has been [hosting events, raising money] to help [specific positive impact of your organization].

Our team is planning [something new/a fantastic event], so get excited. By [date], we are launching [upcoming project or event] that will bring [impact of event] to our community. In order to make this event a true triumph, we want to ask for your help.

As a [business leader/community leader], you know how costly large initiatives like ours can be. With your connections, resources, and incredible history of charity work, I know that together we can make a huge difference.

Would you be willing to donate [specific item, service, or experience donation] to help our cause? To show how much we appreciate your support, we’d be happy to provide [incentive].

[Organization name] would also love to have you at the event! Registration can be found here [link to register] or you can reach out to me by phone or email. Attached is silent auction donation form for you to review.

I would be happy to provide you with more information about how you can support our work at [organization’s name]. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at [phone number/email].

Hope to talk soon,

Silent Auction Donation Form Sample

Silent Auction Donation Request Letter Sample and Template

Silent Auction Donation Request Form Sample and Template

Wrapping Up

Now that your know the process of writing a silent auction donation request letter, dive into our other top auction resources: