Your charity auction (whether it was silent, live, or online) went off without a hitch, and you raised money and awareness for your cause.
Before you move on
Before you move on to your next fundraising campaign or event, make sure that you implement the following strategies for engaging your bidders after the final bids have all been placed.
- Acknowledge Contributions Promptly
- Promote Matching Gifts
- Encourage More Involvement
- Suggest Alternative Giving Methods
- Demonstrate What Donations Will Go Toward
And don’t forget to check out Double the Donation’s guide to charity auctions!
You’ve spent so much time planning your fundraising event. You went to local businesses and community members to obtain items to auction off. You’ve even spent time promoting and advertising your event.
You’ve probably put countless hours and dollars into your charity auction, so why wouldn’t you put in that much effort when thanking your bidders and donors?**
You should send out acknowledgements as soon as possible, typically within two weeks after your auction closes.
Your thank-you letter or email should be concise but genuine. It should address the recipient by his or her preferred name (no “Dear Donor,” or “Dear Bidder,” here!) and reference past involvement (when applicable).
Additionally, you can use your acknowledgement as a donation receipt. You’ll need to include:
The donor’s name,
- Your organization’s name and 501(c)(3) status,
- Date and amount of the donation,
- A statement indicating whether or not any goods or services were made in exchange for the donation,
- And the name and signature of an authorized organizational representative. (Check out Qgiv’s complete guide to donation receipts here.)
Your donor thank-you letter should express your sincere thanks for that individual's contribution to your nonprofit. It should, under no circumstances, ask for another donation.
Asking for more money only makes your organization seem greedy and impersonal. Instead, let bidders know how much you appreciate their coming to your auction and donating to your cause.
And don’t just send out thank-you letters to your bidders! Make sure that your auction-item donors and your volunteers receive a prompt acknowledgement for their contributions.
Bottom line: You should send out genuine acknowledgements promptly. Let donors, bidders, and volunteers know that you appreciate their donations to your cause!
Bonus: Learn how Auctria can help your nonprofit take your auction to the next level.
Just in case you didn’t know, matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program that essentially doubles an employee’s contribution to a qualifying nonprofit organization.
Once a donor makes a contribution, at your charity auction, on a donation page, or during another type of event, they must submit paperwork to their employer’s HR department.
If the donation and your nonprofit are eligible for a matching gift, your organization will receive a check from your donor’s employer.
**Most matching gift programs will double an employee’s charitable contribution, but some offer matches at a 3:1 ratio, tripling the original donation! **
The biggest reason many donors don’t submit matching gift requests is that they simply don’t know that such programs exist.
Therefore, after your auction ends, make sure that you properly promote matching gifts to your donors.
Let’s look at some of the most common ways you can promote matching gifts to your donors:
Check out this example:
This organization has sent donors a newsletter that specifically talks about matching gifts. They even include a link to more matching gift information that allows donors to check if their employer offers a matching gift program.
How does this help your organization post-auction?
The more you can engage with donors, the better. Promoting matching gifts to them is a way to keep in touch with them without asking for a second donation. And emails are one of the easiest and quickest ways to get in touch with donors.
If you have a large following on a particular social media site, use it to your advantage!
Promoting matching gifts to your donors on social media after an auction is a great way to engage them even after your auctioneer has put down the gavel.
Let’s look at an example:
This particular nonprofit has used Facebook to highlight matching gifts.
Note how they include an example (Bank of America) to demonstrate how matching gifts can make an individual’s contribution go even further. They even include a handy graphic that calls attention to other companies that will match donations to nonprofits.
How does this help your organization post-auction?
You likely used social media to promote your auction in the first place. If your donors follow you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you can use those platforms to keep in touch with them and nudge them toward matching gift programs.
While direct mail is a more traditional form of communication, it can be a great way to remind your auction attendees that they might be able to double their donations to your nonprofit.
Let’s check out an example:
As you can see, this nonprofit uses a postcard to inform donors of matching gifts. They even give recipients three different ways (phone, email, website) to learn more about matching gifts.
How does this help your organization post-auction?
Many nonprofits choose to send out tangible acknowledgements to their auction attendees and bidders. If this is the case for your organization, you can use these pieces of direct mail to promote matching gifts to your bidders.
Bottom line: Use different communication methods to follow-up with donors after an auction and promote matching gifts to them at the same time! You’ll be able to interact with donors without asking them for another contribution, but you also have the potential to receive another gift from their employer.
Imagine this scenario: one of your friends invites you to his birthday party. Everyone has a great time, and the party is a great success.
But afterwards, you never hear from your friend again. He never suggests that you hang out again, and he doesn’t reach out to explain why you aren’t friends anymore.
If you don’t encourage more donor involvement after your auction is over, your organization has become that not-so-nice friend!
Asking donors to become more involved with your organization doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task, nor must it require a lot of effort on the bidder’s part.
For instance, you could:
- Ask bidders to take a survey about their auction experience. This gives you ideas for next year’s event.
- Encourage bidders to consider volunteering with your nonprofit. They might even want to help you run an event later in the year.
- Ask donors to think about donating items for next year’s auction.* Requesting auction items can be difficult, but if you can get a jump on next year’s auction, you’ll be in a better position.
- Invite bidders to come to another event. Auction attendees who had a good time at your event would likely enjoy going to another type of fundraising event.
Bottom line: Don’t forget about donors after they walk out the door with their won items. Make sure that you offer other ways for bidders to stay involved with your nonprofit long after the bidding has ended.
We’ve already emphasized that your donor acknowledgements should, under no circumstances, ask for another contribution.
Point 4, though, is referring to future follow-up communications and interactions.
Perhaps it would help to illustrate with an example scenario:
Let’s say you invite Bill Bidder to your auction. He gives pretty regularly to your organization, with donations coming in every few months or so.
But when he gets to the auction, he goes crazy with bidding! He ends up winning three or four high-priced items and even donates using the mobile giving software that you promoted during the event.
All of a sudden, you realize that Bill Bidder might have the capacity (and the willingness!) to be a major gift donor.
Of course, you wouldn’t then want to walk right up to Bill and ask him for a sizeable check. Not only would that be incredibly rude, but you may have misjudged the situation entirely.
In order to get a more complete picture, you’ll need to perform a prospect screening after your auction has ended.
Prospect research can reveal hidden details about your donors and bidders, allowing you to suggest alternative giving methods and levels.
For instance, during a screening, you might find that Bill gives regularly to nonprofits and political campaigns whose missions align closely with yours.
You now know that Bill enjoys supporting specific philanthropic causes. You can use that information to follow-up with Bill after the auction and encourage him to give more to your nonprofit in the future.
Bottom line: You shouldn’t immediately ask a bidder for a larger contribution. First, conduct prospect research to see who among your auction attendees has the potential to be upgraded to a higher giving level. Then reach out to those donors and begin the major gift cultivation process.
Bonus: Check out this resource for more information about how major giving can affect your nonprofit.
Arguably, this step can also be completed during your auction, but it’s also a great way to engage with bidders after they’ve walked out of the venue.
The best place to explain what donations will go toward is within a donation acknowledgement, but you can realistically put the information in any communication that you send out shortly after an auction ends.
While you might not be able to offer extremely specific examples of how your nonprofit will use a donation, you can give donors a general idea of what different contribution amounts can go toward.
For example, if an auction attendee spent $200 on a spa package basket, you could send her a letter or email in which you thank her for her donation and explain that the money will be used to help build a new shelter for rescued animals.
This is a great way to keep donors in the loop about their donations. So many nonprofits make the mistake of treating their donors like ATMs.
Don’t distance yourself from your bidders. Make sure that they feel appreciated and that their donations are making a difference.
Bottom line: Donors deserve to know where their donations are going. Give them an idea of how their donations will impact your cause by keeping in touch with them after your auction has ended.
Planning and executing a charity auction can be an intense process. Following up shouldn’t stress out your staff unnecessarily.
Follow the five strategies outlined here to enhance donor engagement even after the last bid has been placed or your auctioneer has put down the gavel.
Thanks to guest blogger Adam Weinger for his expert advice!
Adam Weinger is one of the leading experts on corporate giving programs. He’s the president of Double the Donation, a company which helps organizations raise more money from employee matching gift and volunteer grant programs.