Tips on Marketing Your Silent Auction Fundraiser

Team members discussing marketing strategy in a meeting

How well you promote your silent auction will play a vital role in its success, or lack thereof.

Fear not; there are many ways to effectively advertise your fundraising event, from email marketing and social media to leveraging sponsors and word of mouth. You can use any of these strategies to promote your silent auction—and best of all, they’re absolutely free.

Bid Beacon helps organizations of every kind and size successfully organize and run silent auctions throughout the year. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, so read on and let us show you how best to market your fundraiser below.

What You’ll Need Before You Start

There are some key pieces of information that need to be finalized before promoting your silent auction. You’ll need to make sure you know the following:

  • The date (or dates) of your event
  • The time of the auction
  • The type of silent auction you’re planning (live, online, or hybrid)
  • The event location (for live or hybrid silent auctions)

Once you have this information, you can comfortably begin to market your silent auction. Next, we’ll share our best suggestions for making sure people are aware of your event.

We’ve broken these tips down into categories based on common marketing campaign types. Whether you’re running a few of these campaigns or all of them, you can use the info below to refine your approach and achieve the maximum impact.

Person writing email campaign to market silent auction on laptop

Email Marketing Tips

Email is one of the oldest and most successful digital marketing methods in existence. Many free online services allow you to collect subscribers and send out mass email campaigns to your target audience. Examples include Sendinblue, MailChimp, and Sender. If you’re not ready to learn a new email marketing tool, you can always reach your audience through mail merge, which is a feature in most word processing programs.

No matter what tool you use, there are some general rules to follow when scheduling your email campaigns. To successfully market your silent auction, plan on sending out a minimum of two email campaigns: one to introduce your fundraiser, and another to act as a final reminder before opening day.

Introduction Campaign:

Plan on sending this campaign out as soon as you have solidified your mailing list and the date, time, and location for your auction. This initial email campaign should act as an introduction to your fundraising event. The goal is to create awareness, generate excitement, and give your invitees plenty of time to plan and save the date.

To create awareness:

  • Make sure you provide all the key pieces of information relating to your silent auction (date, time, venue, etc.).
  • Provide some background information on what cause you’re fundraising for and who’s involved.
  • If you have any sponsors lined up already, this is a great time to acknowledge them.
  • If you have a fundraising goal in mind, mention that as well.

To generate excitement:

  • Showcase one or more of the available auction items. Think of this as a little teaser for your invitees.
  • Remember to provide appropriate details for any items previewed in your campaign. What makes these items exciting, and why should people want to bid on them?
  • Remember to include professional-looking photos! A picture really is worth a thousand words (especially when it comes to emails, which should aim to be clear and concise instead of lengthy).

Final Reminder Campaign:

As your fundraising event inches closer to opening day, it’s imperative to reach out to your invitees again. Plan on starting this reminder campaign roughly one week before your silent auction goes live. This step of your email marketing serves two main purposes: reminding interested guests of your upcoming event while convincing people who might be on the fence to participate by building extra excitement.

To remind interested guests:

  • Include all the basic details of your fundraiser again—in case people forgot about the date, purpose, etc.
  • Clearly identify the time left until your silent auction begins so that there’s no confusion. Framing this as a countdown to opening day is also a great way to build excitement!

To keep building interest:

  • Preview some of your higher-value auction items (at this point, you should have most—if not all—of your auction items lined up).
  • Acknowledge your sponsors again. This gives your event extra credibility, allows you to acknowledge sponsors who may have signed on after your initial email campaign, and makes all your sponsors feel like valued partners so they’ll be more willing to participate in future events.
  • If there’s any new information about your event at this point—a venue change, an appearance by a local band or celebrity, etc.—make sure to let everyone know.

A day or two before your actual fundraiser begins, you will want to send one final email to keep your event top-of-mind for all supporters. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point—this will spark last-minute excitement and remind invitees to participate without fatiguing the people who have already made plans to be involved.

A person is clicking on likes for silent auction

Social Media Marketing Tips

Given how interconnected the world is through social media, it’s vital to leverage it effectively. Create a plan to promote your silent auction on every platform you have a presence on (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

Be prepared to post often and aim for at least three to four posts per week, per platform. The more active you are on social media, the higher chance your content will reach a wider audience.

Once you have a posting schedule created, it’s time to focus on the content. Here are some tips for successful social media posts:

  • Always include the basic info about your fundraiser: its objective, date, time, and location.
  • Tell people how they can participate! Including Bid Beacon’s custom event link is an excellent (and easy) way to do this.
  • Showcase auction items! For image-centric platforms like Instagram, focus on having clear and well-shot photos with brief, descriptive captions. For more text-heavy platforms like LinkedIn, you’ll have more freedom to write at length about each item, although photos are still important. Short videos are also great for engaging your audience, no matter what platform you’re using.
  • Use hashtags to increase the reach of your posts and make them easier for your audience to find. But aim for quality over quantity—too many hashtags will make your post harder to read and make it feel spammy. We recommend using three hashtags per post that are relevant to your organization and the cause you’re fundraising for.
  • Whenever you’re posting about a sponsor or other supporter for your event, make sure to tag them in the post as well. For example, if you’re hosting a silent auction through Bid Beacon, be sure to mention us and we’ll be happy to engage with your posts. You can find our social handles here: Facebook (@bidbeaconapp), Twitter (@BidBeaconApp), LinkedIn (@Bid Beacon), Instagram (@bidbeacon).

Tips for Leveraging Sponsors

Sponsors play a huge role in the success of most nonprofits and charities. Because these relationships are mutually beneficial, most of them are more than happy to cross-promote when you have an event coming up. After all, the more people who participate in your silent auction, the more people will hear about your sponsors when you acknowledge them!

Here’s how to work with your sponsors to create the best results for everyone:

  • Meet with your sponsors before they start cross-promoting to ensure that messaging is consistent. You want to make sure they have all the basic info for your auction, and are on the same page with you about why it matters.
  • Find out what channels your sponsors will be using to mention your event. This way, you can get a bird’s eye view of the different areas your sponsors are active in and make sure there are no major gaps in your marketing strategy.
  • Remind your sponsors that the more they help promote your fundraiser, the better it will be for their brand image. Sponsoring a silent auction for a nonprofit really is a win-win!

Word of Mouth Tips

Word of mouth helps create awareness of your event within your immediate circle—but that awareness can easily spread elsewhere, too. Make sure you’re telling friends, family, and colleagues about your fundraiser. This might not seem like it makes a big difference, but it can (especially for smaller organizations).

It’s also smart to design your email campaigns and social media posts so that they generate word of mouth interest among people you don’t know directly. Throw in a joke or a relevant meme every so often, so that your audience will be encouraged to share it with their friends, family, and co-workers. If you’re smart about this, you can actually get them to do some of your advertising for you!

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