Aug 29, 2022

Let the Bidding War Begin: Webinar Q&A Follow-Up 

Q3_22_GiveSmart Auctions and Events Webinar Follow Up Blog_Header_960x380

Our webinar, Let the Bidding War Begin: Auction Strategies and Item Ideas to Excite Your Donors, was full of information on auction items and item strategies for nonprofits, and our audience came PREPARED with lots of great questions. We want to share some of the Q&A below.  

You can also watch the webinar recording. If you’re looking to get started with GiveSmart for your auctions and other event needs, please request a demo.

What are your thoughts on consignment items for an auction?

There are many organizations who find success with consignment items. If your organization takes this route, you will want to have a few guardrails in place to best support your success.  

When it comes to including consignment items in your auction, make sure you over-communicate with the consignment company. Ensure you only have to purchase items that actually sell at your event, and if bidding on any item doesn’t meet the desired amount, then no transaction will take place with the company for that item. These negotiations ensure you will make at least some profit off of every item sold in your auction.  

Including consignment items in your auction means your organization won’t make the full profit on the items, but you can still play your cards right and make hundreds to thousands of dollars on items that can yield a high selling price. You could start your first bid amount at the fair market value or the value amount the consignment company requires as payment, so any bids over that amount go directly back to your organization.   

You will also want to communicate which items are consignment items with your donors. Some donors want all of their money to go to your mission, so communicating that the profit on an item will be split is crucial to making your donors happy from the start. 

If consignment items are not for your nonprofit, take a look at 30 Silent Auction Items That Don’t Cost a Dime for auction item ideas to fill out your offerings. And brush up on how to make the ask for auction items, too.  

Do you recommend using at least one of each of the item categories in an event, or is that too many? 

The top four item categories in auctions across the U.S. include signed memorabilia; travel, vacations, and experiences; food; and alcohol and wine. Depending on your capacity to gather items for your auction, it might be in your best interest to include at least one to two items from each of these categories in your auction as live or silent auction items, as they average the highest number of bids and the best return on fair market value (FMV).  

In addition, consider using each type of item category available on the GiveSmart platform in your event. We surveyed multiple top-performing event campaigns that each raised over $500,000, and each of them had one thing in common: they ALL used every type of item in some way. 

These item types include: 

  • Live Auction  
  • Silent Auction  
  • Instant  
  • Raffle  
  • Vote  
  • Donate/Wish List  

Offering different types of high-performing auction items as well as multiple ways for donors to participate and contribute will help enhance your overall event revenue. But also consider your organization’s capacity to organize and manage all of these item types and categories. If you need to scale it back, consider which options might generate the most interest in your donor base. 

Do you have guidance on how many silent auction items to have for the number of people expected in person at an event? What about an event with in-person and online-only auction participants? And do you recommend a limited number of live auction items?

Your organization’s best practices will vary based on audience preference, typical spending habits, auction package fair market values, and more. A general rule to start with is one auction package for every two to three attendees, offering no more than 100 packages. More packages do not always equate to more money raised. Your packages could be made up of multiple items (coffee lovers’ basket, date night basket, etc.) or a standalone item (trip, jewelry, etc.). 

If hosting a hybrid event/auction, which many organizations are doing as a best practice, consider how many people will be in the room, what other activities you have going on, and the additional paid/supporting opportunities for in-person guests (a wine pull, heads or tails, other game opportunities). Figure out what the average attendee has spent at past events. All of that information helps you choose how many items you feel will help you maximize the fundraising for your mission.  

For live auction items, consider limiting this to no more than 10. Live items should POP and be exclusive offerings that people really cannot easily get anywhere else (well-known private chef experience, skybox, ride along, set tour, stock the bar with wine club wine, etc.). Consider previewing those items, and make sure your donor development staff shares your live auction with their major donor list. You should ALWAYS offer a proxy bidder for major donors who cannot make it to your event.  

Have you seen success with silent auctions being open prior to event start for online bidding? 

Yes, we have! Using GiveSmart, customers can set their items open to bids at any time. Any type of item in your event can go live whenever you want, and you can even set your items for “Preview” to increase your donors’ anticipation to bid.  

You could sell tickets for early online participation, include it as an add-on ticket option for your in-person auction attendees, or allow anyone to register and participate early for free.  

Early auction participation not only extends your event’s running time, it allows for more donors to participate from anywhere, and for donors to get their information in the system before the event starts so the check-in and checkout processes are infinitely easier!  

Pre-auction participation of any kind, whether it’s early bidding, raffle ticket sales, instant items like merch, or tickets for a wine pull, will enhance your event’s revenue. . . before your event begins.  

Click here for more information on GiveSmart’s auction and mobile bidding features. 

What are your thoughts on NOT displaying silent auction items at your event?

It’s up to you and your donor preferences! If you want to save the table-top space at your event and make the checkout and item collection process easier and faster, consider keeping your silent auction items online only. You can get creative and fun with item photos and videos, of which you can upload an unlimited amount on your item pages. This encourages your donors to participate online with your in-person and virtual event participants.  

If you have some items that need eyeballs on them to sell, you can consider displaying only a few items to tease your donors and keep the rest online.  

Whatever you decide to do is up to your event space, your staff and volunteer capacity, and your donors’ preferences. But, as always, don’t be afraid to get creative and have FUN!

Do you have any data on the success of themed events that align with your mission, such as a pet-themed auction? 

We’ve seen organizations host themed events with great success, often tied to their mission! Here are just a few ideas to spark your imagination. If you are looking for more, check out many of our Fundraising Guides for ideas.  

Military and Veteran Organizations  

  • Veteran made artwork  
  • Americana 
  • Military-themed sports apparel 


  • Prime parking spot for families  
  • Principal for a day  
  • Out of uniform passes 

Animals and Wildlife 

  • Pet photoshoot 
  • Custom pet calendar 
  • Pet training courses  

Can you explain the new banner label of “Opportunity” on raffle items?

There are many variations of raffle-type experiences that you can provide your donors. Having the flexibility to personalize this item label in the GiveSmart system allows for a better user experience, as it eliminates any item confusion due to naming limitations. If you are calling your raffle an “Opportunity” or “Game of Chance,” the banner customization feature allows the platform to mirror this. And, it modifies not only the item banner but also the verbiage in text message templates, guest receipts, and when viewing them on the My Info page. 

Please reference your raffle rules and regulations by state to determine what your opportunity naming conventions can be.

Any advice for making your fundraising event more fun or different? I don’t want donors to get an invitation and think, “Oh no, another boring fundraising event.”

Games and experiences are guaranteed to boost the fun at your event! Consider adding Heads or Tails, games for attendees to participate in, photo booths, or any other experiences that could add to the excitement of the day (or night).  

Adding a themed component, such as a coordinated pop of color or everyone wearing formal attire with crazy sneakers. Conversation pieces make networking easier and get the conversations started! 

Think of engagement opportunities that could connect to your mission as well. If you fundraise for children, consider a tree where the kids make ornaments with wishes, and donors can walk around the tree and read them. Or, if you are an organization that supports the environment, consider outdoor opportunities like planting a tree or a pollinator garden during your event.  

How do you control who paid to play Heads or Tails during a live event?

When someone purchases a ticket to participate in an in-person game like Heads or Tails during your event, provide them with a visual marker as an entry prize, like Mardi Gras beads or a flashing ring. Before you start the game, ask all participants to hold up their visual entry prize. You get to ensure everyone participating has already paid to play, and the fun continues! 

Can you explain what a gift card wall is? 

A gift card wall can be made in one of two ways.  

It can be a “grab and go” display of gift cards and certificates at your event! You can display them by type or by amount. You can pin up the actual gift card, or you can create placeholder cards they can grab and exchange for the real gift card at the end of the event during checkout.  

It can also be a display of uniform envelopes and people buy a chance to pull an envelope. Some envelopes are empty, others have nominal gift cards, and a select few have a larger gift card as a prize. 

The gift card wall is a fun, visual way to display your gift cards (that also saves valuable real-estate on your tables!). Consider asking your committee to pick up a few of the smaller gift cards or use their credit card points to acquire them. If you’re concerned about securing the supplies to create your gift card wall, consider securing a sponsor and including a sign with their logo on the wall.  

How do you make registration and ticketing seamless for donors attending in-person for an event and online only for bidding in the auction?

Step One: Organize your ticketing options.  

What types of experiences are you offering? What ticket levels do you need to include? How many tickets of each type will you sell? Do you have an early bird price? Do you have any add-on options? 

When considering in-person and off-site attendance for an event, ensure you have a full understanding of the ticket levels and experiences you will be offering. For example, an in-person attendance ticket might include dinner and drinks. Consider offering something similar to compensate for that experience to off-site attendees.  

Step Two: Sell your tickets online through the GiveSmart platform.  

You can create multiple ticket types and custom order forms on GiveSmart, and those tickets can be tracked per user. In each of your tickets, be sure to include any details on what is included in that ticket level. And, make sure you ask any questions about dinner, to-go cocktail kits, t-shirts, golf handicaps, and more.  

Step Three: Send a day-of text message to enable self-check-in and self-checkout for all attendees.  

This ensures your attendees are registered and their payment information is in the system before your event starts, so their participation in-person and online can go without a hitch!  

For raffles, do you have any advice on capping the number of raffle tickets available or offering an unlimited amount?

There are MANY different types of raffles to consider for your events, so the number of tickets you offer for a raffle can depend on the type of raffle(s) you decide to have. 

For example, if you host a reverse raffle or a golden ticket raffle, you might consider limiting the number of raffle tickets sold.  

  • In a reverse raffle, the grand prize goes to the person whose ticket is drawn last. To make it even more fun, you can let your participants pick the numbers on their tickets. Limit the ticket numbers to #1 – #100. Watch as numbers get called and donors get excited to find out which number is the last number standing! 
  • In a golden ticket raffle, you sell a limited number of tickets at a high price, for example, 100 tickets at $250 each. The winner of the golden ticket raffle is allowed to choose an item from your live auction item lineup BEFORE the auction begins. Organizations that have done this sell out the raffle, which is $25,000 in revenue before your auction begins! 

If you decide to host a raffle that incorporates a game of chance, such as a Plinko board, a ring toss, or a balloon pop, you might consider an unlimited amount of raffle tickets so participants can purchase as many chances as they want.  

The raffle possibilities are endless, so it’s up to you to decide what your organization would like to do, what you have the capacity for, and what fits with your mission. Get creative and have fun!  


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County