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Charity Auction Retention: How to Keep Attendees Coming Back

Charity Auction Retention: How to Keep Attendees Coming Back

Your nonprofit hosts events to engage your supporters and raise essential funds for your organization. It’s easy to run your event, clean up afterward, and decide that your work for the day is done.

However, you’re not done. When it comes to retaining attendees for future events, there’s still much more to think about.

The event you’ve just completed should actually serve as the beginning (or continuation) of your donor stewardship strategy. This is because one of the most challenging parts of running an event is retaining your attendees for the next one.

In this article, we’ve outlined five ways you can keep your attendees coming back:

  1. Use auction software.
  2. Engage with your guests.
  3. Procure great items.
  4. Follow up with your attendees.
  5. Leverage your data.

The success of your future fundraising depends on how you cultivate relationships with your attendees. Let’s take a closer look at some successful fundraising ideas for nonprofits.

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1. Use auction software.

Your attendees’ experience at the auction is really the first step toward retention. If your attendees have a great time and form a connection with your nonprofit during the event, they’ll be more likely to support you in the future.

How to ensure they have a positive experience? Incorporate auction software into your event. Auction software makes the entire process of running your event easier because you can:

  • Replace paper bidding. Streamline the bidding process by allowing guests to bid directly from their phones. You’ll receive more bids because guests will love not having to go to the tables to check their status. Even more, they can receive outbid notifications, set maximum bids using their phones, and bid from anywhere and anytime.
  • Easily register your guests. Seamlessly capture guest information and credit cards to get them started with mobile bidding.
  • Eliminate lines. Make the checkout process quick and easy, with instantaneous checkout and automatically emailed receipts.
  • Manage your donors. Track donations, manage your communications, and track attendance data.
  • Sell additional items. Offer raffle tickets, make donation appeals, and sell merchandise, such as custom shirts, using your software.

Auction software can make running an auction a lot easier and provide your guests with a fun and positive experience. They won’t have to wait in long lines, and they’ll easily be able to track their bids. Guests will remember the positive experience they had at your event, rather than a stressful experience, and be more likely to support you in the future.

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2. Engage with your guests.

During your auction, pay close attention to your guests. Note which attendees are having fun, and which ones are not— you’re going to want to address any bad experiences immediately to retain auction guests going forward.

Assign staff members to interact with all attending guests to ensure everyone is having a pleasant experience. Further, take notes on what you observe, in order to:

  • Segment attendees into smaller groups, such as giving levels, for guided outreach later on.
  • Personalize your follow-up messages to donors, citing the specific interactions your staff had with them during the event.

If you want to engage or re-engage past donors, it’s important to personalize your outreach. Make sure attendees know they are valued for their support, and not just another face in the crowd! 

For example, specify your thank-you notes to include information about an attendee’s auction successes. This shows that you’ve seen their generosity and you’re grateful for it. Consider reaching out to attendees that were particularly involved with further opportunities to engage, such as informing donors that gave beyond what their auction item required about future giving opportunities.

When you’re genuine in your communication, conveying their impact and your appreciation for their support, you build a deeper connection with your donors. This increases their likelihood of supporting you in the future.

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3. Procure great items.

You need great items to have a great auction. After all, your guests attend your event to support you, but they also want to bid on highly sought-after and interesting packages.

One of the top benefits of auction software is the management of your procurement process. Using this software, you can:

  • Generate item donation solicitation letters
  • Track the procurement status of each item
  • Log each item’s location
  • Bundle multiple items into packages
  • Auto-assign package numbers
  • Set starting bids and raises
  • Group items by category

Need some help getting started? Learn more about procuring great items here.

In addition to making sure the procurement process is streamlined, make sure you’re procuring items that appeal to your donors. Auctioning off intriguing and valuable items ensures your event is a worthwhile experience for donors to attend.

Try to procure popular items like:

  • Travel packages
  • Concert tickets
  • Gift baskets
  • Technology
  • And more!

Having a clear process for managing auction items means more time to focus your attention on growing your sponsors, engaging with donors, and making the event run as smoothly as possible. 

Looking for some items to jumpstart your next auction? Check out the list of charity auction item ideas by OneCause.

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4. Follow up with your attendees.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking that once your attendees have come to your event, they’ll automatically continue to support you in the future. Don’t fall into this mindset. 

Following up is one of the top tips from the OneCause guide to planning a silent auction. There are some best practices when communicating with your attendees post-event:

  • Follow up with important information. Send attendees information that’s relevant to them about your event or organization. Did their donation at the auction go toward a particular program? Let them know the impact of their donation and how it will be used.
  • Encourage them to get involved. Offer other opportunities to get involved with your organization, such as volunteering at your next event or attending a tour, speaker series or other activity.
  • Let them know about future events. This builds awareness about your organization’s mission and continues building a connection between donors and your special events and fundraising efforts.

Following up with your attendees is a huge motivator in getting them to come back. Ultimately, you want to keep donors connected to your mission and in-the-loop about upcoming events supporting it, long beyond when your auction ends.

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5. Leverage your data.

The final strategy to consider when focusing on repeat attendance is your data. You’ve already leveraged data to an extent if you’ve done any of the strategies listed above, but there are a few more ways you can use it to encourage attendees to come back.

For example, you should use:

  • Your CRM. Your CRM, or donor database, holds all of the information you need to successfully interact with your supporters. Your auction software should integrate with your CRM so that information pulled from registrations and the event itself will automatically flow into your database. From there, you can continue to personalize your outreach to these supporters based on that information.
  • Reporting and analytics tools. Leverage your auction software’s reporting so you can continue to improve your event fundraising. Use insights from your reports to see which auction items performed well and which items didn’t. You can then use this information to tailor your auction and target the highest revenue generators.

Similar to an online fundraising campaign, your data is the key to running a successful event. Be sure to use your CRM’s reporting tools and integrations so you can boost your event attendance rates and stay on track.


Running an auction requires tracking a lot of moving parts. For that reason, retaining attendees might be the last thing on your mind. However, it’s important to remember that attendance rates have a large impact on the success of your future events.

Be sure to leverage the right software for your organization, engage and follow up with your guests, and look to your data to improve for next time. From there, you’ll be on your way to forging long-term connections with your supporters. 

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