An auction fundraiser’s success rests in the supporters present and the description, display, and promotion of the charity auction items and packages presented to them.

Finding auction items that are exciting, unique, and priceless to your audience is tricky. That’s where we specialize. Here at Charity Fundraising, we offer zero-risk VIP Vacation and Experience Packages as well as Autographed Memorabilia auction items that will knock the socks off of your donors.

But over the years, our experience in the nonprofit fundraising world has given us keen insight and expertise on how to best describe, display, and promote auction packages effectively. We have seen what works.

The most common questions we run into with nonprofits revolve around what to do with the auction items at the event. The bidding process at any event can drastically change with the way your organization describes, displays, and promotes each item. These questions come up most frequently:

  • How detailed is the auction catalog?
  • Should we share the retail value of an auction item?
  • Should we utilize Buy Now prices for our silent auction?
  • What about Mobile bidding and Pre-Bidding?


Auction Catalog and Silent Auction Displays


Auction Catalogs are used in live auctions to present detailed information about the auction items. This is an imperative for two reasons. First, The live auction item’s presentation and bidding should take place without an overload of information by the auctioneer or plastered on a PowerPoint slide on the stage. Second, detailed information in a booklet form gives your guests an ability to consider the item before the auction item is presented for bidding.

Silent Auction items do not need an auction catalog. It is best for your guests to walk around in a silent auction to each display in order to find out all the information they need to know. This keeps the atmosphere lively and creates movement, resisting stagnation. Use detailed descriptions on table displays for showcasing your silent auction items. Check out our resources for silent auction bid sheets templates and additional tips for creating a successful table display!

Auction Item Descriptions: Do we add the retail value?


There are reasons for and against subscribing the retail value to silent or live auction items. We recommend you do not, particularly for live auction items.

Stating the standard retail price puts a cap on the potential quality and value that can be placed onto an auction item. These price ceilings create limits in the minds of your guests.

A price ceiling can become problematic because it diminishes the different types of values other than standard retail pricing.

The two most important types of value that must be taken into consideration are perceived value and minimum bid.

Perceived value takes into account personal sentiment and audience demand. In essence, perceived value is the perception of how much people think the package is worth. Interest level, bidding competition, and an auctioneer’s skill can significantly affect the perceived value of an auction item. When ten paddles immediately go up for a signed Beatles record album, the perceived value for that auction item also went up. Everybody wants it. And bids will likely go higher, without much consideration or care for the standard retail value.

A minimum bid allows security and ensures success for your event and, ultimately, your nonprofit’s cause. And remember, your guests have come to your event in order to support your organization and the cause you’re fighting for. They want to help you and ensure security and success for this event! If they wanted fair retail value, they would go somewhere else to spend their money.

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Check out our resources on How to Price your Charity Auction Items for more information and help!

Buy Now Prices: When is the best time to use them?


Buy Now prices are successful for particular auction items, but not all. Understand what auction items receive many bids through heavy competition at your fundraising events. Be sure to keep competitive auction items away from a Buy Now price method.

If there is chance for bidding competition, it is always best to leave the opportunity for interest in bidding. A Buy Now price creates a kind of “cap” to the bidding process. This works wonders if you’d be thrilled with someone reaching that cap for a particular item. Minimum bids and Buy Now prices create a buffer for the starting and ending prices, which can help your organization control the effectiveness of each auction item. We recommend you use it selectively for silent auctions. In this style of bidding, the Buy Now price acts as a warning to the interested bidders – “this items can be secured by anyone if they were to utilize the Buy Now price.” There is more competition and more risk with every bid made.

Mobile Bidding


Mobile biddings offer an incredible platform for an offsite or onsite auction fundraiser. This style of bidding does not take away the excitement and movement of the crowd as much as it takes away the congested tendency around the bidding sheet. The efficiency and availability of the bidding sheet for your guests can often increase the pace (and therefore competition) of the driving bid. Check out our Guide to Mobile Auction Bidding for more on how to best utilize the platform for your benefit!



Pre-Bidding is a great opportunity to utilize your board members and your community’s connections. If this is your first auction event, reach out to your board members! They want to be active participants. Their friends and guests would also be likely willing to be active as well.

This is also a great way to test the waters and see what auction items would be most interesting to your audience and what would be the most advantageous way of presenting them (be it silent or live auction, mobile or traditional bidding, etc.).

Contact Charity Fundraising today for more information, advice, and premium auction items that can turn your event into a smashing hit!