The Art of the Scramble: How to run an amazing auction with very little time

It’s July 22nd, and the powers that be have decided you need to run an amazing auction on August 22nd. You have no auction team, no items, no promotional plan, no venue, you have nothing but a complete lack of time. What do you do? For starters, you put your auction online. Take finding a venue, booking a band, finding a caterer, hiring an auctioneer, and all the hassles of running an event off the list of things to be stressed about.

And then…

Round up the usual suspects

Reach out to the friends and colleagues you know you can count on. They’ve been volunteers before and they know the drill. Acknowledge it’s short notice and what a huge difference their help will make. Don’t be afraid to admit it’ll save you some serious stress, but also remind them that this is really about helping a great cause. Every little bit helps. Even if they can only commit to asking family and a few friends for donations, it still makes a difference. And start your thank yous immediately. Don’t save them for after your auction is over. The time is now!

handshakeGo for the gold

Look at your list of donors and focus your efforts on the biggest ones who consistently donate and give you the kind of items that bring in a lot of revenue. These are the people to make a priority and make personal contact with. Even if you are pressed for time, take the time to make a personal phone call or ask for a donation in person. These donors are worth it.



newscissorsCut some corners

Draft an email that you can blast out to smaller donors for gift cards. It’s an easy donation to make and most gift cards will sell for close to face value, face value, or higher online. They can add up. Tell your donors that you need the donation by August 12th. (This will give a bit of time to deal with any late donations that roll in.) Also, tell them exactly where to mail or email the gift cards and that you’d like a gift card of $25 or more, but will accept all donations. You can always put together a package of smaller gift cards, if needed.


socialGet social

You need to start sending out emails about your auction right away, but you can’t depend on that alone. People get a lot of email. Yours could sit unopened for weeks. So, you’ve got to use social media, like Facebook and Twitter, where you can post and tweet multiple times a day and ask everyone to share and retweet. With one click, they can quickly help you reach hundreds and hundreds of more potential bidders. And with your auction online, everyone can participate!


timeclockThe exception proves the rule

By following these tips, and holding on to your tenacity, you can certainly pull off an amazing auction in a month. But, it’s by no means the best way to go. We advise our clients to give themselves at least 90 days to prepare for their auction. To prevent getting stuck up against the clock again in the future, remind the powers that be that having more time, next time will make for an even more successful auction!


For more tips on how to stay on track, download our Ultimate Fundraising Checklist!

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