Silent Auction Fundraiser Tips & FAQ's

Organize a successful fundraiser for charity, your school or your sports team.

If you are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status there are companies that will donate products, gift cards, money and volunteers to help your cause! I've organized successful charity auctions and fundraisers, and obtained grant funding for my children's schools, sports teams, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and other nonprofit groups. Below is a list of links to the corporate giving applications of businesses and restaurants.   


What is 501(c)(3) status?
IRS Code requires not for profit charity organizations to register by filling out a Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption. This certifies that funds raised by the organization support charity efforts only, and allows corporations to write off their donations on their own taxes. Visit Internal Revenue Service for directions on how to apply for tax exempt status.

Will every business that I ask give me a donation?
No. Corporations have very specific criteria that must be met in order for a donation to be granted. Pay close attention to the guidelines on each website and only request donations from corporations whose giving programs closely match the mission of your charity.

How early should I start soliciting?
The amount of time it takes corporations to approve requests varies. Some approvals are granted within a day. Other requests may take weeks, even months to approve. The average amount of processing time for donations is between 4-6 weeks. Get started early!

What is the difference between a grant, fundraising opportunity, a product donation & corporate sponsorship? 
A grant is a gift of money given to an organization to help carry out a specific goal.
A fundraising opportunity is a chance to partner with the business to generate revenue for your group.
A product donation is a donation of a physical item that the business sells, a gift card, or a certificate for a future service.
Corporate sponsorship is an ongoing relationship between your organization and the company. They might provide workers to help set up for your event or advertise your event for free in their newsletter. Or they may volunteer their time and support to help you achieve a goal.

Before you explore the Links to Companies That Will Donate to Your Auction  page. Keep these things in mind:
  • Allow companies the lead time that they require. If your event is a week away, and the application states that 4 weeks of lead time is required, don't waste your time and theirs by applying.
  • Confirm that the company you are soliciting has a local office. You are more likely to win their support if their donation support's the local community.
  • Be sure that the mission of the company you are approaching supports the mission of your non-profit. 
  • Have a copy of your EIN number and 501(c)(3) number handy. Some applications require you to provide hard copies of these documents along with your application.

Planning Your Event

Soliciting auction items for your event is only one piece of planning a successful auction. It is possible to collect an amazing display of auction items only to fall short of a fundraising goal because of poor planning. 

  • Choose a date that does not conflict with long weekends, college placement testing like SAT's, or big sporting events requiring attendees to be preoccupied. 
  • Advertise via email, posters, and word of mouth. Publish and circulate a list of donations  and add to it continuously as more items come in. Reach out to supporters of the charity that you support. Invite them to the event too.
  • Understand that the auction itself may not bring traffic but hosting another event at the same time will. Provide food, entertainment, or a sporting event to attract visitors to the auction. 
  • Set up tables in very obvious, difficult to avoid areas. Highlight your best items where they are easy to see to attract attention.
  • Solicit a variety of items that will be valuable to a broad range of people including items related to sports, dining, children, babies, art, music, travel, pets, the outdoors, jewelry, and automobiles.


  1. Hello there! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about silent auction fundraising in your area. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about silent auction fundraising. Keep it up! This is a good read. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well.
    Often called donor cultivation, relationship building is the foundation on which most fundraising takes place. Most development strategies divide donors into categories based on annual gifts. For instance, major donors are those that give at the highest level of the organization's fundraising scale and mid-level donors are in the middle.
    Many attendees are put off by being forced to "fight the crowd" which suppresses bidding.

    1. The information you provided Mark is certainly relevant. It further supports the point that the auction items solicited should be carefully matched with the audience that will be bidding on them. I appreciate your compliments. Take care.

  2. Very nice post, thanks for sharing the information. Keep up the good work.

    silent auction fundraising

  3. Thank you France. I would love to know how your event turned out. Take care.

  4. Great information! We (The Kids' Reading Room) are having our first fundraising event. I've never done this before. Your silent auction information was very helpful! Thank you!

    1. I'm glad you found it helpful. I hope your event was a great success.