So, you’re planning a silent auction. You’re booking the evening’s entertainment, connecting with sponsors, and collecting all of your auction baskets and items. You’re almost ready for your big night, but first, you have to announce your auction to your supporters. Here are a few tips and best practices for creating a silent auction announcement that will wow your guests!
Outline your marketing strategy
Before you can start spreading the word, you need to outline your marketing strategy. The best way to market any fundraiser is by using a multi-channel approach. While it may be tempting to stick to one marketing channel, a multi-channel strategy uses email, social media, text messaging, and direct mail, to reach a wider audience and generate more excitement for your auction.
To get the most impact out of your multi-channel marketing strategy, you need to understand your audience for each marketing channel. Sending out mass direct mail appeals or general, non-targeted emails is inefficient and will be a drain on your time and resources. Instead consider what your supporters would be most responsive to. One place to start is by looking at the demographics of your donors and supporters. According to the Generational Giving Report:
- Baby Boomers are most likely to respond to direct mail appeals
- Generation X is active online–39% are most likely to be responsive to social media posts–but will respond to direct mail and phone calls
- Millennials are especially active on social media but also appreciate phone calls or text messages
- Generation Z prefers social media and text messages
With this knowledge, you can create a targeted marketing strategy to ensure that you’re crafting audience-specific messages based on what your donors prefer.
Direct mail marketing
With direct mail marketing, you only have a page or two to announce your auction and convince your supporters to register. In addition to your auction announcement, add a letter from your leadership team explaining what programs your auction will help to fund and why your supporters’ participation matters. Use a few impactful images as well to enhance your storytelling. Also include a remit slip so that people who can’t participate in your auction still have the chance to support your mission with a donation.
The key to success with email marketing is segmentation. Segmenting your donors based on specific aspects like their demographics, past donation history, and past event attendance, ensures that you’re communicating with donors based on information relevant to them. Make sure to personalize your email messages with the supporters’ name to grab their attention and make them feel special to your organization.
Social media marketing
When you’re crafting social media messages to announce your auction, it’s important to plan out a reliable posting schedule. Make sure you’re advertising your auction on social media platforms regularly, but don’t inundate your audience with auction appeals all the time. Some social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are primarily geared towards visual storytelling, so make sure you have impactful, attention-grabbing photos and videos to share with. To level up your auction advertisements, take advantage of paid social ad campaigns to reach a wider audience.
Text messaging marketing
Text messaging is one of the most personal marketing channels. About 90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes and most people will respond in 90 seconds. When you use text marketing, make sure to send out messages sparingly to avoid becoming annoying or intrusive on people’s phones. Additionally, keep your messages short and concise and add a shortlink that people can click on if they’re interested in learning more or registering for your auction.
Design your announcement
Now that you have a marketing strategy in place, it’s time to design your actual auction announcement. Your auction announcement will be a quick, informative visual that helps your supporters get essential information about your event. It can also double as an auction invitation for your donors. To design the most effective auction announcement, always include:
- Your event name. If you have an event logo, feature it prominently on your announcement. Also, make it obvious that this announcement is for an auction. Without specifying what kind of fundraiser you’re hosting, some of your supporters might be confused about what the announcement is for.
- Date, time, and location. Your supporters are busy people. Make sure they have the right date and time for your auction to mark in their calendars so they won’t miss your event. If your auction is a virtual or hybrid event, mention where you’ll be hosting a livestream alongside the physical address.
- Ticket price. For an event like an auction, you may offer VIP tables or different levels of tickets. Provide an accurate price range or list out your different ticket tiers on your announcement.
- Registration instructions. Where should your supporters go to register to participate in your auction? Is there an online registration form? Can they register on site? Is there a deadline for registering? Include the website URL where your donors need to go to register.
- How to donate money. Some of your supporters may not be able to attend your silent auction but would still like to contribute in some way. Make it easy for them by providing information about how they can give a financial donation in your auction announcement.
If you have any extra space left over on your announcement, you can add some additional information to add a few more details.
- Meal information. If you’ll be serving food at your event, make note of that and you can even add information about meal options.
- Auction items. You can also list or briefly mention some of your big-ticket items so your supporters have an idea of what they’ll be showing up to bid on.
- Dress code. Lastly, you can add information about your auction’s dress code. Is your auction a black-tie gala? Or maybe you’re planning for a fun theme your bidders can dress up for. Either way, let your supporters know what kind of occasion they need to dress for.
If you want to direct your supporters to a registration form or your auction website quickly and easily, generate a QR code for the pertinent webpage and add it to your announcement. All your supporters have to do is scan the code with their smartphones and they’ll be sent exactly where you want them to go.
Create your auction website
While your auction announcement is an informative tool, your potential attendees will need a few more details before or after they register for your auction. This is where your auction website comes in handy. Your auction website will serve as the online hub for any information your bidders need to prepare for the big event. And with web and app-based bidding, your website may also be where auction attendees need to go to place their bids.
Your first task when designing your auction website is to brand your website. Display your organization’s logo on your homepage so bidders know they’re in the right place. If your auction has a theme, try to use your theme’s colors and fonts throughout your website for a cohesive look. If you don’t have a theme, just use your organization’s brand colors and fonts instead. Make sure to highlight your organization’s mission and how you’ll use the funds raised during the auction.
A great way to grab your supporters’ attention with your auction website is by using a variety of high-quality photos and videos. To better display your auction’s impact and encourage people to register and participate, include images from the communities your nonprofit serves and videos of your nonprofit staff and volunteers in action. You can also motivate them to participate in your auction by visually showing off items or gift baskets you’re auctioning off. This is especially important if you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid auction. The bidders that aren’t able to attend your auction in person will need a good idea of just what they’re bidding on from home.
Make sure to provide clear and concise instructions on your website for the bidding process and how winners will receive their goodies. Especially for virtual and hybrid auctions, many of your bidders will likely have a few questions. How does virtual bidding work? Will the items they win be shipped to them or will they need to be picked up from somewhere? The more questions you can answer on your website, the smoother your auction will run when it comes time for the big fundraising event.
Distribute your announcement
Once you’ve got your auction website in place and your auction announcement all proofed and ready for sharing, it’s time to distribute your auction announcement. For your donors and supporters who enjoy receiving direct mail, stuff some envelopes with your nicely designed auction announcement and send them off to your donors. You can also print out your auction announcement and hang them up as fliers in community centers, around your neighborhood, or even in local businesses, after asking permission of course.
For digital distribution options, add your auction announcement to your email nonprofit newsletter and post it on your social media pages. If you have any ties or a corporate sponsorship with local TV or radio stations, consider announcing your auction on the air and direct people to check out your website and social media pages so they can get more information and register to bid.
Advertise your auction items
A great way to generate interest for your auction and reach even more potential bidders is to advertise your auction items as a part of your auction announcement. On your online bidding platform, you’ll probably already have photos for every item you’re auctioning off. However, these images aren’t just useful for bidding. Taking fun photos and videos of your auction offerings and teasing them on your social media pages in the weeks leading up to your auction will get your supporters excited about showing up to bid on the items they’re interested in.
Announcing your auction is an exciting part of the auction planning process. Planning a silent auction is a long and, at times, stressful endeavor, but with a little bit of design magic and a marketing strategy, your auction announcement will have your supporters flocking to your website to register for your auction event. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to show your event planning prowess off to the world and announce your auction to all your supporters!