Fundraising and Auction Insights

How to get help soliciting auction items

You’ve entered that long and challenging period of silent auction planning—soliciting items. And while you may have some support from other staff, it can feel overwhelming. Why not get more help? Here are a few guidelines that will make it easy to grow your silent auction team.


Create a request letter


One of the most important tasks before you start soliciting donations is an official letter requesting them. Create it on your organization’s letterhead, and have some that are addressed generally, like “Dear Friend of (Organization Name).” This will allow anyone on your team to show that the request is legitimate and helps many businesses when they present the request to management.


Also create a digital version of this that you can attach to an email—it will save you back-and-forth when someone needs documentation! It’s often helpful to list your EIN number in the letter, as many businesses require that information before contributing. Some may even ask for your tax determination letter from the IRS to prove that you are a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.


Brainstorm a list


Be careful here that you don’t simply use last year’s list. While repeat contributions are helpful and these people are most likely to give, only asking past donors will keep your event from being fresh and exciting for your guests! Spend some time researching entertainment destinations and restaurants as potential contributors.


Make sure you crowdsource this part of the task, too! Ask friends and coworkers for ideas—they’ll likely think of things you never would have, which will help appeal to all of your guests and make for a more interesting silent auction!


Create guidelines


When working on a list, make sure you have a conversation with your team about what you will and won’t accept. Just because you’ve been offered something doesn’t mean you should take it. Think about your guests and what they expect, and avoid items that would come across as cheap, unspecial, or off-brand with your organization’s mission. Creating guidelines ahead of time will help your auction to be more cohesive and will avoid any awkward situations with unusable donations.


Ask volunteers


Reach out to supporters who’d like to be more involved and ask for their help! You can set small goals for each volunteer to provide direction. Most people are happy to feel closer to your cause—and if you give them the resources above, they can find some unique and special items to be featured!


Consider inviting all the volunteers down for coffee or a meal as a preliminary thank you. You can also give them credit in your event program.


Assign tasks


Give volunteers clear direction. You can divide up your list to make the work efficient, or use that as a guide of what others will already be pursuing. Make expectations clear and direct so that miscommunication is kept to a minimum.


Collaborate and stay up to date


With many people helping solicit items, the biggest danger is having someone ask for a contribution after a donor has already given! Use a real-time collaborative solution like Google Sheets to keep track of who has contacted whom and what has been promised. If you’re concerned to keep this secure, you can also look into group communication solutions like


Soliciting items for your silent auction can be time-consuming and stressful. However, by following these steps you can get more help and make sure your event runs as smoothly as possible!