Obtaining auction items can be the most intimidating step towards preparing an auction, whether online, silent, or live. The first thing you must do is take inventory of the people who can potentially donate. Having an organized list can help you prioritize your time and resources, as well as allow you to delegate more responsibility to each member of your auction committee. Of course, you can’t expect donors to come to you first. Seeking out donors is a pivotal role for you and whomever is contributing to the planning of the auction items. So, who do you ask?


  1. School Board of Directors

The school board has much stake and interest in the success of the auction; they are a perfect resource to ask for donations. Make sure you not only ask them for donations, but that you request for them to ask others in their network as well, including friends of the school, like special organizations or regular donors.


  1. Auction Committee

Don’t forget to ask the committee members themselves. See if you can drum up donations within your own committee, also encouraging the members to ask their friends and family, engaging everyone in their network.


  1. Teachers and Parents

It’s important to get teachers and parents involved with the auction donations. Teachers can increase the incentive to bid by offering an item that is more personalized and exciting for students, like a free lunch with the teacher or tutoring sessions. Parents also may have great resources for diverse donations; encourage them to get their own network involved by asking their family, friends, and organizations they are a part of outside of the school.


  1. Merchants and Local Businesses

Finally, if there are any merchants with which the school does regular business or local businesses that have merchandise or products that will entice the community to participate, be sure to make note of them and contact them for donation requests, too. Here is where going door to door can be an effective approach for your committee members. Visiting local businesses will put a face to your request and may even help encourage more generous donations.


If you’re not already doing so, make sure you’re sending out solicitation letters and making phone calls, and even personal visits, to your potential donors. But if you’re struggling to acquire donations even after contacting a variety of people, consider your strategies. For example, always have a specific item in mind when you’re communicating with a potential donor. This will immediately get their ideas spinning, providing inspiration for what they could offer and helping them estimate what is manageable. You can also state that you’re willing to accept cash donations. Sometimes it’s just too much for a parent or local business to come up with a physical donation in your time frame, so offering this alternative is still beneficial for your committee’s acquisition of donations.


Effective communication is vital—make it easy on your donors by providing clear information and viable options, and don’t forget to engage every part of your community in the donation process of your auction.