How to Solicit Donations for Auctions

Many people don’t know how to solicit donations for auctions.  They don’t want to bother the person, but the success of this process is all about how YOU think about it.  In actuality, you are offering the business owner a great opportunity to gain exposure for their company and new customers to boot!  By understanding that you are really presenting a great opportunity to your local businesses, your solicitations team will be more excited to approach them.

How to Get Started: Give each solicitor a “kit” that includes contracts, information about your organization, solicitation letters, list of past donors, and sponsorship opportunities. Email solicitors a link to an online contract and the solicitation letters and other information that can be emailed out as well. Get creative!  One school we worked with had a Safari theme and the Chair gave each person on their team a green folder titled “On the Hunt for Great Auction Items!” with the solicitation information, a small pair of toy binoculars, and a safari hat. It was a huge hit! No one likes to cold call but you can show a group of volunteers that they can find 15 solid leads for auction donations by simply filling in this form:


Job or Vocation



1 Brother Owns a house in Cabo Rental for 1 week


1 Golf Buddy Printing Business Offers free services for event



1 Wife has a retail shop Donate $100 item from store


1 Restaurant Dinner for 4
2 Wine Store Donate wine for wine pull

Contact me to get a copy of this solicitation form!

Think outside the box by soliciting these items:

  • A chiropractor or massage therapist can bring massage chairs and give 5 minute massages during a golf tournament. You can give these massages away for free or charge $5 for each session! Contact us to get the name of the person who can do this!
  • A local printer who can make your signs, print your bid sheets and auction book.
  • A local cigar shop can bring in cigars for sale and give you a percentage of the sales.
  • A local jeweler can donate a wonderful piece of jewelry for the live auction (make sure it is something that will appeal to the majority of people) but he can also offer a father and son Geology class at his store in the spring (right before Mother’s Day) which will bring customers into his store.
  • A grill store can donate a great grill, but also suggest, they offer a grilling class for 10 guys and have the local meat market donate steaks! This will bring them customers!
  • Ask a local bakery if they would like to provide the desserts for the event and hold a dessert raffle or just display a different cake on each table to be enjoyed for dessert. You will give the bakery great exposure and not have to pay for dessert out of your event proceeds. Ask if they will offer a baking class as well, which will bring customers in their doors after the event!
  • Ask a local wine store to donate to the wine pull and also suggest a wine tasting class to bring customers into the shop.
  • A women’s clothing boutique can offer a lunch and learn for 20 ladies to have a bite to eat while learning how to dress for success, accessorize, or how to make 5 basic clothing pieces into 10 outfits! Putting actual clothing pieces in a silent auction does not usually sell well, but this will!

Get more ideas for great auction items on ourpinterest!

How Do You Ask?

Ask for something specific instead of saying, “We’d like you to donate something from your store”. Ask for a specific item you think will sell well. Say, “We’d like a Smoker to include in our men’s section of the auction.” Ask for $100 or $250 item and many people will say yes. Some will give you a $50 item instead, which is better than a bunch of $10 items on the auction tables!

As Diana Hamilton,  a local event planner says, “Don’t just expect items to come in from sending out emails.  Retailers like the personal touch.  Go by and say hello and tell them about the great opportunities you have for them!”

Show the Love! Recognize your auction donors and sponsors on your auction website.  It is really great if you can put their logo on your auction website and link it to their website.

Put their business names in your event program and on the slideshow running during the event. Encourage the donors to send business cards to put on the auction table.

Ask them to create a QR code for the display card which will take your guests to their website for a discount or coupon for their store. Don’t know how to do this? Ask us, we can help!

Appreciate your Auction Solicitation Team!

How about recognizing the person who solicited the auction item on the bid sheet or display card?  This motivates your solicitors to bring in better items and also gives them a public thank you for their hard work.

“Thank you Sharon Smith for soliciting this auction item”

 Give prizes for the top 3 people who bring in the most items for the auction, make it fun!

Do you need help soliciting auction items?  We can help!

Do you need just a couple more items to round out your auction? Take a look at our auction travel and experience packages!