Silent Auction Donation Request Letter Advice and Templates

We’ve discussed earlier on this blog how to get donated silent auction items without cold calling.

In short, you should leverage your charity auction committee’s existing connections before cold-calling businesses for donated auction items.

But sometimes personal connections are not enough, and you need to build new connections to generous businesses through donation request letters.

In this post, you’ll learn what makes a good (and not-so-good) silent auction donation request.

Donation Request Forms

Businesses that get lots of donation requests often add a form to their website where you can request a donation.

auction donation request form

If you don’t have an organizational or personal connection at the business, it’s polite and advantageous to fill out the form instead of email or snail mailing a letter.

You’ll at least know what information the business is looking for and that your submission is reaching the right person.

What to Write in a Donation Request Form

Forms will vary so there’s not template for you to follow. However, the following guidance applies:

  • Read the instructions. Businesses often indicate preferred causes so you can stress the right details.
  • Provide complete information in a concise manner.
  • Don’t sound desperate or apologize for asking.
  • Emphasize that you take partner promotion very seriously and provide examples.
  • Give a specific example of an auction item the business could provide.

Donation Request Emails


If there’s no donation request form, it’s time to send a silent auction donation request email. Emails contain several distinct advantages over mailed letters:

  • Easier to send personalized messages
  • Easier to respond
  • Easier to track responses
  • Less expensive
  • Can link to additional resources

For these reasons, you should start your auction item procurement efforts with a cold email campaign before mailing letters (you can always mail letters later).

The Drip Campaign: Your Procurement Key to Success

With an email (as with cold-calling), your goal is to get your foot in the door so you start a relationship with a decision-maker. You can fill in the details later.

Thus, I recommend you send a drip campaign, which is a sequence of automated emails that stop sending to a recipient once they reply.

Software like MixMax and Yesware can help you personalize your drip campaign with merge fields and exit rules, so recipients don’t think they are one of hundreds on a mailing list.

What to Say in Your “Drips”

Here are some guidelines when creating your drip emails, followed by an example:

  • Drips should be personalized, concise and have a clear call to action.
  • Subject lines should be descriptive and specific. Avoid spammy tricks like “Re: checking in”.
  • Each drip should build on the previous drip with new information, not repeating what you said.
  • Unless you know your recipient targets nonprofits like yours (e.g., cancer research), focus on your event’s promotional benefit. Businesses inundated with requests have a “What’s in it for me?” attitude.
  • Always ask for something specific. Don’t leave it to the recipient to think of something.
  • Research and format the proper values of your merge fields so your bulk email feels personal.

Donation Request Email Drip Campaign Template

Here’s a drip sequence you can leverage for your campaign.

The templates include <variables> within the angle brackets, which you’ll need to customize for each recipient. Most email marketing software support merge fields, making this easy.

Drip #When to SendWhat to Say
1During business hours (assuming you are messaging businesses)Subject: Request for <contact full name>

Hi <contact first name>,

I am organizing <event name, hyperlinked to event page> on <date> to benefit <nonprofit name>. We expect over <number> attendees, including many local <recipient’s target customer, such as “golfers”>.

Would <business name> be interested in contributing a <auction item suggestion> for our auction fundraiser?

Our committee prides itself on how we promote our partners, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Thank you,

<blurb about your organization>
2Three business days after Drip 1, if not replied to.Subject: Re: Request for <contact full name>

Hi <contact first name>,

Have you considered contributing a <auction item suggestion> to our auction?

We take promoting our supporting business <hyperlink to prospectus> very seriously.

In addition to the promotion and tax deduction your receive on your donated auction item, you’ll also enjoy:
-Your logo on our event landing page, printed catalog, email blasts and auction tables
-Comped VIP tickets (great networking opportunity!)
-Inclusion in verbal announcements throughout the event
-Option to include swag in our welcome bags

We’ve already received commitments from <local business> and <local business>, and I don’t want <business name> to miss out.


<blurb about your organization>
3Two business days after Drip 2, if not replied to.Subject: Re: Request for <contact full name>

Hi <contact first name>,

I know I’ve focused on the promotional opportunity <event name> provides to our auction donors.

In the end, it’s all about <cause, such as “educating children”>.

With the funds we raise, we can <specific project, such as “support our after school program for another year”, hyperlink to project page>.

Thank you for your consideration. I’d appreciate a reply either way.


Where to Send the Email

Try obtain the name and email address of a decision-maker at the target business. Tools like can help you scan the web for the right person.

If the above fail, you may have to contact a generic email (e.g., You’ll have a low success rate for bigger businesses, but generic emails will work well at smaller businesses where the owner monitors the generic email.

Mailed Donation Request Letters

For the businesses who didn’t respond to your email campaigns or form submission, you may consider mailing them an auction item request letter as well.

Since letters don’t form chains or hyperlink to webpages like a drip email campaign would, you need to include more information in your mailed letter than you would in an email.

This doesn’t mean you need long paragraphs, rather, you need short but meaningful sentences to tell your whole story.

Donation Request Letter Template

Dear Mr./Mrs. <name>,

I’ll cut to the chase. We need auction items for <event name> on <date> benefitting <cause>.

Not only will your contribution help <specific project, such as “support our after school program”>, it will provide <business name> valuable promotion to scores of local <recipient’s target customer, such as “golfers”>.

As an item donor, you’ll enjoy:

  • Your logo on our event landing page, printed catalog, email blasts and auction tables
  • Comped VIP tickets (great networking opportunity!)
  • Inclusion in verbal announcements throughout the event
  • Option to include swag in our welcome bags
  • Tax deduction on your donated auction item

Our committee prides itself on how we promote our partners, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Would <business name> be interested in contributing a <auction item suggestion>?

We are open to alternative suggestions as well. You can find our silent auction donation form and event flyer enclosed.

Please call or email me anytime with questions. Thank you for your consideration.

<email> | <phone>

Auction Item Donation Form Information

Enclosed with your donation letter should be your event flyer and auction item donation form, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Your form should collect:

  • Business name, address phone, email and point of contact
  • Item name, description, fair market value and delivery method
  • Signature and date

You should also provide the donating business with:

  • Contact information for your committee
  • Return by date
  • Organization EIN

Once they donate, furnish the item donor with an acknowledgement letter so the business can claim a tax deduction.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up!

Businesses are, well, busy. If you don’t receive a response, that doesn’t mean the answer is no.

Regardless of whether you filled out a form, sent a drip email campaign, or mailed a letter (or all three), it’s OK to continue following up until you get a reply. Multiple mailed letters are common and fair game.

Additionally, sometimes picking up the phone and saying “I’m checking that you got my letter.” is all you need to get a business over the hump.


Al McDonald is the Chief Product Officer for TravelPledge and author of the e-book “The Definitive Guide to Silent Auction Fundraisers.” Al has helped thousands of nonprofits exceed their auction goals through auction item procurement and advice. Al understands that successful auctions are hard work and is committed to delivering practical advice that will move the needle for you today.

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