The Ultimate Benefit Auction Checklist

Are you organizing a benefit auction, but don’t know where to start?

We’ve got you covered.

We’ve worked with thousands of events and boiled down the essentials tasks and decision points to the following checklist.

Note: If you see a suggested start time that is prior to the timeline you are working with, don’t panic! Much of the time we baked into our estimates factors in time for your committee to make decisions. Some hustle and high-priority emails can get you back on track!

Before Your Event

The Kickoff

Start: 6 months prior to the event

Item Procurement, Marketing and Sponsorship

Start: 4 months prior to the event

  • Send a “Save the Date” email (and snail mail) to supporters with a link to your landing page and how to buy tickets.
  • Send subsequent “teasers” about fun items that will be at the auction or other exciting things about the event. Post these teasers to social media and your landing page.
  • Procure items for your silent and live auctions (without cold-calling!)
  • Solicit local businesses and supporters who can’t attend for sponsorships.
  • Make an initial list of items to include in your auction. These can be fully donated items or items sourced through an auction package provider, like TravelPledge.
  • Finalize selection of an auctioneer and mobile bidding provider if applicable.
  • Make a short list of other vendors (catering, entertainment, etc…).


Start: 6 weeks prior to the event

  • Confirm final list of items to be promoted and which items make the live auction vs. silent auction.
  • Complete purchase of selected raffle items and start pre-selling raffle tickets.
  • Optimize the running order of auction items and understand how the auctioneer plans to generate the most energy and bids.
  • Confirm the Audio/Visual arrangements with venue and auctioneer. Clear sound is critical to maximize results with a live auctioneer (remember how fast they talk!).
  • Confirm Wi-Fi connectivity at venue or have a plan to obtain (recommended if using mobile bidding).
  • Print flyers/promotional book, bid sheets, event checkout sheet and thank you letters for winning bidders.
  • Plan your silent auction display.
  • Perform a “dry run” with all volunteers so everyone is cross-trained.
  • Make a master list of whom to call in case of a technical issue.

Day of Event

Venue Setup

  • Ensure auction promotional displays and bid sheets are in place.
  • Confirm audio visual systems are working as expected by auctioneer or emcee.
  • Confirm Wi-Fi functionality (if using mobile bidding).
  • Review with volunteers the instructions on registration, reception, auctioneer assistance and how they will record winning bidders.

During the Event

  • Take bids and record winning bidder contact details (phone and email).
  • Give certificates or thank you letters to winning bidders.
  • Collect winning bid payments (if using mobile bidding this is done automatically)

After the event

  • Process any payments not completed during the event.
  • Provide winning bidder details to any auction package services or consignment shops and pay any invoices.
  • Check in with winning bidders to ensure they received their certificates and know how to redeem them.
  • Immediately debrief with your event leadership team while the event is still fresh in your mind and write down any findings for next year.
  • Send a thank you to attendees to explain the impact they made.
  • Thank the volunteers and relax!

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.