Online Auctions and How to Plan Them With These 4 Tips

the fundraiser image

Online Auctions and How to Plan Them With These 4 Tips

Online auction illustration


Auctions are an incredibly effective way to raise funds and bring in new donors to your charity. However, during the pandemic, with lockdowns and social distancing restricting public events, real-life auctions haven’t been able to go ahead. As with so many other aspects of our lives, the Covid restrictions have forced charities to re-think how to implement them digitally.  

Here we provide what we have seen work well when planning and running online auctions, and then we go on to share a digital auction success story from the Friends of Shuttleworth, in aid of the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society. 

First up, some top tips to help you plan your own online auction:


1. Start planning early

Auctions take a lot of preparation to create a successful event but, with time and effort put in, your charity will be rewarded with brilliant support, funding and new long-term supporters. With the fully digital DONATE™ auction service, you are provided with: 

  • Payment options and payment links for winners
  • Start and end times
  • Lot item description & images
  • Bid increments
  • Live totalisers
  • Outbid and winning alerts.

Outside of this, you want to think about the lots available to win and how you will procure these, who will be attending, when the event will be and whether it will be carried out via live stream or as a virtual silent auction.


2. Think wide with your lots

Carrying out an auction online requires plenty of effort being put into drawing in the audience with really exciting opportunities. Just like Shuttleworth, who took to flight experiences, private tours and day out packages, you should vary your prizes to suit your audience’s budget and interests. We recommend offering money-can’t-buy experiences which not only provide a talking point but also ensure your supporters gain value from their participation in your event.


3. Set up a live-stream or platform

Set up a page, live stream or Facebook Group for your auction. This brings a sense of community to the event and also ensures supporters have somewhere to go to find out all information. Use the DONATE™ platform to slowly tease what will be available at the auction, as well as tell the human stories and impact of your charity work. This will create incentives to attend and take part in the auction, with supporters having a personal understanding of how they are helping.

Paying with your card online using a laptop


4. Share, speak and get people talking!

Make sure the auction is shared, texted and spoken about across different platforms in the lead up to the event. Auctions provide a brilliant opportunity to attract new supporters, and in turn, create awareness around your charity. By getting in some early bids not only do you demonstrate momentum but also ensure more bids when general bidding begins. Lean on your Trustees and known supporters to provide those early bids.


Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society

One charity that executed an online auction with great success is the Friends of Shuttleworth in aid of the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society. They ran an online ‘Auction of Promises’ at the end of 2020, as part of their Covid-19 Appeal. Like many visitor attractions, seeing their annual air show cancelled meant a loss of significant income that ordinarily would have supported the maintenance of the rare aeroplane collection. Their communication leading up to the event made clear the need to help secure the future of the unique Shuttleworth collection.  

They used the DONATE™ online auction service: an easy to use, safe and effective way to carry out auctions virtually.

Matthew Suddert-Kennedy at Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society says: “The Donate™ online auction service provided us with the easiest opportunity to raise auction funds when they were needed most. The set-up and support given by your team was smooth and efficient. Bidding was straight forward and we were delighted with the success of our first online auction.”

The Auction of Promises included flight experiences, private tours and days-out packages and other rare and unique lots, totalling 28 individual lots and experiences. The auction was promoted to existing members through regular communications and the charity hunted out new audiences with regional press, radio and social media coverage. The Cockpit Crazy Tour of the Shuttleworth Collection, conducted by the chief pilot, raised a brilliant £1,312.50.

DONATE™ provides many options for online auctions and silent auctions that can be carried out hassle-free and set up within 2 weeks of registering. More information can be found at


Get the latest fundraising advice and insight

the fundraiser cover Sign me up