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  • Writer's pictureTricia Roseveare

Should I Host An In-Person Auction Fundraiser During COVID?

It's time once again to begin mapping out a plan for your yearly in-person fundraising auction. But...if you are like many nonprofits you are likely wrestling with this question: Should I host an in-person event during COVID?

What are the advantages vs disadvantages? Do you have to choose one or the other, in-person or online? Is it a responsible thing to do?

What is the advantage of an in-person auction event?

The in-person auction fundraiser is definitely more splashy than virtual auctions in its nature, and it definitely comes with a social aspect. But that doesn't mean you can't have some fun with the virtual side of things too. Some platforms are specifically designed to engage donors and even make them feel like they are playing a fun game! So perhaps your strategy should be to consider exploring the idea of a virtual auction.

How is COVID impacting auction events?

Well COVID has changed a lot of things, mostly bad. But one of COVID's benefits is that it allows you to take in-person fundraising events into the digital space, giving your donors and supporters more opportunities to participate in bidding on popular auction items, contribute monetarily through donations, or even purchase store products at their retail price. This creates an avenue for them to engage in the auction event while avoiding potential health and exposure complications.

Will I lose out if I don't have an in-person event?

Typically in-person fundraisers are in the form of silent or live auctions along with other activities that serve as a great way to get donors engaged and raise funds for your organization. However, when hosting an in-person fundraiser during COVID, you run the risk of providing an ‘exposure event’ at your fundraiser! That is a big risk and could yield some negative repercussions for your organization and your donors. Hosting a virtual auction during COVID allows you to encourage your fundraising supporters to stay safe, spread the word about the virtual event, and potentially even generate more online or mobile participants.

How can I make a virtual event fun for my donors?

The advantage of an in-person auction is the social aspect of the course, and some people like to get dressed up all fancy. But let's face it, there is also a lot of work, planning, and expense that goes into hosting an in-person fundraising event.

With a virtual auction, you can save a lot of money on the venue and food, as well as the months of planning it takes to pull off an in-person event. You can also generate more funds in a virtual auction by adding Fund-A-Need to your virtual event. Further, adding a streaming component like Instagram, YouTube or Facebook Live will help you dial up the emotional connection between you and your donors by sharing impact stories, testimonials, and reiterating the mission of your organization.

Should I postpone my in-person auction or host it virtually?

If you have a digital platform that allows for unlimited or multiple auction events, you don't need to make that choice. The word for 2022 is flexible. So do what is right for the time. If the COVID risk is higher in the Spring, have a virtual auction instead. If things open up in the Fall have an in-person event. You don't have to choose, and honestly, the smart move is to not put all your eggs in one basket. If you host two different auction events during the year, you will maximize your potential for fundraising and do the right thing for you and for your donor audience.

Won't I exhaust my audience if I host more than one auction during the year?

This is a valid concern. However, one way to handle this is to segment your audience. Divide your audience by interest using a platform like They can easily identify who your audience is, how they give, their interests, where they like to spend their money, and more. Once you have this information you can tailor your event for that demographic.

Another way to handle this is, for example, to host a jewelry-themed auction around Valentine's or Mother's Day. Jewels With A Purpose is a fantastic organization that offers beautiful risk-free jewelry items and handbags exclusively to the nonprofit community and they are one of ZGIVE's most trusted risk-free partners.

The margin they offer to nonprofits is amazing and the quality of their items, well, let me just say I wish I could own every piece of jewelry in their collection! Ok, back to reality :) Seriously, invite your entire database to your jewelry auction. Donors that are interested in this offering will attend, and those that do not attend can be retargeted in the Fall when you host a variety auction. The key is knowing your audience and understanding how to give them what they desire, so they can give to you.

To wrap this up, the moral of the story is don't put off fundraising waiting for the perfect condition. We are living in a different world, and what we have all learned more than anything is that we need to be flexible.


A digital auction platform can be your best friend during this time and, honestly into the future, because you can continue raising money for your cause in a virtual or an in-person environment. If you want a very easy to use, and affordable auction platform - visit and schedule a demo today!


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