Auction Donations and PR for Business

I love silent auctions. Bidding on donated items is fun, especially if you’re the winner. At the event, charities or organizations raise funds and awareness. And, donating items to be displayed online or at an event is good publicity. Everybody wins: the organization raises funds, your business gets promoted and the winner gets a service they need. Ideally, you will reach new prospects and the auction winner will become a client.

Last summer I donated a social media consulting session to Biz Bash, an event that takes place this year on June 3 from 5:30-8:30pm at The Murphy, located at 50 E. Erie in Chicago. I got to know Lynn Hazan of Lynn Hazan and Associates, who does a terrific job of heading up the Windy City Biz Bash Auction Team who says, “The Biz Bash auction brings together buyers and sellers in a fun and creative environment. It’s easy to talk with people, especially when they are bidding for your donation! The bidders love getting items that may not necessarily be available to the general public. Everyone wins, the donor, bidder and BMA!”

Thanks to Pon Angara of Barkada Creative, assistant BMA auctions chair, for the background information for this post.

Surprisingly, to me, my 2009 social media consulting package turned out to be a popular item. I enjoyed working with the branding agency that placed the top bid. It was their first BMA event and mine as well.

In thinking about what to donate to Biz Bash this year, I came up with 10 silent auction donation guidelines for business based on my many years of experience as an event planner, silent auction enthusiast and PR consultant. Matching your business to the organization’s member demographics or charity’s cause is really the first step. Look for opportunities to grow relationships.

10 Silent Auction Donation Guidelines for Business

1. Partner with a charity or organization that will promote your donation and involvement. Once a group called to ask my business for a donation. I said what do businesses get? Nothing was the answer. Oh, well, here’s what I think you should do, I said. Do you have event communications? Yes. Mention them there and at the event. How nice to see that this group now lists businesses along with their logos in all pre-event communications.

2. Package your donation to fit the event, both in terms of price and presentation. Silent auctions often display lavish baskets. Dropping off a shopping bag of stuff is impolite. Donate the frames that display certificates and baskets you use for packaging.

3. Consider donating art, tickets, or gift certificates to a restaurant or spa instead of services. Services firms might donate a night on the town package, which is simple to put together, may get higher bids and has no service strings attached. I’m thinking of the time someone donated a winter’s worth of snow clearing worth hundreds of dollars. The package sold for $125. Would it have been better to put together a warm up winter gift worth $125?

4. Set a deadline for professional services and be willing to extend it once or twice. I like to set mine within three months of the event. If you can, find out who purchased your services and for how much. Contact them right after the event to thank them and schedule the service.

5. Be absolutely clear on what you’re giving away – number of hours, appointments, etc. Don’t let the donation scope creep out of the agreed upon range. Position the package as an introductory consultation to determine whether or not you want to begin a business relationship.

6. Think about donating several smaller prizes instead of one jumbo package that most likely won’t get what you’re asking for. More prizes get you more attention. Ask the event planners about expected bidding ranges and minimum bids, though.

7. Are you an artist and a business owner? Show off your artistic side by donating a piece you’re willing to part with. Every time the winner looks at your art, they will be reminded of you and your business.

8. Go to the event, especially if you’re offering a bigger prize or your company will get good exposure out of being there. This is a huge opportunity that most people miss. You might even ask for a minute or so to thank the attendees and let them know if they have any questions – at all – about what you do you’ll be standing right by your prize to answer them.

9. Write compelling copy. Draw people in with a headline or a question. Then, list the benefits and features of winning. Add in a short bio and giveaway a book.

10. Promote your involvement via your social networks and company communications. BMA Chicago asked if I would consider writing a post about attending their 2009 BizBash. I said yes. Why? The event is well run, has a great reputation and gave my business good visibility. Here’s what I’m donating this year.

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Founder of Social Media Club’s Chicago chapter, Barbara leads CoryWest Media, LLC a marketing and communications consultancy founded in 1990. Package includes a copy of “Success Secrets of the Social Media Superstars” by Mitch Meyerson to be published by Entrepreneur Press in summer 2010. Barbara is the author of the LinkedIn chapter and was named one of the top 30 PR experts to follow on twitter by

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If you represent an organization that is looking for silent auction items, tell the businesses about how you’ll promote their donations – and their business. Use Biz Bash as a model to get started.

For ideas, check out:
Windy City Biz Bash on Facebook Windy City Biz Bash donation and bid site

How to donate live and silent auction items

Image courtesy of
in exchange for crediting the site as a stock photography resource, which we are happy to do.

Written by Barbara Rozgonyi, publisher of Wired PR Works, CEO of CoryWest Media, LLC and founder of Social Media Club Chicago who loves to help businesses develop digital relationships.

About Barbara Rozgonyi

Barbara Rozgonyi publishes and directs CoryWest Media, an integrated social media marketing and PR firm. As Social Media Club (SMC) Chicago’s founder, Barbara is a recognized spokesperson for brands, bloggers and the social media marketing PR industry. Barbara invites you to join the Wired PR Works community on Facebook or to contact her regarding interviews, partner promotions or speaking engagements at 630.207.7530.

  • thank God! In our time, people began to realize that without our help, donations to people in need will be very difficult. Every cent given away to good causes will be used with the greatest utility netolko for you but for those people.
    .-= durun´s last blog ..IsoBuster =-.

  • MAGnifiqueMags

    Great advice! I was looking for advice on how to structure an auction donation, and this article was most helpful.

  • This is a great thorough and detailed list of decisions businesses need to make before donating. I’ve been on over 50 event committees, I’ve owned several businesses, and I wholehearted agree with your advice. I’m shocked at how many donors don’t bother to describe their own products and themselves, so they end up with “$50 Gift Certificate to XYZ Restaurant” as the only information bidders see. Your “compelling copy” makes me want to hire you!

    May I add another suggestion? Businesses who primarily work by a subscription model (gyms, subscription boxes, memberships, etc.) should be donating 2-3 months of their product to charity events on a regular basis, especially if the fulfillment cost to the donor is minimal. It normally takes so much effort (and advertising $) to get someone to walk in your door/try your product that it may be more cost effective to take marketing dollars and dedicate them toward increasing charitable donations instead, knowing it brings new customers come try you because you donated their first trial period. (Then it’s up to you to wow them into continuing as paying customers.)

    With your permission, I’d like to reference this article from the Help area of my website,, where we make it easier for companies and nonprofits who are seeking their product donations to find each other. I continually work with marketers to polish their donation listings on our site, and I think this is a great article to refer them to. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your comments, Renee. Good to know about your site.

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