Good manners can build your auction’s reputation for the long haul so it’s important to pay attention to gestures like sending thank-yous. Fundraising auctions wouldn’t exist without donors, so it’s important to thank them.

Remember that the donors – not the buyers – are silent auction gift ideas the people who stepped forward first to support the organization. Before the invitations were sent out … before any guest decided on what dress to wear to the gala … before anyone set up the decorations for the night .. a donor stepped forward to help.

Donors start the auction process by giving a gift. That gift is given with the expectation that the non-profit will sell it to the best of their ability, thereby raising money to further the cause. What a generous gift.

I believe you can’t thank donors enough, but for the down-and-dirty “correct” way (if there is such a thing), here’s what I typically see.

Usually the donor is first thanked with a quick thank you when the item is received. They are thanked again with a letter (mailed … on letterhead) after the auction is over. Let’s dive a bit deeper.

The first thank you is commonly sent via email.

Even though you send a thank you via email, you’ll usually also have some additional contact with the donor because often the donor forms are not completed to the degree you need.

For instance, how often have you had to contact a donor to get more information on the vacation home they offered? (I.E. “Hi Jim! Thanks for the donation of your beach house. I’ve got a question. On the form, you said that home has 4 bedrooms. But are 2 of the bedrooms filled with bunk beds, or are there actually 4 master bedrooms in this house?”)

Locations of stores are often also overlooked. “Where is this hair salon located?” is a common question when the information isn’t on the form. Cities often are known by neighborhoods, so saying that the salon is on “14th Street” is one detail … but saying it’s in “Penn Quarter of Washington, D.C.” helps as well. Details like this are important, and because donors might forget to include this information on their donor sheet, it leaves the task of follow-up to the event manager. She can send quick email thanking the donor, but also inquire about missing elements in the description.

When the auction is over, a more formal thank you (mailed .. on letterhead) is sent.

If the item sold well, include the sale price in the letter. Write something like, “Your $2000 case of wine sold for $2500!” Oh, wouldn’t that make a donor feel good! When you have shown that you are taking care of your donor’s merchandise and selling it well, that encourages the donor to trust you with bigger donations the following year. Whoo whee!

If the donation sold for an average price, I suggest writing something more generic, such as, “Your donation helped NON PROFIT XYZ surpass our goal / meet our fundraising goal / was an increase over last year / etc.” It’s important to share your success with the donors.

I would also encourage you to hand-write a brief comment or sentence on the letter. It might be: “The necklace was stunning!” or “Glad you were able to attend the event.” or “Your donation was especially nice this year.” Something personal, but sincere.