How To: Write Fundraising Auction Item Descriptions

Writing Silent Auction Descriptions

How to make sure you have the right auction item descriptions to entice your guests to bid on them.

You’ve only got a few brief seconds to engage and entice as they walk through the item displays. What’s the best way to capture their attention? Look to your auction item descriptions.

Simplicity is your friend, in this case: Make your auction descriptions attractive and easy to read. You’ll make your own life easier and actually make it easier for your guests to get excited about the items in your auction.

Tips on how to write compelling auction item descriptions:

Create a Template

Our brains are wired to detect differences, so use this to your advantage. Create a consistent format (fonts, colors, page size, layout, etc.) for all your auction item descriptions. This way, your guests can quickly identify what’s unique about each item.

Grab Attention With a Bold Title

Create a catchy title for each item and display it in a large, readable font. You want to attract people on event night from a distance and invite them to read more. In the body of the description, you can use a different font, but still make sure it’s very readable. Use no more than 3 font sizes for the entire page: for the title, the detail and any highlights.

Use Power Words for Greater Impact

To make your headlines and auction item descriptions more tempting, use words that:

  • Convey appeal (excellent, popular, quality, etc.)
  • Indicate comparison (competitive, superior, ultimate, etc.)
  • Communicate expertise (proven, reliable, noted, etc.)
  • Suggest a good value (fortune, wealth, reward, etc.)
  • Express size (bonanza, colossal, monumental, etc.)

List Features With Bullet Points

Rather than long descriptive paragraphs with flowery language, use bullet points to highlight the important features of each auction item. They’re easier to read—and easier to write. Be sure to include:

  • Important features and benefits
  • Number of tickets and type of event
  • Location of restaurant and type of food
  • Number of days/nights and type of vacation package
  • Technical specs
  • Gift basket contents
  • Any restrictions (dates, package conditions or exemptions, etc.)
  • Donor information
  • Item number
  • Minimum bid (if appropriate)

Entice Your Guests With Photos

Colorful photos always attract the eye. Ask your donors for good quality photos of their items. If that’s not possible, you can take your own photos or download/purchase royalty-free photos from the Internet. Active shots of people using the item or enjoying the experience are more effective than passive shots, such as the outside of a restaurant.

Coordinate Your Bid Sheets

Design your bid sheets to play off the format of your auction item descriptions. Use the same bold font for the auction item title. Include a few bullet points with crucial information (some people will only read the bid sheets). Display the auction item number prominently. Add 12-15 lines for bids—not too many, not too few. For more information on bid sheets, visit How to: Silent Auction Bid Sheets.

Share Your Insight About Auction Item Descriptions

What formats and tools have you found useful in creating auction item descriptions? Have you found one format that works better than others? Share your ideas. We’d love to hear from you.

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