[GUEST POST] 4 Gamification Strategies to Add to Your Charity Auction

Picture this: Your nonprofit is hosting its annual hybrid auction. To maximize revenue, you need to keep both your in-person and online audiences actively engaged and eager to bid. Halfway through the auction, you notice that your virtual audience participation starts to dip. Fewer and fewer in-person attendees are making bids. How will you grab everyone’s attention? 

The answer lies in strong gamification strategies. Gamification is the process of adding elements of gameplay and competition into your auction so people will feel more inclined to bid and bid in larger amounts. By tapping into your attendees’ natural competitive edge, you’ll be able to drive revenue and fuel your nonprofit’s important mission. 

While every audience is different and you need to consider what best motivates your unique supporters to give, there are a few tried and true gamification strategies you can incorporate to boost engagement. Use these gamification tactics to take your auction fundraising to the next level:

  • Fundraising thermometer
  • Scoreboards
  • Countdown timer
  • Text messages

Your nonprofit has already put hard work into marketing and planning your auction. Now, make your event as exciting as possible by turning fundraising into a fun competition. Let’s begin.

Fundraising thermometer

During your auction fundraiser (or any fundraising event), it’s important to showcase fundraising progress and how close you are to reaching your goal. After all, the central goal of your event is to raise as much as possible for your mission. To rally supporters around pushing your nonprofit past the fundraising finish line, display a fundraising thermometer at your event or on your nonprofit’s website

Not only is this visually appealing, but it’s also extremely compelling for people to watch the fundraising thermometer fill up as you get closer and closer to the goal. In fact, 60% of virtual auction event donors said being able to track a nonprofit’s progress toward fulfilling its fundraising goal was an engaging factor, according to the 2022 Giving Experience Study. As you approach the end of your event, bidders will feel motivated to keep giving and see your nonprofit reach its goal! 

If you hit the fundraising goal before the deadline, you can add a bonus goal and clearly describe how any extra funds raised will support your mission. 


Scoreboards allow bidders to see in real time who is leading with the largest bids. As a result, attendees will feel motivated to compete for the highest bid to see their name on the leaderboard. Your nonprofit can display the top bidders at a given time, or even feature the top fundraising teams. 

For example, if you’re leading an in-person auction, consider making each table a team so people can work together to drive even greater fundraising results. Not only does this add to the competitive spirit, but working as a team can promote networking and help attendees develop relationships with their peers. As a result, they’ll feel a stronger sense of community and belonging in your organization.

If you’re leading a virtual or hybrid auction, you can still include your remote attendees in the fun by creating live breakout sessions with teams. During your event, consider periodically calling out the leading bidders or teams to create excitement and make donors feel even more appreciated for their efforts. 

To further fuel your supporters’ motivations, you can give prizes to the leading bidders or teams. For example, offer incentives like nonprofit merchandise, coupons to local eateries or experiences, or an exclusive donor recognition event. 

Countdown timer

Like all fundraising events, your auction is going to have a clear deadline. Whether you’re hosting a live auction that only lasts a few hours or a virtual silent auction that takes a few days, ensure your participants are aware of the closing window to place bids. 

The most effective way to keep your impending deadline on supporters’ minds is with a countdown timer. As the timer winds down, it serves as a friendly nudge, inspiring supporters to put in bids to give your nonprofit an extra boost toward reaching its goal. You can display the timer alongside your fundraising thermometer so supporters know how much time and funding is left to meet your objectives. 

Text messages

Your supporters likely spend a lot of time on their phones (the average American picks up their smartphone once every ten minutes!), so why not take this opportunity to reach them where they already are with exciting updates? The OneCause guide to virtual fundraising explains that texting can amp up a remote crowd by sharing updates on: 

  • Current bids
  • List of scoreboard leaders
  • Donation progress
  • Auction deadline
  • Outbid notifications

To drive even more revenue opportunities for your auction, text supporters a mobile-friendly link to your donation page. This way, bidders can lend an extra hand to your fundraising goal, and people who aren’t interested in bidding can still contribute to your cause. 

Remember, text messaging doesn’t have to only take place during the event. Before your auction, you can take your nonprofit marketing to the next level by texting supporters to create hype and ensure they’re ready to bid. For instance, provide a sneak peek of items that will be up for bid along with the starting prices. 

Plus, text supporters after your event to share how much you raised and thank them for their support. This will ensure they have a memorable experience and are eager to return to your next auction. 

To incorporate these gamification tips, you’ll need a solid fundraising solution. Do your research to find software that’s within your nonprofit’s budget and offers simple solutions to incorporate gameplay into your future auctions. With an all-in-one technology foundation, you’ll be well-prepared to make auction fundraising fun and create passion for your important cause. Good luck! 

By Sarah Sebastian, Director of Corporate Communications, OneCause

Sarah Sebastian is the Director of Corporate Communications at OneCause. She’s a marketer and brand geek at heart with eight years of experience in the nonprofit tech space. Outside of work, Sarah can be found reading, hiking, kayaking, volunteering for Florida Access Network, or getting lost in the woods while photographing birds.

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