When it comes to planning a successful fundraising event, you need to factor in the entire attendee experience—from ticket purchase to post-event follow-up.

If your nonprofit is planning to host a charity auction, it’s important to have an easy, streamlined check-in to make a strong impression on your guests. Your guests should feel confident that you are ready to present them with an unforgettable evening.

In this guide, we’ll walk through five steps you can take to make the auction check-in as easy and streamlined as possible.

1. Collect the information you need from guests before the event.

You want to move your guests quickly and efficiently through your check-in process so they can start appreciating everything you’ve planned for them at your auction. Having to ask guests for information and enter it into your auction software during that process slows check-in down considerably. You likely need to collect at least:

  • Name
  • Email Address (for sending receipts)
  • A valid credit card number

You should collect as much of this as you can during your ticket sales process, but make sure to assign a person to spend time the week before your event going over your guest list and making sure it is as complete as possible.

2. Prepare your staff and volunteers.

It’s up to your nonprofit’s staff and volunteers to ensure that your entire auction runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. To prepare them for their roles and responsibilities, be sure to offer sufficient training ahead of the event.

For example:

  • Host an orientation session for new volunteers. Make sure that everyone working your check-in desk understands the schedule for the evening, how the fundraising elements (e.g. silent auction, live auction, raffles) will work, how seating and meals will be handled, where the bathrooms are, and your fundraising goals.
  • Offer auction software training sessions and FAQ materials. Live training sessions are best, but can be supplemented with video training and documentation when necessary. At your training sessions, it is helpful to have the specific tools and technology you will be having your volunteers use on the night of the event.
  • Designate a check-in “Captain” to answer specific check-in questions. Most of the people working check-in can be regular volunteers, but it’s crucial that you have a core auction team member assigned to stay at the check-in desk throughout the entire process to handle questions and odd situations that might otherwise slow down your lines. If possible, the captain shouldn’t be one of the main check-in volunteers; instead, have them be the “free agent” able to swoop in and help with problems.

When your guests have questions—whether on the schedule for the evening, the guest list, auction item restrictions, or how long the band is going to play—they will gravitate toward the check-in desk, so be ready for them!

3. Include all relevant resources at the auction check-in table.

To create a seamless experience, provide all the resources your attendees will need at check-in tables. Depending on the type of auction you’re hosting, these resources may include:

  • Auction programs. Guests want to know how the event is going to go; make sure to include a schedule for the evening and information on your auction rules.
  • Auction item catalogs. It’s generally not necessary to print out silent auction catalogs, but a detailed listing of your live auction items is extremely useful for your guests.
  • Bidder numbers or paddles. You can print numbers on the back of your programs to cut down on the number of resources you have to hand over to your guests.
  • Event floor plans. This is especially important for events with assigned seating, and those spread out across several rooms or floors.
  • Background information about your organization and cause. You have a captive audience at your gala, one with a demonstrated amount of interest in your cause. Take the time to introduce them to programs and needs that they may be unaware of.

While you should present all the essential details about your auction on your nonprofit’s website, including minimum bid increments and checkout procedures, having this information available in a hard copy sets your attendees up for an effortless auction experience.

4. Consider offering an advance auction check-in option.

Shorter check-in lines can significantly enhance the overall attendee experience. To particularly appeal to younger, technologically savvy attendees, consider offering an option to check in before the event itself. This proactive approach can streamline the entry process, allowing guests more time to enjoy the various activities planned for the event.

By investing in silent auction software with advance check-in features, you can allow attendees to skip waiting in line and walk straight into your auction experience. The process will typically look something like this:

  • Your event staff or volunteers use your auction software to send check-in invitations to guests via email or text message.
  • The invitation provides a link to a self-check-in page, where any information you already have on the guest is pre-filled into the check-in form.
  • The guest updates their information and enters a credit card number to be used later to pay for their auction winnings.
  • The guest receives and prints their bid number to bring to the event.

By offering your guests an advance check-in option, you can improve their experience by eliminating the need to stand in line at the beginning of the night. You also can reduce the number of check-in stations and volunteers, which you can then deploy to focus on other aspects of the auction.

5. Monitor the check-in process and collect feedback.

It’s no secret that for nonprofits to improve their fundraising results, they need to gather data and adapt their strategies.

Most fundraising auctions are annual affairs, with a guest list that changes only partially year over year. Your regular guests will expect you to improve the experience of attending your auction, and check-in is one of the most visible, easy areas to improve.

Implementing the following tactics will help you understand how and where you can polish your guest experience during check-in:

  • Measure the average wait time for attendees to check in. Having stopwatches out at your event might be a mood-killer, but you can time your check-in process during your training session, and adjust personnel or options as necessary.
  • Calculate the percentage of guests who chose your advance check-in option. After the event, check your software to see who took advantage—and who didn’t.
  • Identify any bottlenecks or issues that arise during the check-in process. Your check-in captain should have a notebook at the table to keep track of any unanticipated issues. Interview each of your check-in volunteers post-event to get their feedback on the process.
  • Ask attendees for feedback during and after the auction. Double the Donation’s donor development guide mentions encouraging feedback as a top strategy for building strong, lasting relationships with your donors.

By paying attention to your check-in process during the auction and surveying your attendees, you can make adjustments in real time and refine your approach in the future.

Check-in is the first element of your charity auction that your guests see. It is where your event makes its first impression and can convey that your organization is prepared to show your guests a fun evening. According to SchoolAuction.net’s silent auction guide, you should provide options for mobile self-check-out and accept multiple payment types to make it easy for attendees to access their dream items after the auction.

Carefully planning each phase of the auction experience ensures that attendees have a fulfilling time from start to finish.