Intel from Friday Forum on Fabulous Fundraisers

Thank you to the 75 people who joined us May 22, 2020, for our Friday Forum about Virtual Fundraisers! Our discussion centered on online auctions because they are typically the biggest fundraiser for our congregations and folks had a lot of auction info. to share. See one of our previous blog articles that discusses fundraisers other than auctions.

Auction Content

Online auctions were held by some of our UU congregations well before COVID-19. Thus, we know they can work, but concerns have been raised that if many of the biggest money-makers are in-home dinners or other gatherings, that there will be limited options to offer.

We can be creative and adapt to these times.

Some UU congregations have held their virtual auction already during COVID-19. and and and

Auction items can be modified for sociable distancing or adapted to a virtual location, where practicable.

Here are a few examples:

Virtual Charades in the Time of the Pandemic: Teams of four on each side, with as many sign-ups as we get, will be ridiculous fun together. Via Zoom video. $10/person

Outdoor Concert – BYOB: Come hear our young vocalist and pianist, “Pat the Peerless Performer,” at a concert in our backyard. A variety of music will be featured including Pop, Broadway and classical for all ages. Please bring your own cup and beverage. Masks may be required, depending on CDC guidelines at the time. $20/person; limit 20 to accommodate sociable distancing. 

Vacation Rental (Driveable!): Enjoy the views and beautiful home for a week in August on Lake Lovely. No air travel required. Relax on the deck, cook in the state-of-the art kitchen or order take out while you step back from the busy pace of life. No TV or newspaper and no household chores calling your name! Wifi available if you feel compelled. Accommodates up to 6 adults. Value: $1,800. Bidding starts at $500.

Outdoor Dinner with Takeout: Come join us for delicious Thai Takeout outside on our covered patio. We’ll have food and conversation in a circle of chairs that we provide. Please bring your own plate, cup and utensils and come prepared for cuisine and conversation! $15 person; limit 10.

And don’t forget the many other types of auction items that are fabulous with or without considering COVID: Art, jewelry, pottery, furniture, crafts, gift certificates, meal and/or dessert deliveries, canned items, outdoor handyperson services, landscaping services, many other types of service advice via video, group classes and discussion groups led by a trained congregant or non-member, and new for 2020, chalice face masks! Seriously, I want one. 

Auction Platforms

Several types of software for online auctions were shared and most of the options will work for in-person auctions should you choose to use it again for an auction held at your church. 

Here’s the list:

Auctria  /  Maestro  /  Community Auction Services  /  Together Auction,  /  / 

Auctria was mentioned the most often and Community Auction Services also had more than one participant say that they used it. Check out the features of each and decide which one is right for you. Many of these software platforms are priced on a yearly membership so you can use them for online rummage sales too. One forum participant said they usually make $11,000 per year on their rummage sale so it is worth exploring an online version and/or adding a rummage sale section to your auction. 

Payment Options

Make payment easy! Offer payments by credit card via your website, including the option for the winner to pay the credit card fee, via PayPal, offer mobile payment by phone via texting or an app, and allow folks to mail a check.

Many churches use apps tied to their online giving platforms such as VANCO and that are integrated with their databases such as Breeze and Realm. The GivePlus+ app (a part of VANCO) allows you to customize a list of options so congregants can designate where their payment will be applied, such as Sunday Offering, the Auction, the Minister’s Discretionary Fund, etc. You may already be using this app or another one such as, easyTithe and Givify and  for other donations to your congregation and you can use it for auction payments too. See our previous blog article on electronic giving.

Auction Length

What’s the right length for an online auction? A week has worked well for some congregations. Too long a time period and momentum and enthusiasm wane and too few days does not give some people enough time to find a good day for them to bid. 

An auction opening or closing online event such as a Laff-a-Lot Zoom-a-thon Show or Auction Variety Show and Costume Contest can also enhance the fellowship and fun of a virtual auction.

Each congregation can review and discuss the UUA Guidance for gatherings in the coming church year, what type of items to offer for an auction, and make decisions based on what is safe and recommended for their location. We can be creative with our virtual fundraisers and continue to support love, connection, and justice in our communities and beyond.

Our opening and closing words were from Rev. Lois Van Leer and gave us some wisdom about embracing grief and then creating something new:

Let grief have its say. But don’t let it have the final word. It has to be entered fully to clear a way for something else, something possible, something unexpected, something new. What that “new” is will not just come to us. It is something we, all of us, create.”  — Rev. Lo

If you have a fundraiser you’ve done during these online-only times, please share it in the comment section so others can benefit from your wisdom. Thank you for being stewards of your community!

Liz Coit, Kay Crider, Mark Ewert, Barry Finkelstein and Rachel Maxwell are part of the Stewardship for Us team. Please send your questions and topic suggestions for our blog or online Friday Forum discussions to