How To Run A Successful Chinese Auction

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
A Chinese auction is a wonderful fundraiser on its own or to add to a fundraising event.

A Chinese auction is a twist on the auction and raffle and used as a part of a fundraising event by churches, civic organizations, and other charitable events. The first time I went to an event having a Chinese auction I thought I was going to be able to pick up some unique Chinese items. No one really knows where the term comes from. Some variations on the Chinese auction name are Penny Social, Pick-A-Prize, and Tricky Tray.

A Chinese auction is a group of prizes each having its own container. Tickets are bought by participants and placed in the containers of the prizes they wish to win. Tickets are drawn to determine a winner of each prize.

If you want to include a Chinese auction planning ahead is a must. As with any fundraising event, the least amount of cost means more for the coffers. Budget cuts in every aspect of daily life have everyone looking for value perceived. Keep this in mind from the viewpoint of attendee's and donators as well as your fellow organizers. Plan ahead and plan accordingly.

Add Value

If you host the local Farmer's Market, make a Chinese auction part of the opening day festivities. Vendors should each provide a basket of samplings in the $20-$25 range. The Chinese Auction table should be the first place attendee's visit. Proceeds should go to the local soup kitchen or food bank or to setup a community garden. Value to vendor is their basket includes a card containing contact info prominently displayed on the front. A good looking basket will have attendees searching out their stand. Free advertisement is a big plus. Value of basket is a charitable deduction and promotes community goodwill. Attendees have a chance at quality fresh produce for a fraction of the cost while helping a worthwhile cause.

Take Advantage Of Events

If your community hosts an ongoing event such as the annual Blessing Of The Fleet, setting up a Chinese auction display for your worthwhile cause takes advantage of traffic generated by the event. If you can contact the other vendors prior to the event to donate items such as gift certificates, you are well ahead of the game.

Getting Items

Have a letter printed up explaining your event, dates and times, contact info, and goals. Include suggested $$ value categories and how the item can be something they've not been able to move, dead stock. A gift certificate is always welcome. Their donation is a tax deduction. Have your members go to local businesses with enough letters for each. Make sure your members keep a list of who donated what and an address/phone number to follow up with a thank you and the success you had.

Don't limit donations to just items for your Chinese auction table. A sleeve or two of large soda cups or standup paper bags with a restaurant's logo can be used to put the items' tickets into. This is good cheap advertising for the restaurant. Logo pens are appreciated for filling out tickets. A DJ or local band can donate their time to entertain.

You may incorporate a bake sale table to sell donated wares from local bakeries and restaurants. Include soda, water, tea, lemonade in a big ice bucket which all can be donated. Have donators include an 8"x11" self advertising sign to set up with their donations.

Chinese Auction Setup

If all your items are roughly the same value, set up tables with larger items in back and smaller in front. Leave enough spacing so participants can easily distinguish which container to put their tickets in for each item. A number on the item and corresponding numbers on the container are suggested. A separate table should be allotted from which to sell tickets.

If there will be different categories, such as $10, $25, $50 items, set these items up in different parts of the room so participants won't be confused. Use different color tickets for each category. A sign should be displayed as to which color tickets are accepted. Set ticket prices accordingly. Prices usually start at 20/$5 for $10 value, 10/$5 for $25 value, 5/$5 for $50 value.

If you are lucky enough to score a high value item like a TV, stereo, or computer, don't hesitate to sell individual tickets for this item. This is a fundraiser.

Plan early, follow these guidelines and your Chinese auction will be a great success.


Posted on Jan 20, 2012
Anuradha Ramkumar
Posted on Aug 19, 2010