eBay for Charity

Find out more

Visit our charity shop

Planning a special auction? - Here's what you need to know

So, what exactly are 'special auctions'?

Well, they're not the normal, everyday things that folks buy and sell on eBay. They're the items and experiences that have something unique or exciting about them.

Actually, it's impossible to describe exactly what makes an auction special, but they tend to have one or more of the following features:

  • 'Money can't buy', one-of-a-kind items/experiences
  • Items/experiences with celebrity or star associations
  • Unique or extraordinary items/experiences
  • Extremely valuable or rare items/experiences

These kinds of items or experiences capture the public imagination and engage people. They drive awareness, attention and hopefully, raise a lot of money for worthy causes.

Special items and experiences can be listed on their own or as part of a campaign with many listings.

Who can run a special auction?

Anyone can organise a special auction. Some are run by charities themselves, others are run by businesses, agencies or individuals. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Why run a special auction on eBay?

Special auctions tend to do extremely well on eBay. The reason is simple - people love unusual and exciting things, and eBay is an incredibly efficient way to allow millions of people to get involved.

What's involved?

You can list special items for sale in pretty much the same way you sell anything else on eBay. However, there are a few extra things to consider, especially if you are planning something big.

These are the 5 essential ingredients of every successful eBay for Charity auction:

  • Obtain great items and great experiences
  • Generating awareness is essential, so make sure you let as many people know about the auction as possible
  • Plan the auction and how you're going to manage things
  • Consider branding and marketing any key messages you want to get across
  • Learn and understand how to use eBay in the most effective way
Be ambitious. Think about how each item could be enhanced and made unique.

What you need to know


Plan ahead

Plan your auction in advance. You should think about the story behind the auction, its branding, how you're going to manage the auctions and what you want to achieve.

Use your contacts, sponsors, supporters and any other resource available to get hold of as many great items and experiences as possible. These will form the foundation for your auction. Start thinking as early as possible about how to market and publicise the auction. Letting people know what you're doing is extremely important.

  • Become familiar with eBay and learn how to sell - remember to choose 'Advanced Sell'.
  • Visit the Help and eBay Explained pages and explore the marketplace.
  • Practice by selling a couple of items on eBay beforehand.

Get set up in advance

Make sure the charity is registered with eBay for Charity, and you have the appropriate accounts set up. Here's a checklist:

  • Check that the benefiting charity is registered with eBay for Charity (through PayPal Giving Fund).
  • If the benefiting charity isn't registered yet, then arrange for the charity to get signed up. Find out more.
  • Register for an account with eBay.co.uk.
  • If you're a charity, you'll need to add your eBay account ID as a Direct Seller in your PayPal Giving Fund account. If you're another organisation or individual listing items 100% for the charity, you can ask the benefiting charity to make you a Direct Seller. Direct Sellers are able to pass the auction proceeds to the charity directly, rather than making donations through PayPal Giving Fund.
  • Sign up for an appropriate PayPal account.
  • Get familiar with the eBay marketplace.

Awareness of your auction

The success of your auction will depend on the level of interest you generate, so PR, marketing and general awareness are essential. Schedule the end time/date of the auction based on when you are likely to get maximum attention and publicity. Consider a national, regional or local media partner if you haven't already. The key thing is to let people and especially your target audience know what you're doing!


Listing your item

Make your listing as striking, engaging and convincing as possible. Include information about the auction, the charity, and as much background about the item as you can.

When listing your item, don't forget to:

  • Use the Advanced Sell form to list your item
  • Select the charity and the percentage donation below where you set your starting price (choose 100% if a charity is selling the item)
  • Set a starting price as low as possible to encourage maximum interest
  • Include any terms and conditions you need to attach to the sale

Complex or ambitious auctions may benefit from the services of an auction management agency.


Building an About Me page (optional)

You can customise an eBay About Me page to support your special auctions. It can become a 'hub' page for your activity and provides a way to bring everything together. It's also a good idea to include branding, marketing, background information, links to the auctions, etc.

The About Me page can be as simple or as complex as you choose. You can choose to use the step-by-step guide to build your page, or add your own HTML if you're more technically inclined.

Get started:

You'll be able to update and modify the page at any time.

Note: Building an About Me page is optional. You may choose to send people straight to the list of your items using Advanced Search (by your eBay user ID).

Make sure you include a clear journey to your auctions from your About Me page.

Key benefits of a special auction

A great way to fundraise.

Special auctions sell for special prices - making this a fantastic way to transform items and experiences into funds for good causes.

A great way to raise awareness.

Special auctions tend to attract media coverage and attention (so be sure to get the word out!), driving people to come and experience the auctions. Here they can also learn about the organisations, brands, causes and charities involved in making them happen. It's a great way to meaningfully engage people.

A cost-effective way to engage millions of people.

eBay is the UK's largest online marketplace, with well over 20 million users from all sections of society. eBay auctions can reach huge numbers of people, at virtually no cost to you.

An opportunity to partner with eBay.

For the biggest and brightest special auctions, there's an opportunity to work directly with eBay to make your auction a huge success. Please see the 'Planning something big?" section below.

It's the future of fundraising.

Special auctions are a great way to raise funds and awareness. You could also use your auction to spark off a new source of funds for the charity. Once your chosen charity has registered for the programme, any eBay user can give to the charity.

Planning something big? Get in touch!

Don't forget to tell us if you're planning something that's likely to do any of the following things:

  • Raise large sums of money
  • Attract significant public awareness and, perhaps, media coverage
  • Involve exceptional 'special' items and experiences

At a basic level, we'll be able to offer you extra advice, consultancy and support to make sure things run smoothly (bigger auctions require some additional management). If availability exists, we can also offer marketing support on the eBay for Charity pages.

For the biggest auctions, there is an opportunity to partner with eBay and build an integrated campaign.

Either way, if you're planning something a little out of the ordinary, please get in touch as we'll be able to support and help ensure all runs smoothly.

If you think your auction fits the bill, email the following information to ukcampaigns@ebay.com. We need as much notice as possible..

About You

  • Name
  • Organisation (if any)
  • Contact details (including email)

About the Campaign

  • Campaign aims and description
  • The items or experiences you're planning to sell (either secured or obtainable)
  • The timetable for your auction
  • A measure of the likely publicity and attention
  • Your eBay ID (if known)
  • Any other relevant information, e.g. who else is involved?

Please include as much information as possible. If the campaign is appropriate, we'll get back to you soon.

Additional site navigation