Chinese Auction

Chinese auctions are very similar to silent auctions except they have a raffle component added to the mix. The bidding on items is done by ticket instead of by a written bid.

In a Chinese auction, customers buy a number of tickets for a set price, then use the tickets to bid on the items on display by dropping them in a fishbowl next to the item. In a silent auction, they would just enter a bid amount on a form next to the donated item.

Raising Funds With Chinese Auctions

Buyers are free to put as many tickets as they want in the fishbowl. At the close of the auction period, the winning ticket for each auction item is then drawn from the corresponding fishbowl.

Obviously, the more tickets a person deposits in the bowl, the higher the percentage chance that they’ll win the item. That means that highly desirable items will draw a lot of tickets, just as they would draw a lot of bids in regular auction.

That’s part of the big draw for a Chinese auction. Ticket costs are low compared to the ultimate value of the auction items, so lucky winners will get a great deal.

And having lots of ticket buyers means your group will do very well!

Three types of Chinese auctions

The standard format is as we previously discussed. The items are displayed on tables with a ticket box or bowl next to each item.  Buyers circulate and check out which items they want to win, then drop in their tickets. At the end of your event, the winning ticket is drawn for each one.

A second variant when the auction is the only event is to run it from a central stage. Bidders are seated and each item is put up for auction one at a time. Your auctioneer pitches the item while ticket collectors gather bid tickets from those raising their hands or waving tickets about.

This makes for somewhat of a bidding frenzy, with really popular items getting hundreds of tickets submitted. Some people quickly exhaust their ticket supply, so you’ll need to have ticket sellers working the room as well.

The third type of Chinese auction involves everyone depositing all their tickets into a big drum. Tickets are then drawn and called out bingo-style for each item up for auction.

People like this because they have a chance at winning every time an item is drawn. As a result , many people will drop in a huge amount of tickets, which of course is what you want to happen.

You can hold back some really high-end or desirable items for separate bidding at the end. Buyers can then buy extra tickets for these last chance drawings.

Chinese auction fundraiser profit tips

Ticket sales
Price your tickets in bundles of 25, 50, or 100 tickets. Have your ticket bundles pre-packaged. Price them in even amounts for quick sales.

Popular items
Gift certificates, gardening supplies, personal spa packages, vacation travel deals, and consumer electronics items are always popular. So are anything celebrity related or offering exclusive access.

Bundle items
Bundling items together will oftentimes raise more than the individual items would. Group them in related categories or complementary packages.

Themed auctions
You can also do an entire Chinese auction on a theme such as Spring, Christmas, fantasy packages, vacations, golf, sports or other popular categories.


A Chinese auction is a great way to get extra profits out of donated goods and services. Obviously, the more items you have up for grabs, the more tickets you’ll sell and the more funds you’ll raise. Try one at your next fundraising event and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!