Your fundraising event generates revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships. Another revenue stream can be event “add-ons”: silent and live auctions, raise a paddle, 50/50 split the pot; raffles and other activities connected to your event.
Silent auctions are a long-time staple of many fundraising events. Start your silent auction planning with this guide from One Cause: Silent Auction Planning Guide.
We have several tips for effective silent auctions—for you and your staff and for the people at your event. And remember, many businesses with no giving budget are usually happy to provide an item for a silent auction!
Make it easy for the bidders. Give everyone a bid number when they arrive at your event. Rather than writing their name and phone number with their bid, people can simply write their number. At the end of the auction time, your staff can quickly gather the bid sheets, arrange them by the winning bid number and have everything ready for your donors to check-out. If possible, you can even have people provide their credit card number when checking in for quicker processing at check-out.
Pre-populate your bid sheets with incremental bids. This makes it easier on the bidder and is your way of establishing incremental bid levels. The largest and most successful silent auctions I’ve been a part of have used two-page forms as bid sheets.
Depending on the number of silent auction items, you may want to have different end times for different groups of items. You should be prepared to announce closing times in a way that everyone can hear. If bidders don’t get an item in the first silent auction round, they may increase their bid in the next group of items.
Consider combining small silent auction items into a basket (themed if possible) and make it attractive. The bidders will get the basket and all the contents.
Sometimes less is more; a few higher end and attractive items may bring better results than many small items.
I’ve found it beneficial to be strategic in selecting silent auction items. You must match the items to your audience. Who will attend? Is it a casual event? Is it black-tie formal? Is the audience warm (do they already know about and support your organization)? What do you know about your audience’s economic situation?
Here are a few successful silent auction items.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—a photo safari to Africa; a cruise to Alaska to see the northern lights.
Vacation packages—usually airfare and lodging for a week at popular vacation spots.
Art work—always popular for the art-loving audiences.
Unique dinners or parties—a Cajun event featuring regional foods and entertainment; a trip to the 1960s with “Julia Child”; a murder mystery dinner.
Hot air balloon rides—I purchased one of these many years ago, despite knowing I would never get in a hot air balloon; a family member and friend enjoyed it, though!
Sports or movie memorabilia—particularly items that are signed or of special significance, again for audiences who are interested in such items.
Read more about silent auctions here: