A Silent auction is a variant of the English auction in which bids are written on a sheet of paper. At the predetermined end of the auction, the highest listed bidder wins the item. This auction is often used in charity events, with many items auctioned simultaneously and “closed” at a common finish time.
Sounds easy, right? WRONG. Silent auctions are a great way to raise funds for Non-Profit events but if you don’t know how to do it, it can be a disaster. If this is your first silent auction, commit to holding a silent auction event each year for a few years and watch it become EXTRAORDINARY.
Silent Auction 101: Being organized is the first order of business.
- Organize a Silent Auction Committee. Assign duties and due dates. (Have Many Volunteers)
- Provide your committee a packet of materials to get started. Some items to include:
1. Mission statement of the fundraising event
2. Event invitation
3. Silent auction pledge forms
4. List of good silent auction items to help get the process started
- Solicit local merchants, attractions, donors, and contact auction consignment suppliers to have a variety of items to sell.
- As items come in, one volunteer should enter data into a spreadsheet. Some suggestions to include:
- The item’s number
- The item’s name
- The item’s description – Be specific
- The item’s donor
- The donor’s contact information
- The item’s retail value
- The item’s starting bid
- Send a Thank You
- Decide how payment will be taken: Using your own method or a Mobile Bidding Company?
- If using mobile Bidding, does the event venue have efficient Wifi.
Silent Auction 102: Registration
- Register all guests. Either assign a bidder’s number or have them use their name or phone number. If using mobile bidding, they will register the guests as they arrive on Ipads. If the fundraising organization is doing this, pick a method and familiarize the entire team who is helping in Registration and in Checkout.
Silent Auction 103: Set UP
- Gather plenty of tables.
- Theme Bundle the items into baskets and gather a retail value. Advertise each merchant that donated in the basket.
- Use Big fonts in printed descriptions of items. Display each description in a frame of some sorts so it is standing up.
- Lighting in the area of the Silent Auction must be bright.
- Have more than enough working pens and lots of clipboards.
- Use levels for a 3-dimenstional look if possible when setting up your items on the table.
- Organize Traffic flow so it is beneficial for the Silent Auction
- Have Bars in close vicinity.
- Have a Sound System and Emcee to help promote your Silent Auction Items
- If doing a traditional Silent Auction, have your tables marked in a color like Red, Blue, White because when you shut down the silent auction, shut it down in sections. Red Table closes in five minutes, the Blue Table closes in ten minutes, and the White Table closes in 15 minutes. This encourages higher bidding.
Silent Auction 104: Important Points
- Don’t have more items than you have active bidders.
- Publicize and promote your event. Don’t be SILENT about this.
- Jumble all priced items. Don’t place all the gift cards in one area, etc.
Silent Auction 105: Forms
- Use high-quality forms that are easy to read.
- Include the item name and item number on the bid form.
- Prominently feature the opening bid and minimum bid increments.
- All forms should be done by computer – not handwritten.
- If using Bid sheets have increments written in. See Example of a Silent Auction Capri and Amalfi Coast Bid Sheet.
- Use bid sheets with a starting bid of 40% of FMV. (Fair Market Value)
- Think about if you want to have a BUY IT NOW.
Silent Auction 106: Online Mobile Bidding
- Use an online silent auction listing so guests can see what to bid.
- Allow bids to be placed online before the event.
- Allow bids to be placed online before the event.
- Allow bids to be placed by people not present at the event.
- Publicize the URL of your online auction listings through social media.
- Have people available to show guests how to bid with their phones.
- Have Charging Stations in multiple locations.
- Use quality photos in the online catalog.
- Have Slide Stations sharing information on what needs to be bid on.
Silent Auction 107: Rules
- Post a written copy of the auction rules at the registration area and several places: Programs, Slides, Posted Etc.
- Don’t forget to publicly thank all your donors with signs and beside their donations.
Silent Auction 108: How to Close the Silent Auction
- Close the Silent Auction in sections: Red Table closes in five minutes, the Blue Table closes in ten minutes, and the White Table closes in 15 minutes. This encourages bidding.
- Make sure your guests know in advance when the Silent Auction is closing. Have reminders on screens and announcements being made around your venue.
- Entice the crowd to Bid. The emcee should make the announcements and conduct the countdown.
- Volunteers must be ready to collect sheets.
- Don’t forget to place a copy of the final bid sheet in front of the item after it’s closed.
Silent Auction 109: Collecting Payment
- Have multiple stations for checkout for guests.
- As soon as Silent Auction is closed, begin collating the bid sheets.
- As you are taking payment, volunteers (runners) are gathering items of each winning bidder.
- Never have “check out” during a program because that encourages people to leave.
- Have a note card to hand out to every winning bidder with the Mission statement of the event, a thank you for attending and for supporting the organization, and an area “asking” for a donated item next year and information on how to do this.
Silent Auction 110: Consignment Silent Auction Ambassador
Contact Impact Auctions to supply Trip Experiences and have a personal ambassador attend your silent auction for FREE.
- Consignment items add value to your existing silent auction.
Please leave your comments and questions. Good luck at your next event.
Written by Debbie and Ron Hitzel of Impact Auctions who are helping thousands of organizations raise money to support special causes all over America with live auctions, silent auction, and raffle games like Heads or Tails. Impact Auctions was created as a service to provide charity organizations a “TEAM” of talent to help non-profit events. Wouldn’t it be great to have an event planner who specializes in fundraising events at your event. 407-267-8988