Silent Auction Do’s & Dont’s

Putting together a great silent auction is hard work, but many groups make some simple mistakes that cost them a lot of lost revenue. Here are some silent auction ideas, i.e. Do’s & Don’ts, to help you maximize your fundraising success.

Silent Auction Do's & Don'ts

How To Run A Silent Auction

The more organized you are, the more funds you’ll raise. These tips are all about getting the most from all your efforts.

Do’s:

  • Have a registration desk to sign up all bidders
  • Spread your silent auction items out into color-coded sections
  • Stagger the bidding end times for the different sections
  • Enable mobile bidding from cell phones

Don’ts:

  • Don’t jam everything together on just a few tables
  • Don’t use small fonts in descriptions and have poor lighting
  • Don’t fail to provide lots of working pens and reading glasses
  • Don’t fail to allow plenty of room for people to move around your tables

Silent Auction Items

There are three main ways to get items for your silent auction: from members and supporters of your own organization, from local businesses, and from auction consignment suppliers. Leverage all three sources to raise more money.

Do’s:

  • Group together low-priced items into a themed basket or bundle
  • Offer auction consignment items like autographed music & sports memorabilia, hot air balloon rides, and vacation rentals
  • Solicit unique experiences from local businesses such as lessons from a chef or lunch with a CEO
  • Use a “Grub Grab” rack for restaurant gift cards and a “Wine Pull” for donated wine

Don’ts:

  • Don’t have more items than you have active bidders
  • Don’t fail to heavily publicize and promote your event
  • Don’t hide your best items amidst a jumble of lower-priced items
  • Don’t fail to use a sound system to promote your auction items

Silent Auction Basket Ideas

Bundling items together into themed silent auction baskets is a great idea because it will help you get more bids and raise more money. Here’s a link to an article with 500 silent auction basket ideas.

Do’s:

  • Get creative with your themed auction baskets
  • Have auction baskets in many different price ranges
  • Have several of your best baskets in the section that’s the last to close

Don’ts:

  • Don’t fail to provide auction baskets geared toward men
  • Don’t fail to leave enough space in between your baskets
  • Don’t group your baskets solely by price range

Silent Auction Bid Sheets

Do’s:

  • Use bid sheets with a starting bid of 40% of FMV (Fair Market Value)
  • Mandate bid increments of 10% of FMV
  • Include a Buy It Now price so people who really want something can grab it
  • Remind people that bids that don’t follow the rules are invalid (minimum bid increments, etc.)

Don’ts:

  • Don’t fail to put your bid sheets on a clipboard to make it easy to write on
  • Don’t forget to use colored paper behind your bid sheets that matches the section color theme
  • Don’t forget to place a copy of the final bid sheet in front of the item after it’s closed

Silent Auction Forms

Do’s:

  • 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

Don’ts:

  • Don’t use photocopied forms
  • Don’t hand write in all the information, use a computer and printer
  • Don’t have people use their names on the bid forms, use their bidder ID number

Online Silent Auction

Do’s:

  • Use an online silent auction listing so guests can see what to bid on
  • Use a system that allows people to use their cell phones or tablets to bid
  • Allow bids to be placed online before the event
  • Allow bids to be placed by people not present at the event

Don’ts:

  • Don’t forget to publicize the URL of your online auction listings through social media
  • Don’t forget to have someone available to show people how to bid with their phones
  • Don’t forget to mention at the auction that you have online bidding available
  • Don’t use poor quality photos in the online catalog

Silent Auction Rules

Do’s:

  • Post a written copy of the auction rules at the registration area
  • Provide a written copy of the rules, possibly as back side of your donor thank you list

Don’ts:

  • Don’t forget to prominently post the auction rules in several places
  • Don’t forget to publicly thank all your donors with signs and beside their donations

And that’s how to run a silent auction to raise the maximum amount of funds!

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