Silent Auction Basket Tips

It’s a given that you want to get the most out of your silent auction donations. These 10 silent auction basket tips will definitely help you maximize your fundraiser results.

10 Silent Auction Basket Tips

Most silent auction baskets only attract a handful of bids and sell for about 50% to 60% of their suggested retail value. With these tips, you should be able to increase that revenue to the 85% range.

Delegate – If you are fundraising for a school, ask the room parent in each grade to coordinate a “grade basket”. Let them choose the theme and contact the parents in their classes for donations. Asking for help will produce a wider variety and more creative options.

Collect Cash – If you are hosting a silent auction for a school or organization with a large number of members, ask for small cash donations to shop for the baskets. A $1, $5, $10 may be easier for a busy parent to dish out than shopping for a specific item. Then, shop for outstanding items that really bump up the desirability factor of each basket. Think outside the box and snag hot items from places like eBay, Amazon, thrift shops, closeout sales, etc.

Assign donation items – If you are not in a position to accept cash donations to shop, make a list of ideal donations. Be descriptive to keep the baskets consistent. Use tools like Evite to send out a donation request e-mail to your supporters. Evite has a feature where you can make a list and participants can then sign up to bring a specific item, which in turn prevents anyone else from donating the same item. Or, you can also use a website like to coordinate item donation signups for your charity auction.

Know your audience – Know your target group and the demographics of the individuals attending. Is this an auction for a little league team or a school? Is this a group of young singles? Or maybe an auction at a golf tournament that is predominately males? By knowing your audience, you can appeal to local businesses for donations of specific items and coordinate your auction basket themes for the best results.

Limit the value – Save the high ticket items for your live auction. Keep your silent auction baskets to under $200 in value. If you have a lot of items and a great theme, break them up into several smaller baskets. Ideal basket prices are in the $50-$100 range.

Limit the quantity – Most groups make the mistake of having too many silent auction baskets compared to the number of actual bidders at their event. Most people will only bid on a few baskets. Some people only bid small amounts on items because they don’t really want to win them. Some people won’t bid at all. Having too many auction baskets puts attendees in the mindset of “getting a bargain” instead of voluntarily paying close to retail to help out your cause. What you really want are a limited quantity of highly desirable auction baskets that each attract serious bidders who really want to win that auction item.

Combine donations – Some items do better in a package than standing alone. For instance, a gift certificate for free pizzas may work better in a “Family Night In” basket than as a solo item. People sometimes will try to get a deal on a gift certificate causing the auction item to close lower than its face value. When you combine it with other items you may get more bang for your buck.

Package it right – Keep your silent auction basket theme tight. A beach basket that has items for teens, tweens, toddlers, etc, may look great, but may not appeal to a family with only two small toddlers. Same goes with a basket that has items for both boys and girls. That may get passed over by a family with all boys or all girls. Instead, split up the baskets to focus specifically on an age group, gender, theme concept, etc.

Require a minimum bid and set bid increments – Always set a minimum bid for any silent auction item. It should already be printed in the first bid line of your bid sheet so you won’t get any really low starting bids. A good starting bid point is 40% of the auction basket’s retail value. You should also set minimum bid increments of 10% of retail value. For example, a $100 silent auction basket should have a $40 starting bid and use mandatory $10 bid increments already printed on the bid sheet.

Use clear descriptions – A fun, creative name for your silent auction basket will draw attention, but its the item description that gets the bidding war started. Spell out exactly what’s included in each basket. Bullet lists are much better than one huge paragraph. Make it easy to read in a large font, use plain English, and include a call to action underneath such as “Bid now to win this item!”

Buy It Now – Always offer a “Buy It Now” option for bidders who really want the item and are willing to pay your asking price. Feature the Buy It Now price on the bid sheet because it reinforces the idea that someone else could just scoop this item up in a heartbeat.

Hopefully, these silent auction basket tips will help you maximize your fundraising results. Don’t forget to check out our list of businesses who donate items for fundraising auctions below.

More Silent Auction Tips

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