10 Silent Auction Ideas For Extra Profits

Here are 10 silent auction ideas that are guaranteed to help you raise more money with your next silent auction. There’s an art to doing silent auctions in a way that maximizes the amount raised, with many of these ideas being almost the direct opposite to the approach most groups are using.

We’ll take a look at ideas like why you should spread your silent auction items out into different sections, why you should group items by price and not theme, why the bid sheets you’ve been using are costing you a lot of money, and why having too many items at silent auctions can lower your results.

10 Silent Auction Ideas

  1. Why bidder registration is a must
  2. Don’t group everything in one area
  3. Its all about traffic flow – Avoid U-shaped layouts and corners
  4. Always color code your sections
  5. Stagger your section closing times
  6. Why grouping by price raises more money
  7. Avoid having too many items
  8. Item descriptions need bullet points, not paragraphs
  9. Use the right opening bid and bid increments
  10. Why your bid sheets must have these 5 things

OK, let’s get into these 10 ideas for silent auctions that will definitely boost your results.

Bidder Registration – Having everyone register in advance greatly simplifies the entire process from bidding to checkout. Each bidder completes a form with all the necessary information and receives a bidder number. They use that bidder ID number on the bid sheets, so all they have to write is their number and their bid which in turn speeds up traffic flow at your display tables.

Your bidder registration process should include getting a signed copy of your silent auction rules so that your organization is legally protected. Also, put your rules on on posters near each display area to remind people of proper bidding procedures. Here’s a link to a full discussion of silent auction rules.

Spread Things Out – Most groups make the mistake of only having one display area for their silent auction items. You definitely want to spread things out because you will get more bids. Why? Because more people can then fully access all the items that interest them and place bids on what they like without it taking forever.

Traffic Flow – Using a cluster of display tables at your silent auction that contains a tight corner or even worse, a U-shaped layout is a big no-no. You want your bidders to have smooth access to all your display tables and that’s impossible with anything but a linear (straight-line) layout. Keep the traffic flow smooth and allow plenty of room for people to cluster around popular items or leapfrog to what they want.

There is no way around the fact that people will want to chat with others they know and cluster around certain tables. Providing a linear flow with plenty of space for people to move around is essential to maximizing your bids.

Color Coded Displays – Once you spread things out, you want to color code your auction displays to call attention to them. Use attention getters like balloon arches or large fabric swatches so that each silent auction area is easily visible from anywhere from entrance to refreshment area to seats. Use large easel stands with matching color posters with area color name and closing time.

Stagger Silent Auction Closing Times – You want to stagger the closing times for your various sections because the last 10 minutes is when people who really want an item in that section will come back to bid one more time. They’ll even engage in last minute sniping, hovering nearby to get the very last bid in. By staggering your section closing times, you’ll maximize bids for many more items than you would otherwise. Plus, your emcee can remind people of sections getting ready to close and which hot items are still in play.

Group Items By Price – While many silent auction displays are grouped by theme, that’s not the best way to do things. This silent auction idea to group things by price is important because if you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table. Why? Because the average bidder is really only interested in a few items and mostly the very good ones. Grouping those together in the last area to close will get you the most bids on the most expensive items.

That’s not to say that you can’t have some themed areas if you want to have bidders focus on certain things, but you always want to have your best items on the last table to close so you’ll maximize revenues.

Avoiding Having Too Many Auction Items – A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of one silent auction item for every two guests. Why? Because most people will only seriously bid on 8 to 10 items. How much time do they have to sort through all your silent auction items to find those ones that really interest them? If you have more items than the golden 1:2 ratio, then consolidate some items together into bundles. Pair a restaurant gift certificate with a premium bottle of wine to get more bids. You absolutely positively don’t want to have any auction items that attract less than five bids!

Use Bullet Points, Not Text – Similarly, don’t make people read paragraphs when bullet points will do a better job of communicating the essentials. Remember that you want good traffic flow and to let people get to all the tables to find that handful of “must have” items that they will seriously bid on to win. Use large, easy to read fonts and dramatic points of emphasis.

Opening Bids & Increments – Every auction item should list its Fair Market Value as any bids above the FMV are partially tax-deductible as a charitable donation. Your opening bid on every item should be roughly 40% of FMV. Always round off upward to even amounts. Then, each additional bid increment should be 10% of FMV, rounded off to an even number.

Example: A silent auction item has a FMV of $299. Opening bid should be $120 and the minimum bid increment should be $30. If the opening bid is for the minimum amount and each additional bidder only uses the minimum increment, then it will take 6 bids for the item to reach FMV.

That’s also a good example of why you don’t want to have too many items in your silent auction because you want to get at least 5 or 6 bids on every item. Otherwise, you won’t even be getting fair market value for the items you worked so hard for to get donated.

5 Bid Sheet Must Haves – If you want to maximize revenues, here are five things that you must have on your bid sheets:

  1. Pre-printed opening bid amounts and mandatory bid increments. Otherwise, you’ll get people making invalid bids which just wastes everybody’s time and your money.what else are must haves for your bid sheets?
  2. A Buy It Now Price – A BIN price is so someone who really wants the item can grab it immediately. A good rule of thumb to use isFMV plus 10%.
  3. Silent Auction Item’s Fair Market Value. Including the FMV boosts bids by showing people what the item is really worth.
  4. Multi-part Bid Form. Use a duplicate or triplicate copy bid sheet to save time and be able to leave a copy behind at closing time without having to go make copies and come back to put one by every item.
  5. Bidding Pens – Have pens that are ready to write a bid the second they pick it up. No removable caps, no clicking the button. You can also boost bids with a pair of reading glasses nearby in a wine glass.

I hope that these 10 silent auction ideas have helped you realize that there are many ways to earn extra profits by taking a little time to do things a bit differently.