Silent Auction Tips

Every time you do a fundraising event, you should include as many silent auction fundraiser items as possible. Here are some silent auction tips to help you raise the most money possible.

Silent Auction Fundraisers

Prominent placement
Location is everything in real estate and it’s just as important in silent auctions. One great place to feature your auction items is near your event ticket sales area because people are waiting in line and can focus attention on what’s being offered.

Another good spot for locating display tables is just to the right after entering the main area because that’s part of the natural traffic flow. Don’t forget that once everyone has entered your fundraising event, you can also relocate the display tables from the ticket sales area to other locations inside.

Use attractive descriptions
Each item should have a full page description of what’s included, what’s unique about it, what it’s retail value is, mention any restrictions or limitations, etc. Use bullet points and large fonts so that all signage is easy to read in dim light or from a distance.

Display your auction items well
Display clothing items on mannequins and if practical, allow people to touch and feel items of interest. Keeping things back behind the table doesn’t do much to encourage bidders!

If the actual items aren’t on display, as is the case with donated services or things that can’t be shown, then by all means provide high-quality photographs. If possible, include people in the pictures holding or demonstrating the goods or services.

Featured items
Spotlight your most valuable items, literally and figuratively. Place your best items in the most visible, high-traffic locations possible. If possible, arrange for spot lighting to highlight the coveted prizes.

You can have a staffer stand near those items and talk them up with interested bidders. You can also use an accent tablecloth or backdrop for dramatic effect.

For instance, your featured item might be a vacation trip to Italy. Create an attractive photo montage on poster board and set it up on a pedestal flocked with black velvet and spot light it for full effect. Keep the bids rolling in by describing it in glowing terms to everyone who stops to check it out.

Create item bundles
Oftentimes, a bundle of goods or services will bring in more revenue than the items would if sold separately. Be creative in how you bundle things. For instance, place a variety of gardening goods and tools in a wheelbarrow and attach a big sign saying “Wheel It Home!

Make bidding easy
Don’t forget that bidders almost always have something in their hands like a purse, an appetizer, a drink, etc. Make it easy for one-handed bids by taping down the bid sheet and description. And of course, provide a pen next to each auction item and attach it to the table with a string or chain.

Provide air time
Make sure your event emcee announces the silent auction items that are up for bids. Provide them with a cheat sheet where they can get information at a glance to use to whet the audience’s interest. Do everything possible to actively encourage bidding including providing periodic latest bid price updates on the top items.

Use a last call
Don’t forget to make periodic announcements about when the bidding will end. Give countdowns of time remaining. And most importantly, issue a last call for silent auction bids when there’s only ten minutes left for bidding.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Play up the fun aspect of bidding and do a good job describing and displaying your silent auction items. Create bundles of related items to attract more bids.

Start off each bid sheet with an opening bid from staff or volunteers. Then have your event emcee promote the auctions by giving bid price updates and time remaining reminders.

Follow these silent auction tips and you WILL do well and ensure that your event is successful enough to repeat year after year.