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A top performer at charity events continues to be the silent auction. Nonprofits of all sizes look to the silent auction to fuel their fundraising and fund a portion of their missions.
Donors love the excitement and suspense of winning an item, and they take comfort in the fact that their bidding will support a cause they care about.
We are going to dive into the nuts and bolts of how to run a silent auction. This comprehensive guide will give you the step-by-step tools you need to make your next silent auction the best yet.
Let’s get started!
A silent auction is a fundraising process in which bids are placed on items during a set timeframe. After the auction closes, the highest listed bidder for each item wins.
Traditional silent auctions have paper bid sheets where bidders manually write their bids on each item. With mobile bidding, the silent auction donors can bid from their smartphones anytime and anywhere.
Not matter what you use, silent auctions are a great way to generate revenue, fun, and engagement at your special events. But they require a good strategy and detailed planning to be done right.
Don’t worry – we’ve got your covered. Here are the 9 steps to run your silent auction without a hitch:
Getting the planning right for your silent auction is the first step to success. From themes, to budgets, and everything in between, you want to be equipped to take your fundraising to new heights.
To make things easy for you, we’ve broken down all things prep-related:
No one said you had to do it alone! Committees help divide and conquer planning tasks, making it easier to cover more ground and raise more funds. They are the backbone to your auction success and needed to reach your fundraising goals.
Look for people who have done it before and are passionate about the cause, are good at being on teams, and love to brainstorm ideas for your next auction. Work together to:
The earlier you start, the better chance you have to lock them in!
Congrats! You’ve made it through the planning phase of running your silent auction. Depending on the size and scope of your silent auction, you’ll want to start planning between one year and nine months out from the event date.
A silent auction can only be as successful as the quality of its auction items. Priceless and engaging items excite your audience and raise more proceeds to fuel your mission.
There isn’t a magical list of items that guarantee to sell best, but we can help point you in the right direction.
Think about the donor profiles in your database. Think to yourself: Which items would particularly excite this demographic of people?
Be picky with the items you accept (if you can). Analyze past auction data or go to other auctions in your community to help guide your procurement efforts. To get started, you can generally count on these charity auction buckets to bring in big bids:
Make sure to communicate the retail value of your auction item to bidders on your bid sheet—item value is a huge factor in driving bidder. If they feel like they’re bidding on a valuable or priceless item, bidding will soar, all while increasing proceeds for your silent auction.
To bring in awesome items, create auction solicitation packets to send to businesses and past supporters to request auction donations. Divide your efforts by business type, neighborhood, or auction item types to give the best bet of getting your wish list auction items.
Now’s the time to spread the word! Create excitement about your event and bidding (and winning) potential auction items. Marketing your event will get bidders in the door and ensure you can generate the revenue needed to hit your goals.
To have a strong marketing strategy, you will need to:
Think of your marketing strategy as the ‘creation’ part of the planning process. It’s where you can bring you plans to life and create the momentum needed to draw in those big crowds!
Now that we’ve planned, organized and promoted, you are ready to run your best silent auction yet.
The big day is here. Make a great impression on attendees by running a smooth and exciting silent auction!
Running a smooth auction means you need to be organized effectively, have an efficient registration, and make the bidding as fun as possible.
You might be wondering: Didn’t I already organize my silent auction when I planned for it? Well, yes, but on-site organization is where you bring the silent auction planning together into your onsite masterpiece.
After this section, you’ll be ready to execute a flawless auction that will have your guests singing your praise!
The amount of volunteers you need to run your auction is dependent on the size of your event, setup of your venue, and in event fundraising activities you have planned.
Before you open the doors, you will need to train volunteers to:
Your event team will need to know when and where to arrive, what to wear, what tasks they’ll be performing, and how long they can expect their shift to last.
Take the time to assign your volunteers to the right roles. Remember this army of volunteers will have your back on event day!
Take a moment before your event to put yourself in the shoes of the attendee. For most attendees, it will be the first time at the venue (and some even the first-time bidding at a silent auction).
Create the perfect guest experience by taking time to setup:
Your auction experience is only as good as your auction items are organized. In order to have a seamless and smooth experience for your guests, your team will need to be organized.
Use a system that makes finding the silent auction items easy and fast. Here are two suggestions:
Ready to register your guests? You bet you are!
Registration is the first impression your guests have of your event — make it a great one!
Like anything in life, having fun puts people in a good mood. Be sure to keep this in mind when planning your event. Create an atmosphere that has energy and use a variety of communication strategies onsite to drive excitement!
Let’s end an awesome event well and stay organized through the very last guest going through checkout.
The silent auction checkout process has been to known to cause a headache or two with the combination of checkout, item pick up, and payment processing. Let’s make it a breeze.
Donors with a great experience at checkout are more likely to return for the same event next year and attend other fundraising galas for your organization.
Because of the paper driven process, the end of night process will require more people and volunteer power to keep checkout running smoothly. Think about eliminating wait times at checkout with mobile bidding to improve your donors’ experience.
The following will help improve your donor experience at checkout:
After you have processed payments, send guest to the item pick up area.
Silent auctions can be notorious for unclaimed items after checkout, but they don’t have to be! Take steps to prevent this so you will have less follow-up post-event:
Take a deep breath! All items are spoken for, and the last guest walked out the door with a smile on their face. Congrats on your successful event!
It’s important to remember that donor communication and follow-up are important parts of the silent auction process.
Communicate three things to your attendees post-event:
Thanking donors properly (and promptly) will extend the relationships you made at your silent into your larger fundraising efforts.
Congrats! We’ve walked through the core stages of how to run a silent auction from: preparation, running the event, and checkout.
Now, your job is to put this step-by-step guide into action and have your best silent auction to date.
Check out the resources below to find other tips and tricks that will kickstart your fundraising. We’re here to help!
About to tackle a silent auction? Check out these resources to help guide you to success.