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.
Need to formulate a strong silent auction strategy? Be sure to check out the first part of our silent auction series where we covered how to plan a silent auction! In part two, we’ll 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 one 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 10 steps to run your silent auction without a hitch:
1. Organize Your Auction
2. Conduct Registration
3. Make Bidding Fun
4. Regularly Check In with Guests
5. Check Out Attendees
6. Administer Auction Items
7. Collect Feedback from Attendees
8. Reflect on Your Fundraising Goals and Update Supporters
9. Express Appreciation
10. Share Content from Your Event
When your big event day has finally arrived, you want to 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:
Your auction experience is only as good as your auction items are organized. To have a seamless experience for your guests, 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!
Put the ‘fun’ in fundraising! Create an atmosphere that has energy and use a variety of communication strategies onsite to drive excitement.
As your event continues, be sure to regularly check in with your guests to ensure they’re engaged and eager to bid. This is especially important if you’re hosting an online or hybrid silent auction.
If engagement levels are low, consider different ways you can re-immerse attendees into the bidding action:
In addition to the ideas above, for an in-person event, you should have dedicated members of your team going around to mingle with guests and thank them for their support. It’s not everyday that you get to be face-to-face with the donors who make your mission possible. Don’t miss the opportunity to share their impact and your appreciation.
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.
If you use paper bids, 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!
While your guests are still engaged, take a moment to collect feedback from them before they exit the building or leave the livestream. You can text out a mobile-friendly link to a survey that asks them to:
This valuable feedback will help you gauge how you can improve your silent auction strategy for the future.
The work isn’t over just because the auction is! Use these steps to engage your audience and prepare your nonprofit for future fundraising auctions.
After your event wraps up, take time to reflect on your goals and determine whether you met them. If you didn’t, determine where there were gaps in your strategy or silent auction experience that you can hone in on. If you did, identify ways you can improve your strategy to raise even more revenue next time!
Then comes one of the most important steps of running a silent auction: following up with your supporters.
Did you know that the 2023 Giving Experience Research Study found that 48% of donors were more likely to give again when they felt like their donation had an impact?
Send an update to all of your supporters letting them know how much you raised and how this revenue will supercharge your mission. It could make or break your next 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.
The days and weeks immediately following an event present a huge opportunity for additional fundraising and further donor engagement. Post-event marketing is an art in and of itself and, if done right, can build lasting donor relationships.
After your event is over, continue to:
You can even create blog posts on your nonprofit’s website that summarize the results and go over all the event highlights. This way, you can showcase the impact of your event and encourage supporters to sign up for the next event to continue pushing your mission forward.
Congrats! We’ve walked through the core stages of how to run a silent auction from running the event and checking out to follow-up. 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!
Successful auctions require powerful fundraising software! The OneCause Fundraising Platform makes giving modern, flexible, and seamless to drive deeper engagement and grow your fundraising. Take a look at this versatile all-in-one fundraising software that meets the expectations of today’s donor, supporting any event, in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
About to tackle a silent auction? Check out these resources to help guide you to success.