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Silent Auction Ideas Part 2: Tips on Running a Silent Auction

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 1/24/17 11:00 AM


Last Thursday, I brainstormed some silent auction ideas to come up with 150 different items you could potentially have at your auction. Today, as promised, I will cover some silent auction ideas on actually running an incredible event.

So let’s get right down to it: here are my ten ideas to really make your silent auction the best it can be. Use all 10 or pick and chose. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Silent Auction Idea 1: Create a Team.


No wo(man) is an island. We’ve all heard that said plenty of times. But it’s such a cliche because it is true. If you really want your silent auction to be a success, you can’t do it alone.

And think about it:

Do you really want to have to solicit all those donations all on your own?! Get some help!

So, the first thing you should do is create a team of workers and volunteers who are going to help you plan, run, and (yes! You aren’t on your own for this!) solicit items.

Now, obviously the amount of people you have on this team depends on the size of your auction, but make sure that the team is small enough to manage and communicate with ease while still being big enough to actually give everyone a manageable workload - and not two or three ‘manageable’ workloads.  

Silent Auction Idea 2: Don’t Forget the Wow Factor.

If you want people to bid on your items, you need to supply things they want to bid on. That’s pretty much common sense, but the trick is figuring out what people want.

To do this, take into account the following:

  • Your guests - what are they like? What do they like? What can they/are they willing to spend? The more you can segment instead of generalize, the better your items will be.
  • The stats - statistically, people are more prone to wanting memories than materials: in other words, experiences do better than things.
  • Yourself and your team - you’re all people (I assume). What would you want to bid on?
  • Your past - what are your biggest sellers in the past? What just doesn’t seem to generate excitement?
  • Creativity - what is something you have never done? Or that nobody is doing.
  • Limitedness - how hard is it to get? If you can go pick it up anywhere, then it probably isn’t all that exciting. If it is almost impossible to get (tickets to Hamilton anyone?) then it is going to drive in the bids - assuming it is hard to get because there is more demand for it than supply, as opposed to a limited supply because there isn’t a high demand.

You can also make things into packages. The more value that someone gets, the more likely they will be to bid. So, do you have a restaurant gift certificate, concert tickets, and a hotel voucher?

Why not make it a date night package: dinner, show, and a night away from the kids.

Have a great tour of Napa Valley? Get the winner excited about the event with some pre-gaming bottles of wine.

Be creative!

Silent Auction Idea 3: Do Not Forget Marketing.


Don’t wait until the event to announce that you got this amazing bid item that everyone for miles around is going to want. Even if you don’t put your items up for bid online (but more about that in idea 4), you should still put the items online.

This way, when people go to your registration site, they can already see what it is they want to bid on at the event. It also makes it easier to share with friends and family through social media - which you should be doing yourself too.

Silent Auction Idea 4: Invest in Great Silent Auction Technology.

When used the right way, technology makes almost everything better - and your silent auction is no exception. Having one system to help you track, run, and manage your silent auction can be crazy useful - it saves you time and can help you raise even more money, which in turn negates the sometimes high cost. So do some research and figure out if it is right for you. (And I would personally love it if you started out by checking out GiveSmart, but that is up to you obviously.)

Silent Auction Idea 5: Don’t Lock Down Your Auction to Your Event Date.


If you really want to see results, why limit your bids to the people who are available at a specific time and able to actually attend?

If you open your auction online, you can start days, weeks, whatever, before the event so that anybody can bid, anywhere.

You still might want to combine this with an on-site auction, though, instead of replacing the in-person experience with a fully online auction, as actually seeing the bids and the people in real time can add to the sense of urgency and competition.  

(P.S., on Thursday, I am going to do a whole post on why opening up your bidding online is right for you no matter who your audience is.)

Silent Auction Idea 6: Offer Other Ways to Give.

If your silent auction generated the interest that you wanted it to, then you are going to have some losers. But just because they didn’t get that great trip to Africa, doesn’t mean they can’t donate to your cause.

Make sure you have other ways to donate money at your event, from merchandise, to sponsorship opportunities, to good, old-fashioned donations.

Silent Auction Idea 7: If You Have Many Items, Organize Them.

Imagine if you went into a grocery store, and Cheerios was on one row, while Trix was five rows down, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch was nowhere even close. What’s more, on the row with Cheerios, you found batteries, flour, and shampoo.

If you are like me, you’d probably be bemused, annoyed, and highly amused all at once. You might want to spread the news about the weird organization, but not in a good way.


organization-silent-auction-ideas This is an aisle at a store I was shopping in that really demonstrates how bizarre being unorganized can be. Can somebody explain why diapers go on the ice cream cone aisle?



Well, your auction is the same way. If you have a lot of items, then you need to make sure they are organized in a sensical way your guests will appreciate.

This could be by category or starting price range (or some other, maybe more creative, way.) But it should be done.

Silent Auction Idea 8: Have Helpers on the Floor.

“I don’t know what to do.”

“How do I change my bid?”

“Where do I go to bid on the behind the scenes tour of the Met?”

Make sure you have members of your team on hand at a moment’s notice to answer all of their pressing questions.

Silent Auction Idea 9: Track the Bidding Info.


There are a lot of reasons you should keep track of bidding info. However, for this, I am only going to talk about one:

Your next event.

Tracking this info helps with marketing anything you do in the future.

Let’s say that Bobby White really wanted your fishing package. He kept bidding on it, but in the end, Julie Smith eeked out the victory, leaving Bob with a sad future of no fishing…

Or did it?

Guess what? By tracking that info, you know that Bob likes fishing. So at your next event, when you have another fishing package, you can just casually send him an email like,

“Hey Robert,

We know you wanted this package last year, so we wanted to make sure you were aware we had it again this year.”

Bam! Mr. White is back this year and better than ever.  

Silent Auction Idea 10: Thank Everybody!

Here is the last of my silent auction ideas for today:

Thank everybody!

People like feeling appreciated. So make them feel appreciated.

Make sure you do a good job thanking your team, your volunteers, your guests, and your donors. Then, they’ll be more likely to come back in the future.

Some Final Thoughts

People are coming to your event to have fun while helping out a good cause, so use some of the silent auction ideas from above, and create a silent auction nobody will ever forget!

And if you want to know more about how GiveSmart helped a rural nonprofit raise over $85,000 at their charity event and auction, then check out this case study:Get the Case Study

Topics: Silent Auctions, Tips and How To's

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