4imprint, LLC

5 min read

We know what you’re thinking: Who needs silent auction tips? A silent auction is simple! All it takes is a date, time and location, some cool auction items and paper bidding sheets. Although a basic silent auction can be simple and extremely effective, we have some secrets that can take yours to the next level.

Find new donors

If you’ve run a silent auction before, your first step will likely be to invite past donors and use items that have been successful in other auctions.

While that’s a good place to start, a silent auction provides an ideal opportunity to reach out to businesses you haven’t previously connected with. If they’re willing and able to donate an item or service, you not only have something new and interesting to offer at your auction, but you’ve also built a connection that could be even more fruitful down the road.

Set and share your goals

While you might think your auction only has one goal—fundraising—creating additional internal goals can help you achieve or exceed your main objective. These internal goals might include inviting 100 new potential supporters, building stronger relationships with current sponsors and donors, and raising awareness of your cause.

Be sure to share your external goal in a way that encourages a connection. Details matter. For example, instead of raising $50,000 to “support your mission,” say you’re raising $50,000 to distribute a certain number of meals, teach a certain number of kids to code or provide clean drinking water to 1,000 people.

Let people pay with credit cards

At a time where almost no one carries a checkbook and having cash on hand is getting rare, taking credit card payments not only allows people to bid, but it also lets them bid higher than they might have if they had to have cash on hand.

Offer mobile bidding

Going mobile can have a big impact on your fundraising efforts. In fact, switching to mobile bidding often results in 60-65% more bids. It creates other advantages as well, including:

  • A bigger audience. All bidding can be performed online, meaning anyone, anywhere can bid.
  • People can see right away if they’ve been outbid, which can lead to bidding wars.
  • More time. Bidding or pre-bidding can be open longer, allowing you to “start” the auction with many bids already in place.
  • Quick payments. Collection can be near-instantaneous, as the moment bidding closes payment can be processed.

Start with the right price

Although it can be tempting to start every bid at $0, doing so will prevent some items from earning their maximum potential. The easiest way to determine where any bid should start is to take its actual price and start the bidding at roughly 40-50% of that value.

If there’s no easy way to establish what an item is worth—for example, a meet-and-greet with a VIP—try reaching out to previous top donors and asking what they’d consider paying for it. You can also check past bids for similar items. Or take a look at your average bidder. Consider what they would most likely be able, or willing, to pay and start the bid at 40-50% of that price

Offer buy-it-now options

Buy-it-now options can be a great attention grabber if you have an item that’s truly a one-of-a-kind or was the subject of a previous bidding war. Setting your price high and offering a buy-it-now option can turn fear of missing out into an instant buy.

You can also offer nonprofit promotional products for sale for the donors who want to support you but don’t find anything that strikes their fancy. A high-end pen, watch or vacuum tumbler are great items to draw in bidders.

Thank everyone involved

When the auction is over, be sure to thank every single person who helped make it a fundraiser to remember. You can do this by:

  • Listing your auction winners in your newsletter.
  • Featuring staff on your social media pages.
  • Providing your volunteers with a hat or vest can double as an appreciation gift and a helpful “uniform” so people who need assistance at the auction can find a volunteer.

A quiet event can be a reason to cheer

A silent auction is a great way to raise the funds that help you make your community a better place. And with the help of these silent auction tips, you’ll be able to turn your fundraising successes into more community opportunities.