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The Best (And Worst) Items for Your Silent Auction

So you’ve read our ‘Best Practice Guide to Silent Auctions’ blog and are now ready and raring to go with organising your own silent auction to raise all that money for your charity or organisation.

There’s just one thing… What items are going to get the best donations? And what items are worthing skipping altogether?

Of course, this is slightly dependent on the skills of your team and how shameless they are when it comes to asking people for a donated item, and also the willingness of the people in your community.

But if you don’t ask, you don’t get! You might as well try.

So here are our top silent auction items (and what to avoid!)

Best Silent Auction Items

The best items are those that are more of an experience than a physical thing – Especially if it’s a once in lifetime experience, for example, meeting a celebrity of having a famous chef cook you and a guest dinner. The bigger the wow-factor the better in terms of how much you can raise, but you can also get fabulous bidding on fairly simple things to arrange.

Here are some examples:

  • Restaurant / Dining Packages – What’s the best rated restaurant in your area (or nearby city) on Trip Advisor? Why not contact them and ask for a voucher towards a meal and drinks? If going for a city nearby, try and include an overnight stay aswell.
  • Travel Packages – Maybe you have a local independent travel shop, or maybe you’re just a stones throw away from some great city breaks! Contact council teams at Visit (Enter city name here) and maybe they’ll help organise an item for you.
  • Experiences / ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Experiences – As we said above, these could be anything you’re willing to ask for! Perhaps a famous person lives in your town and might donate an hour or two of their time for a local meet and greet, all for a great cause? Twitter could be your friend here.
  • Tickets – Sports games, cinema, comedy gig, festival, theatre, opera – You could even try and throw in an overnight stay local to where the event is.
  • Wine / Beer / Liquor – Pretty self explanatory. You might have a distillery, brewery or independent wine merchant in your local vicinity. All worth approaching for donations!
  • Sports Items – Organisers often overlook the power of male bidding – A man will tend to be more impulsive when bidding as well as spur his friends on to bid, so make sure you have some items that will catch their eye. Try to tailor to your guests – If they’re keen golfers then go that sporting route, same for football / cricket / tennis etc. Match the interests of your guestlist.
  • Electronic Gadgets, Tech, Toys – Another one aimed mainly at male guests
  • Signed Memorabilia – For example music (signed records), sports (signed cricket bat or tennis ball). Be careful with this one though – These are great, but only when aimed at the right audience. If you know you’ve got the local cricket team attending then a signed cricket bat by one of the England team could be an exciting addition to your items, but again, try to match items to what your guestlist will be excited to bid on.
  • Presentation – Don’t underestimate the power of presentation. A well presented item will catch the bidders eye, draw them in and encourage them to make a bid. A boring piece of paper with ‘Once in a Lifetime Experience’ written on it in black ink is not going to tempt people to read it. A board with colour photos of a beautiful hotel room, gorgeous view, and delicious looking dinner is more likely to catch someones eye.

Items to Avoid

Generally, this is anything which will rely on personal taste – These items are more subjective and harder to match to your guests interests.

  • Artwork – Choosing artwork for your home is very personal, and it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to pick something that will exactly match someone’s preferences (you’ll likely be get what you’re given from the artist you’ve approached, rather than have pick of their paintings!).
  • Clothing – Again, this is very subjective. Not only do you have personal preferences on style and colour, but also size comes into play with this. If you are able to offer exchange options for something of the same value then you might get away with this one but it’s a bit of a risky one.
  • Jewellery – This might seem like a relatively straightforward item to get, but will it actually add value to your silent auction? It’s another personal one, but also can be more of a distraction. Ladies, being generally less impulsive than men, will look and look, end up not seeing the other items and result in not bidding on anything at all.
  • Vintage / Antique / Second Hand Accessories – Very rarely popular unless you know you have avid collectors of a particular something on your guestlist.
  • Photography – This is a slightly tricky one. Many people would be tempted by a makeover photoshoot, or family photoshoot with images included, however it would be useful to somehow peer review this type of item so they have a bit more trust in what they’re bidding on. How will the guest know that they are a good photographer?
  • Style Consultations – A bit niche, and not to everyones taste.
  • Professional Services – The trouble with these is that your guests aren’t going to know or have any trust in the person who’s offering the service. It could be accounting, massage, nails, PT sessions, they all face that trust problem and put a bit of doubt in the bidders mind. On the flip side of this, if someone donates their service but no one bids or it doesn’t meet the minimum bid amount, it can get a bit awkward with said service donater.
  • Home Decor and Garden – Household items, ‘nik naks’, candles etc. Just ‘things’! With the current Marie Kondo craze sweeping the nation, people are ridding their house of things they no longer view functional or necessary. Does it bring joy? That’s the million dollar question.
  • Items With Lots of Restrictions – It’s all well and good getting a hotel stay donated, or a voucher to spend on tickets, but if there are lots of blacked out dates, minimum stay restrictions, and too many rules to read, potential bidders are going to be put right off.

And remember… Sometimes people come to these things because they believe in your cause and want to support your mission, but don’t really want to be taking home ‘things’. These people, however, will be more than willing to attend your event and make a donation, so make sure this is possible for them to do and easy as possible. This could be a portable donation point or contactless device or app where they can make a quick, easy donation and feel like even though they’re going away empty handed, they’ve still helped your cause.

With this in mind, it’s really important that you spend time inspiring your guests about your cause at the event. Your attendees are already primed to support you, even if they’re a guest of friends or an employer rather than someone that has bought a ticket. Don’t waste all those good feelings you’ve generated from running a fab event – Make sure you’ve got the technology to make donations super quick and easy.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get collecting!