Top 10 Tips To Run A Successful Silent Auction

As I’m writing, I’m picturing you sitting at your desk in a busy London office, tasked with organising a Silent Auction to generate revenue for your next fundraiser.

Perhaps you came across our blog through a Google search, frantically looking for where to start, or maybe you’re already a pro at this fundraising lark and you’re just on the lookout for a few extra tips.

Either way, this top ten list of tips is bound to get those creative juices flowing and help you to get the planning going for your next Silent Auction.

  1. Think carefully about your items

    It’s pretty much all about the items. If you haven’t got exciting, attention-grabbing items that people can’t help but get into bidding wars over, then you’re going to struggle to make your Silent Auction a success.

    Research what items are going to get the most bids (we have a great blog on this) but in general, you’ll find that experiences are more popular than physical items like pieces of home decor or art. Everyone’s tastes are very different, so the less subjective the item, the more people it will appeal to. Perhaps a trip to London with theatre tickets and an overnight stay would be popular, or something that seems very much like a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ that they’ll never be able to get at that price again.

  2. Look After The People

    That trip to London can’t take itself – You need bidders! But they’re not the only people that matter when it comes to your Silent Auction. You need auction donors as well, all the time remembering why you’re doing this. Your charitable organisation is important, and so are the people you’re raising money for.

    Auction donors not only want to help your cause by donating an item, but they also want to see said item do well for their own benefit. This is a great way for organisations to gain awareness of their business or product whilst helping a worthwhile cause.

    And the way for these donors to feel happy, is to see plenty of bidders battling over their item! You want your bidders to feel excited to win as well as happy they are supporting such a good cause. The happier they feel and the more fun they have, the more likely they will be to come to another one of your events.

  3. Make Your Bidding Sheets Easy to Use

    We’ve listed exactly what information to put on your bidding sheet on a previous blog, but there are some other important pointers to bear in mind when creating this.

    Firstly, not everyone’s a London banker or a stock exchange whizz – Do the maths for people and make it as simple as possible. If you want each bid to go up by at least £10, then start at the minimum bid and then fill in the column for all subsequent bids. Then all they need to do is put their details next to the bid they choose. You could also have an Own It Now line at the bottom of the sheet where a bidder can go straight in and guarantee their win – this bid should be around 150% of the value.

    And don’t forget to have plenty of pens!

    You could even scrap bidding sheets altogether, and use Mobile Bidding Software. It can be so tedious and time-consuming putting your information in over and over again on different bidding sheets, but Mobile Bidding Software would mean they only need to do it once. It also makes things easier and more convenient for you as the software automatically finds the highest bidder and notifies them! Well worth looking into.

  4. Evoke and Inspire

    Don’t underestimate the power of sharing your cause to encourage bids.

    If your guests feel so moved by the incredible work you are doing, and can see what a difference their money would make through your organisation, then they will feel even better about placing bids and may even end up bidding more than the item is actually worth to them.

    The idea is to make them feel good about spending their money – They might feel really excited that they won the trip to London, but even better if they feel like that money they have bid is going to help people.

  5. Market Your Silent Auction Well

    Don’t put all your efforts into the items and organisation, and then forget to advertise and market your event. You need people to know about your Silent Auction, give them FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they weren’t to attend, and feel so excited about going that they want to bring along their friends and family.

    Make sure you include your most sought-after items in the advertising – Make people desperate to get to your event and make those bids!

    Make sure you also display the items well on the night itself. Consider the layout of the room so that it is as easy as possible for bidders to move freely around the room and see the items on offer. Also consider how you can display items that are not physical products in the best ways – That overnight stay in London could have large photos of the hotel, a big mock-up ticket for the theatre show and an interactive map of tourist attractions close by.

  6. Consider Item to Guest Ratio

    You might think that the more items you have, the more money you’ll make but that’s not necessarily the case. If you have too many items for your number of guests, it will be too overwhelming. A rough rule of thumb is to limit the number of items to 60% of the number of bidders (couples count as 1). There will be a fantastic buzz created from all that friendly rivalry of everyone trying to win! Less items but with more WOW factor is the way to go. If you have table after table of ugly vases and random paintings, they’ll block the view of that exciting London theatre trip and you could lose potential bids.

  7. Look at the Legal Stuff

    When it comes to Silent Auctions, there’s not usually any special licenses that you’ll need. However, there are legalities that you need to consider.

    When writing your item descriptions, bear in mind the Sale of Goods Act. If you describe that London hotel as 5* when it’s actually now a 3*, or the theatre show as a sell-out when it’s not, then you could land yourself in hot water.

    Also make sure that you are up to speed on new GDPR legislation, as you will be collecting personal data from all of your guests during your event, and if you don’t have their permission to keep it, it will need to be destroyed.

  8. Train Your Volunteers

    There’s nothing more annoying than asking someone a question and them not knowing the answer.

    Make sure all of your volunteers are up to speed on all aspects of your Silent Auction. They need to know about the items, the timings, how to make a bid, the layout of the venue and where the toilets are. It would also be good if they were naturally good at encouraging people to make bids.

  9. Be Strict With Timings

    Don’t see a rush towards an item and be tempted to keep the bidding open longer than scheduled.

    You need to set your timings and stick to them rigidly, or risk having disgruntled guests who feel hard done by because they got out-bid at the last minute for their overnight stay in London.

    People will not come back to a future Silent Auction or fundraising event if they feel cheated or betrayed.

    Make sure you have a dedicated person keeping an eye on the time, and plenty of volunteers at each bidding station to ensure no cheating goes on.

  10. Don’t Remind People That ‘Times Are Tough’

    People wouldn’t be at your event if they didn’t have the money or motivation to donate to your cause.

    These people are there because they want to support your organisation and your event. They will likely have a budget in mind as to what they would like to spend, but telling them that ‘times are tough’ will only plant small seeds of doubt over whether they can afford to spend what they’ve budgeted. Focus on being encouraging and motivating!

So there we go – 10 Top Tips for making your Silent Auction a successful one!

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