How to Run a Silent Auction

Silent Auction FormsAre you looking for guidelines and ideas to help to answer the question, “How to run a silent auction”?

If so, you’ve come to the right place! Silent auctions and online charity auctions are a great way for nonprofit and community organizations to raise money for their cause. Not only do charity auctions have tremendous fundraising potential, but they are relatively easy to plan, especially with the help of charity auction software.

Step 1: Planning Your Silent Auction

The first step in organizing a silent auction is planning. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider:

  • Determine how you will host your silent auction. Will it be an online charity auction? Will it be part of another fundraising event where people physically bid on items displayed? Will it be a combination of the two?
  • What are your fundraising goals? How much money do you hope to raise? Do you intend to secure sponsorships? What resources do you have? What is your budget?
  • Does your auction have a theme? If so, this may influence the type of donations you wish to acquire. i.e. perhaps you are a sports team raising money for a new stadium. Autographed sports memorabilia and season tickets to your local professional sports team may be appropriate prizes.
  • You’ll also want to be aware of percent of transactions received by the vendor and additional fees for technical support (Note: DoJiggy does not take a percentage of your fundraising dollars or charge for support)

Step 2: Collecting Donated Items

Once you’ve identified the theme and type of auction you will host, you’ll now want to reach out to the community, businesses, local celebrities and any networks you have to receive donated items, talents or treasures to auction off. This is a very important step as the donations you secure for the auction are the items people are purchasing and thus bringing in the money for your cause! Examples of auction items include autographed CDs, movies, pictures from famous people, sports-team memorabilia, antiques, dinner donations from local restaurants or time or talent from local community members such as free piano lessons, knitting or other crafts lessons, handyman for a day, baked goods, etc. The more unique and valuable the auction items are, the more money they will bring in. You will also want to be sure the items you choose to auction off work with the vision of your organization and theme of your event. (i.e. it would not make sense for an animal activist group to auction off fur jackets) Consider including some high-ticket items such as vacation getaways. Don’t worry, you often don’t have to pay for these items up front and they can add a lot of value to your charity auction. Check out our no risk auction items to find out how you can include high-ticket items that bring in large donations without taking on any risks!

Step 3: Setting Up your Auction Website

Once you’ve collected items to auction off, and selected your online fundraising software provider, you’ll want to set up your auction website. Your auction website is the place where all the action happens. Here you will host information about your organization and the purpose of the fundraiser, as well as detailed information about the items up for bid. The auction website serves as an online catalog that potential visitors can easily browse through items available for purchase and safely place their bid online using a secure payment processor. Your auction website includes detailed information about each item up for bid including: product images, starting bids, item values, reserve amounts, bid increments, links to the donor’s web page, optional “Buy Now” pricing and more. In addition, it gives people who are unable to attend the actual event a chance to bid on items.


Step 4: Promoting the Silent Auction

Make sure to spread the word about your online charity auction or silent auction event. Distribute a press release to local media announcing the event and listing the URL of your fundraising website where online bids can be made. Make sure to highlight any special “one-of-a-kind” items such as antiques, rare artwork or celebrity autographed merchandise. Post announcements on your organization’s web site, send email invitations, and create event flyers to post on community bulletins. Encourage employees, sponsors and supporters to share information with their network of family, friends and associates. They can easily post announcements on their social networking pages with a link to your online auction helping to drive traffic to your auction website.

If your silent auction is part of another fundraising event, you’ll want to promote the silent auction at the actual event as well. Consider printing a silent auction program that lists all items up for bid including photos, descriptions and starting bids. Distribute this at the start of your event as a quick preview of what items are available to spark interest of attendees. This will likely send them over to the display table to get a first-hand look at the items and place their bids.

Step 5: Managing the Auction Details

DoJiggy provides a number of silent auction forms you can print for your event, such as a sample bid sheet which includes a picture, item description, and current high bid info if bids have been taken online. There are also numerous reports your organization may use to evaluate overall success at the end of the fundraiser for future planning.