How to Run a Silent Auction: Tips for Online and Live Events

Silent auctions and online charity auctions are a great way for nonprofits, schools, and community organizations to raise money for their cause. Not only do charitable auctions have tremendous fundraising potential, but they are relatively easy to plan, especially with the help of charity auction software. Let’s review the steps and learn how to run a silent auction successfully.

Step 1: Start with a Strong Auction Fundraising Committee

Planning a silent auction involves many moving parts, so don’t try to go it alone. Your development team can get help from volunteers and Board members. Auctions are fun events and many supporters will be interested in helping out.

Start with a Strong Auction Fundraising Committee

You’ll need key people in these areas when forming your auction committee:

  • Event Planning: If you’re hosting a live auction event, there are several event planning tasks to consider. Booking the venue, determining the menu or catering options, organizing auction day volunteers, and more.
  • Item Procurement: You’ll need at least one individual or a small team to handle the procurement of auction items. Be sure to find people who are comfortable asking for donations for this role – as this is key to your auction’s success.
  • Marketing: Marketing and PR are another vital part of your event’s success. Be sure that your marketing team considers online promotion like email campaigns and social media as well as traditional and community advertising.

Step 2: Planning Your Silent Auction Logistics

Planning Your Silent Auction Logistics

The first step in organizing a silent auction is planning the auction logistics. 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, going from online to live?
  • What is the date of the auction and how long will constituents have to bid online?
  • What are your fundraising goals? How much money do you plan to raise?
  • Do you have a fundraising budget? What costs and resources do you have?
  • Do you intend to secure sponsorships to help with any upfront costs?
  • Does your auction have a theme? If so, this may influence the type of donations you wish to acquire. Perhaps you are a baseball team raising money for a new stadium. Autographed sports memorabilia and season tickets to your local professional sports team would be great prizes.

Step 3: Procuring Great Auction Items

This is a critical step to the success of your silent auction’s bottom line. The items you secure for your auction are the items people are purchasing, and thus bringing in the money for your cause. 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 obviously not make sense for an animal shelter fundraiser to auction off fur jackets).

Great Auction Items are a big part of How to Run a Silent Auction Online

First, you’ll want to reach out to the community, businesses, local celebrities, and any networks you have to receive donated items, talents, or treasures to auction. Examples of popular donated auction items include:

  • Gift certificates from local businesses of all kinds
  • Hotel stays or vacation packages
  • Spa treatments – manicures, massages, and more
  • Autographed CDs, movies, or pictures from famous people
  • Sports-team memorabilia
  • Antiques or unique artwork
  • Dinner for 2 gift certificates from local restaurants
  • Donations of time and talent from local community members, such as free piano or crafts lessons, handyman for a day, and more.

Don’t limit your auction procurement to only in-kind donations. Consider including high ticket items such as vacation getaways, even if you need to purchase them. Don’t worry, you often don’t have to pay for these items upfront and they can add a lot of value to your charity auction. Check out our no risk vacation packages to find out how you can include high-ticket items that bring in large donations without taking on any risk.

Step 4: Setting Up your Auction Website

Charity Auction Websites and auction software

Once your committee has determined the basic auction logistics and you’ve started item procurement, you’ll want to set up your auction website. Your charity 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 where supporters can easily browse through items and safely place their online bid. Your auction website includes detailed information about each auction item up for bid including product images, starting bids, the fair market value of items, reserve amounts, bid increments, links to the donor’s web page, and more. You can set up all of the important details on your auction website. Be sure to set minimum bids for your auction items, so you aren’t disappointed and you give bidders an idea of the item’s value.

In addition, utilizing a silent auction website gives people who are unable to attend the actual event a chance to bid on items.

Step 5: Promoting the Silent Auction

The next step is effectively spreading the word about your online charity auction or silent auction event. 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.

Your organization will need to promote the auction with the following tasks:

  • Distribute a press release to local media announcing the event and auction 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 website.
  • Send email invitations to your constituents.
  • Create event flyers to post on community bulletins.
  • Research community calendars for opportunities to post nonprofit fundraising events.
Promoting the Silent Auction is Essential to your fundraising success

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 the 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 6: Managing Charity Auction Details

Managing Charity Auction Details with forms and letter templates

Showtime! If you’re having a live event, there are some considerations in displaying auction items. Be sure the items are displayed nicely, with good lighting. Galas can sometimes be dark, but supporters need to see jewelry and other items to feel comfortable placing a bid.

DoJiggy provides silent auction letter templates for item procurement and sponsorships. Be sure to thank your donors – they are a big part of your silent auction success! We also have a number of silent auction forms you can print for use at the auction event, such as a sample bid sheet which includes a picture, item description, and current high bid info if bids have been taken online.

Step 7: Wrapping Up the Silent Auction

Wrapping Up the Silent Auction

After the silent auction wraps up, the first thing you’ll want to do is to review the goals and objectives you established prior to hosting your event. See if you’ve accomplished what you’d hoped and determine how to do better next time.

  • What items drew the most bids?
  • What procurement strategies worked?
  • What marketing efforts brought in new supporters?
  • How was the auction website?
  • How much money did you raise?
  • Was it fun and will your bidders return?

If you did not outline metrics for success prior to your event, you can still use these guidelines to help you evaluate your event and plan to use these as parameters for establishing fundraising strategies and goals for future events.