Silent Auction Tips

Updated August 19th 2011 – We added even more silent auction tips and ideas. Click here for the most up-to-date Silent Auction Tips! Get the most up-to-date information at our parent site Watch this quick video and Run A Successful Silent Auction With These Quick Tips

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Virtually any charity can use silent auctions to support your charitable cause. Organizing and running a silent auction is easier than it may seem, especially if you’re hosting your auction online. Here is a simple outline of silent auction tips to help you plan and run your next event.

Create your auction committee.

Get some excited volunteers from your group to help you plan and run the event. Recruit lots of people so all tasks will be easily covered. Start with a strong, dedicated group; and assign leadership roles to those who will be in charge of managing and publicizing the event. You can add volunteers later if need be.

Solicit item donations.

Have your members ask their friends and business associates to donate new items for your auction. Also ask public agencies, local businesses, and others to donate items. In exchange for donated items, you can offer businesses free publicity during the event and inside your marketing materials. This is a great way to inspire them to donate. Get all donation offers in writing, when possible, or collect the items on the spot.

Determine a time and place for your event.

If hosting your event in a public venue, you’ll need to find an appropriate, affordable place to hold the auction. See if someone is willing to donate a place for your charitable event. Select a place where doors can be locked or hire security, if necessary. The room should have good circulation and be comfortable for guests, with plenty of space to move around in freely. Arrange tables around the walls, placing items for bid on the tables. You can place a few in the center of the room, too. Place your auction items “where the action is” during your event.

If you’re holding a silent auction software online, study the hosting site carefully. offers a convenient way to run your auctions from anywhere at any time and provides back end management so you can stay focused on your events. As long as you have an internet connection, you can run your auctions and stay in touch with supporters no matter where you are!

Publicize your silent auction.

Market your event ahead of time. Create flyers or newspaper ads. You can also purchase commercial spots at a local radio station or have a short video for public access television commercials (called PSAs or Public Service Announcements). Word of mouth is also a great way to spread news of your event. Use whatever resources you have. Let the public know when, where, and why your event is being held. Show off a few of the great items you’ll be auctioning to get people excited about attending.

Organize and prepare your auction items organized for bids.

Vary the costs of starting bids for different items. Have high-priced items and inexpensive items. Make sure to have various items so they’ll appeal to men, women, and children. The more variety you have, the higher your chance for success. Remember to be sure all items are clean and in good condition.
After you’ve organized your items, create bid sheets for each of them. At the top of the bid sheet, list the name of the item in bold. Beneath it, write a short description and the name of the donor. The rest of the sheet should include a series of numbered, blank lines. Make sure bid sheets are supported with cardboard or a clipboard so people can write on the sheets. Hang a pen with each one. Bidders will write their bids on the sheets. Have duplicates of each sheet handy and extra blank sheets for any last minute auction items that come in.

Determine rules and procedures for bidding.

Set rules for bidding ahead of time and post a sheet where supporters can view them easily. Here are some good rules you can use:

• Establish minimum bids on all items. Use whole dollar amounts so people will not bid in penny increments.
• Supporters cannot bid less than previous bids.
• Bids that have been changed or crossed out must be initialed by the bidder.
• No bids will be accepted after the auction ends.

Handling the auction successfully.

Have your auction set to end at a pre-planned time. Or, have a spontaneous ending where you announce that bidding is closed. If you opt for this, make sure your committee knows ahead of time exactly when the auction will secretly end so they can be prepared.

When bidding has stopped, committee members should immediately begin collecting bid sheets. Go through every sheet and get the name and winning amount of the winning bidder. After this, have an area ready ( which has been set up in advance) to announce winning bidders and have them come to the area to pay. After payment, give them a ticket for their item. After all bidders have paid, set up a delivery time and area where winners can collect the items they’ve won.

Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand for change. Also, if possible, set up a way to accept credit cards for your event. This can increase your sales volume tremendously.

Every aspect of your auction must be well organized. Every step should be planned in advance so you and your volunteers know exactly what to do every step of the way. Also, remember to create a lively, fun event that your supporters will enjoy. Host a dinner or offer an open bar during your auction. Keep donors interested so they don’t get bored and leave early. By following these simple guidelines, you can throw a successful silent auction that will bring in tons of donations!

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Also See:

• Silent Auction How To
• Silent Auction Ideas
• Silent Auction Supplies



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