The third annual Wichita Falls (TX) Youth Symphony Orchestra Play-a-Thon event was a great success, with the majority of funds being raised by the silent auction.

I’ve been to many silent auctions and this one had one of the best presentations I’d ever seen. All of the auction items were attractively packaged in wicker baskets and enveloped in plastic wrap.

There were only about a dozen baskets but each one was packed with great items, making quite an impression. This auction proved that it’s not quantity of items that matters, but quality.

YSO Executive Director Juliana Lehman explained, “We had several gift certificates that had been given to us for student incentives. Once we got in a few other donations we grouped them into themes. We sent out an email to parents asking for other items to go with those themes.” What a great strategy… the easier you can make it for people to donate the better!

Some of the creative silent auction basket themes included:

  • Mexican food – Gift cards to 3 different restaurants, jar of salsa, tortilla chips
  • Chocolate – Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, truffles and more
  • TV theme – Included 3 months free digital cable TV and cable internet service

Most of the baskets had a value of $100 or more and some were as high as $350. After the baskets were assembled one of the students typed up descriptions. At the auction the description sheet was placed along side the bid sheet in front of each basket.

Each of the items in the basket and its corresponding value was listed. A total value for the basket was featured on the description and bid sheets.

Juliana commented, “Our goal was for each basket to bring in $100. Some of the higher valued items brought in much more. Everyone that came got really competitive!”

Other organizations who plan silent auctions can model the success of the YSO. Group auction items into like themes and package together in attractive baskets. Offering a variety of sizes and values will provide an opportunity for everyone to participate. But don’t underestimate your crowd. Be sure to have a few high value, high demand items. You may be pleasantly surprised at the final auction bid!

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Posted on 12 April 2007

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