Silent auctions are a popular way to raise funds at a charity benefit event. You’ll find that most attendees are already familiar with how they work. But in short, at a silent auction items are placed for display and bidders sign a sheet with a name or bidder number and bidding amount. The winner of the auction item is the person with the highest bid at the predetermined end time of the auction. Here are five reasons why silent auctions can be a profitable fundraising strategy for your group.

1. Provides a Valuable Gift

Many people feel drawn to support various charities, often because of their personal experiences or interests. On the other hand, others may not have a strong reason to support your particular cause. An auction provides a way for them to support your organization and also get something valuable in return. Some people will find an auction item that they just “have to have” and bid because they want the item. For many people the combination of giving to a “good cause” and the draw of the auction item itself will convince them to bid on the auction item.

2. Easy to Add-on to Other Events

Silent auctions can easily be incorporated into a larger event. Most events that are held indoors can also have a silent auction. There simply needs to be a place for the tables to display the items, enough room for visitors to comfortably browse through the selections and space for the checkout table.

3. Great for ‘First Timers’

If this is the first time that your organization is hosting a fundraising event, a silent auction is a good auction to start with. Unlike a live auction, you do not need to hire an auctioneer or find big ticket items.

Because silent auctions are scalable you can have as few as a dozen good items and see a boost in your fundraising results. Depending on how many items you plan on getting and the overall size of the event, the silent auction can be planned and executed by just two or three people.

4. Increases Funds Raised at an Event

Most of the revenue that comes from special events is from auctions, raffles or some other fundraising vehicle rather than the ticket revenues. The silent auction can significantly increase the overall funds raised at your event.

Attendees come to an event for the dinner and entertainment and bid for silent auction items while they are there. They may have not planned on bidding, but because they either find an item they want, or desire to further support your organization, they will participate in the silent auction. Many people enjoy “winning” auction items and may look forward to this part of the event. Successful silent auctions can become an aspect of the event that your supporters look forward to each year.

5. Complements a Live Auction

To keep the interest of attendees, live auctions should be limited in time from 30 minutes to 1 hour maximum. Having the silent auction actually helps the live portion by placing lower demand/lower priced items on the Silent Auction tables. The live auction can then focus on the hottest items.

It is best to close the silent auction before the live auction begins. Then patrons can all attend the live segment. The Cashier’s Table should be open after the silent auction closes so those that don’t plan on bidding in the live segment can go ahead and checkout. The cashier will then stay open until after the live portion so you may check out all auction winners.

This article is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the Step by Step Fundraising Guide to Silent Auctions

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Posted on 19 February 2008

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Claudia (Sims) Opheikens says:

    I really appreciated all the info in this entire website.

    We are doing a fund raiser for a terminal cancer
    patient and some people want to do a raffle
    while others prefer a silent auction.
    I was looking for the pro’s and con’s of each
    to help our committee make an informed decision.

    Thanks for all the info you have here.
    We may go ahead and have both at the saem time.

  2. Sandra Sims says:

    Hi Claudia, great question. A silent auction needs to be held at an event like a dinner with at least 50, preferably 100 or more attendees. It’s a bit more labor intensive. With raffles you can sell tickets anytime leading up to an event, or even not do the drawing at an event. You’d just need to make sure that such a drawing is legal in your area and comply with all of the requirements.

  3. Vanessa Song-Rogers says:

    Is there ever live bidding at a silent auction?

  4. Sandra Sims says:

    Hi Vanessa. Yes, many events have both a silent and live auction. At most events attendees have a short attention span so a live auction just lasts from 15-60 minutes. You can put your best, highest valued and most competitive items up for live bidding. All the other items can go in the silent auction. The live auction can also occur before the end of the silent auction. So if attendees do not get what they bid for on the live floor, they can make bids on other items before the silent portion closes.

  5. anna says:

    Should tickets go to the highest bidder?

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