Auction GavelSilent Auctions are great add-ons to many types of special events. You can offer a variety of auction items and your attendees can view and bid on items anytime during the event. Silent auctions are quite flexible since you can offer just a dozen high quality items up to hundreds.

Before planning your silent auction though, be sure that you have covered all five of these must-haves:

1. A Goal

There are many books related to goal setting and why it’s important for personal and professional success. Goal setting is just as important when planning a fundraiser. This includes setting goals for the number of attendees, your overall dollars raised and of course goals just for the silent auction.

Decide how many auction items that you want to put on display for bidding. Often it is best to put items into prize bundles or gift baskets, so while you may have 40 donations, those might be bundled into 25 auction items. It just depends on how many and what type of items have been received.

2. Bidders

You must have people attend the event in order to get bidders for your auction. It is best to have a whole committee or “go-to” person in charge of publicity and getting RSVPs for the event. Then the silent auction committee can focus on obtaining items and preparing for the auction.

3. Attractive Auction Items

Auction items get bids when they appeal to the interest of the attendees and the bid matches their pocketbook.

With the exception of events that are theme-based such as art auctions, the silent auction should have a wide variety of items. When there are items that appeal to a broad range of interests from wine gift baskets, to travel, sports tickets, and everything in between, there’s a better chance of attendees finding items to bid on.

You may get some donations of items that have a very limited audience. For example, gift certificates to a tanning salon only appeal to people who go to tanning salons. Consider putting something with limited interest in a bundle of items or asking the donor for an alternate item.

4. Items at Variety of Prices

Consider your audience and how much money they would likely be willing to spend on an auction item. Are they likely to bid $5,000 on a travel package? Or should most of your items be in the $25-$100 value range?

This is something that you’ll have to decide based on your demographics, the type of event, and the experience you’ve had with other fundraisers for your group.

In most cases there should be a variety of types of items that fill a range of values. Then attendees are more likely to find something they are interested in at a price they can afford.

You can also use add-on fundraisers like raffles and grab bags to appeal to all interests and give everyone a chance to take something home.

5. Volunteer Support

While silent auctions are good fundraisers because they are low cost, they do require some leg work. Getting the auction items donated, sorted, and displayed can take quite a bit of time so volunteers are essential. The actual number of volunteers needed depends on how large the auction is going to be.

It is recommended that you have at least two Auction Captains to oversee the main parts of hosting a silent auction – getting items and auction set up/operation. These Captains can be staff persons or volunteers. Then additional volunteers can report to the Captains to help them get everything done.

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

Posted on 01 December 2009

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