Having a silent auction at your event is an invaluable fundraising tool that engages the attendee, can add a creative design element to the event site, and enables the organization to raise awareness as well as funds. For instance, I loved creating tablescapes of items for Homefirst’s silent auction, including making the backdrops seamless and placing each item as advantageously as possible. It’s amazing what you can do with a bolt of navy blue fabric! Learning how to run a silent auction was surprisingly very zen.
First, you must decide on how many items to have in your silent auction. Too many items is as big a problem as too few! Have enough to suit all your attendees’ tastes, but not so many that the list is daunting and overwhelming. Is your organization able to get a great deal of donated items? Will you have to work with a consignment company, where the items are more varied but the profits are much smaller? Will it be a mix of both? What kinds of items will you have? The most popular items are unique, not available elsewhere, perfect for the audience at your particular event, and perhaps “priceless” to the bidder. Experiences usually go over well, be it tickets to a late-night talk show or a 1-week stay at a luxury resort.
The silent auction can be “old-fashioned” or extremely tech-savvy. For a smaller event, it works well to have a display of auction items with a bid sheet on a clipboard in front of each item. With a larger-scale event, there are so many mobile bidding apps that allow the attendee to scroll through items and refresh their bids without leaving his/her seat. Gift certificates and other prizes can be picked up at auction check-out at the end of the event.
Speaking of the check-out process, be sure to make this as easy as possible. When an attendee checks in and receives their mobile bidding instructions, try to get their payment information at this point – “just in case.”
And don’t forget to make sure your volunteers assigned to help with this aspect of the event are fully trained on how to run a silent auction.
Remember, all the guests are hopefully attending the event with an open heart and an open wallet. They want your cause and organization to succeed. So give them the opportunity to “win” a fabulous item, as they give to a wonderful cause!