10 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Silent Auction Event

Nearly every non-profit has heard the suggestion before: “Why don’t you hold a silent auction?” This suggestion inspires a range of emotions, from “Sure, I love silent auctions!” to “I promised I would never hold a silent auction again!” The thing about silent auctions is, you either love them, or you hate them.

On the one hand, many people love holding these events. A silent auction can be a great way to raise money and bring in new donors, as well as create buzz among your staff, donors, and other friends and supporters.

On the other hand, these events are a lot of work. It takes a ton of time and patience to pull off a really strong auction event, and many non-profits simply don’t invest the amount of effort that is necessary to run a stellar event.

If your non-profit does decide to run a silent auction, here are 10 tips to make the most out of the event:

1. Be organized: The single best way to run a successful and stress free auction is to start organized and stay organized. Track your auction items, set up systems for bidsheets and thank you letters, and be firm with deadlines.

2. Promote the event: Don’t forget, this is a fundraising event, and the best way to get people to attend events is to promote it through your network, board, website, and donor base.

3. Seek out new donors: Silent auctions are an easy way to seek out new donors… businesses that have no connection to your organization will often be willing to donate an item, which can lead to a longer term connection.

4. Be creative: The more unique items you can source to offer at your silent auction, the more buzz (and bids) you will generate. Offer the usual fare (like restaurant gift cards), but also seek out special, one of a kind items to generate excitement.

5. Find sponsors: Ticket sales and auction proceeds aren’t the only ways to raise money from this type of event. Seek out sponsors who will write a check in return for marketing consideration, free tickets, etc.

6. Take credit cards: You will sell more items, at higher bid levels, if you accept cash, checks, and credit cards at checkout.

7. You need more staff than you realize: If this is your first silent auction event, know that you will need more staff on hand than you might otherwise think. Have a lot of volunteers or staff available to answer questions, process checkouts, and tidy up the auction items on a regular basis.

8. Have fun: Silent auctions needn’t be strictly formal events. Make this a fun time for your guests (think: good food, open bar, a band) and they will want to attend the event year after year.

9. Cultivate item donors: While most non-profits send thank you notes to businesses and individuals that donate auction items, most do not cultivate these donors for the long-run. Don’t make this mistake. Item donors can and should become longer term donors to your organization.

10. Keep an eye on the bottom line: Too many non-profits hold silent auction in fancy venues with top-quality food and drink, only to find that they ended up making every little profit on the event. Always keep an eye on the bottom line. Your goal is to make as much money as possible to carry out your charitable mission… not to pay vendors!

Do you want detailed, step-by-step instructions for raising more money at your next silent auction with less hassle? If so, then read The Silent Auction Handbook.

Photo Credit: OldOnliner