Silent auctions are a popular element of fundraising events. They allow you to carefully curate the items in your live auction and offer opportunities for your more reserved donors to bid on items without calling attention to themselves. If done correctly, silent auctions can raise vast amounts of money for your organization's mission and even attract new donors to your fundraising events. Here are 7 tips to maximize the success of your silent auction.
1. Capitalize on Opportunities
Silent auctions offer opportunities for businesses or donors to support you in more manageable ways. For example, there will be times when businesses believe in your mission but can't make a donation or donate the total cost of an item. Instead, you could negotiate a consignment deal with the business where they set a price that covers their costs.
It offers the business a creative way to support you and allows you to put unique items in your silent auction. We often see this deal being made with artists who can't justify outright donating artwork because of the time it takes to create their art.
2. Put Quality Items in Your Silent Auction
A common mistake we see non-profits make is using their silent auction as a dumping ground for donated items. The goal is to raise money with silent auction items, not to have them in your committee chair's office until the next fundraising gala.
Pick silent auction items that people would be excited about and can't purchase easily online. Popular examples of silent auction items include:
3. Price Silent Auction Items Strategically
When setting the starting bid and bid increments, think strategically to maximize the amount of money you raise. These prices directly impact the amount of money you are likely to raise.
Starting BidYou want to make money on your silent auction items even if you only get one bid. Therefore, we advise setting your starting bid higher than the consignment costs. The exact amount above the consignment cost will vary depending on the item, but it should be at least 20% higher.
Another factor to consider when setting your starting bid price is how much money you want to raise on this item. You want to set a starting bid price that works with the bid increments to raise that money in your available time. If you set your starting bid too low, it would require many bids to reach the target.
Bid IncrementsThe bid increment is another critical number. If you set your bid increments too high, people may be reluctant to bid. Too low, and bidding will move slowly. Set your bid increments strategically based on the starting price and the amount of money you want the item to raise.
4. Make Your Silent Auction Station Appealing
Your silent auction station or zone should look appealing. It shouldn't look out of place or be hidden away. You want your donors to head over to the silent auction tables to see what is on offer. This is another reason to have premium items in your silent auction: they attract donors over to the tables to bid, and then they browse the other tables while there.
We see better results when the silent auction station is in high-traffic areas like by the bar. People can stop by on the way to or from the bar.
5. Advertise Your Silent Auction Station During the Event
Ask your MC to promote your silent auction and premium items during the event to remind people to see what is available. This is a reminder for people who have been busy socializing and haven't had the time to browse your silent auction tables. The MC can also drive urgency toward the end of the silent auction by reminding everyone to place their bids before the silent auction closes.
6. Sell Multiples
Selling multiples of items is a great way to maximize the money you raise. Consignment vacations offer the perfect opportunity to sell multiple trips because there is no limit to the number you can sell. If a business provides a consignment on their service, then ask them if you can sell the service multiple times.
Here are some ways we have seen non-profits maximize their revenue by selling multiples:
7. Use Silent Auction Items to Market Your Fundraising Event
Your silent auction items play a role in attracting event attendees. The more unique and exciting your silent auction items are, the more compelling your fundraising event seems. We have received feedback from non-profits that since offering more premium silent auction and live auction items, they have seen an influx of new donors. Friends of donors are asking for invites, and their marketing is attracting new donors from the community.
Use your silent auction items in your marketing to make your fundraising event look like a fun way to spend an evening. Combined with your mission, it will attract new donors to your events.
HGAFundraising's Trevor Nelson and Matt Ashley explain new ways to turbocharge your silent auction. Listen to Episode 110 of the HGAFundraising webinar below for more tips on how to make your silent auction a significant fundraiser:
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At HGA, we're dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations Raise More Money through coaching, auction items, and auction software.