9 Steps to Planning an Excellent Silent Auction

A silent auction is a classic fundraising event in which attendees place bids on items gathered by a charity. Silent auctions can be held on paper bid sheets, or through mobile bidding software. During a silent auction, bidders compete to win their treasured items against other bidders by having the highest bid amount when the time is up. Silent auctions are great additions to events including galas, golf outings, banquets, or any type of celebration.

Here are 9 simple steps you can use to help plan an excellent silent auction.

Step 1: Set Goals

One of the first steps when planning a silent auction is coming up with goals that will help your event succeed in the long run. Having a clear plan of your expectations and goals for this event will keep everyone on the same page. It will also allow your team to check in on the progress and make adjustments if necessary.

Some things to consider at this point include setting the event date, budgeting for catering, listing our potential venues, determining the general number of attendees, creating a planning process timeline, and estimating how much revenue you expect to receive from your silent auction.

When setting your goals, it is helpful to review past fundraising events or use them as a stepping stone for this event. Use past insights, if available, to set achievable yet aspiring goals. Ensure you give your team enough time to achieve these goals without setting unrealistic goals or timelines.

Step 2: Team Planning

Since there are multiple complex elements to holding a silent auction, creating auction teams are a great way to tackle tasks and encourage more involvement in your event.

Typically, organizations have auction chairs, who are direct leaders of the event from pre-planning to close. These auction chairs commonly assist a procurement team in charge of obtaining items, a logistics team in charge of event logistics and event flow, a volunteer team that supports event setup and processes, and an emcee who manages the flow of the event and makes announcements.

Since there are many elements in holding a successful event, rarely does one person complete all tasks themselves. That’s why teams are created to focus on specific aspects of the event to help the planning process.

Step 3: Auction Tools

Obtaining the correct tools and features to successfully run your event will be very beneficial for your auction committees. Without the use of these tools, your team may not be able to complete specific tasks and would need to implement new workarounds in order to run a successful silent auction.

An event fundraising platform like ClickBid makes bidding super simple for your attendees and easy for your team to manage from the back end. ClickBid also provides other event tools like check-in and check-out, as well as integrating with well-known CRM platforms to export your sales data. With ClickBid’s event fundraising platform, your silent auction will help to increase engagement and improve your guests’ experience.

Step 4: Item Procurement

Most silent auction attendees are not major donors, so including various item options and prices is recommended to encourage higher involvement from all guests. Finding items and packages that appeal to adventurers, food lovers, sports fans, and music lovers is a great way to boost participation from all types of individuals in your audience. Start your item procurement process early to give you and your team enough time to finalize this information.

When planning for your silent auction, it is important to create a wishlist of potential items you believe your donor base would be interested in. Once you have created an item wishlist, send this list to your donor database and encourage them to donate to your event. It’s also important to give your donor base the opportunity to make a monetary donation towards your event. You can then use these monetary donations to purchase items for your silent auction.

Another helpful way to procure more items is by reaching out to local businesses. Encouraging them to donate a single item or package to your fundraising event will create desirable and unique items that your donors will be interested in.

For more information on finding quality silent auction items, read our blog How To Find Quality Live & Silent Auction Items.

Step 5: Pricing Items

Properly pricing your silent auction items is essential to maximize revenue. Yet, it can be a very challenging task. How you price your auction items has a direct impact on the success of your silent auction. Pricing your items too high can reduce bids. Price them too low and you risk not meeting your auction fundraising goals.

A crucial part of pricing your silent auction is establishing the correct fair market value (FMV) for each item. No matter what the item is, if it is being auctioned and is expected to receive bids, it has an FMV. When bidding on items in a charitable auction, any amount paid over FMV is tax-deductible, stressing the importance of the item’s FMV. That is why it is very important to get the most accurate information regarding FMV for your auction items.

In the industry, a typical starting price would be 30-45% of FMV. We also recommend the following:

  • If the FMV is under $100, round up to the nearest $5
  • If the FMV is up to $400, round up to the nearest $10
  • If the FMV is up to $600, round up to the nearest $25
  • If the FMV is up to $800, round up to the nearest $50
  • If the FMV is up over $1000, round up to the nearest $100

Setting the correct bid increment also plays a significant role in the success of your silent auction. We recommend the following bid increments for the corresponding FMV:

  • $5 bid increments for items with FMV between $50-149
  • $10 bid increments for items with FMV between $150-249
  • $20 bid increments for items with FMV between $250-399
  • $25 bid increments for items with FMV between $400-599
  • $50 bid increments for items with FMV between $600-999
  • $100 bid increments for items with FMV over $1,000

For more information on pricing your silent auction items, read our blog How To Set Starting Prices & Bid Increments for Silent Auction Items.

Step 6: Event Logistics

Planning your event logistics may be an ongoing task, but is a crucial step. During this process, your team will need to finalize your event venue, plan activities like raffles and entertainment, and confirm your catering menu.

Other logistics that need to be considered include determining the flow of your day-of-event activities. These topics consist of what time your attendees arrive, how your supporters register for your event, how long will your silent auction last, where will your silent auction is being displayed, who will provide instructions and announcements to attendees, and how your attendees pick up their winning items.

Your event flow directly impacts your guests’ experience — having these details planned ahead of time will avoid scrambling on the day of your event and enhance your guest’s experience altogether. Making each process simple and easy encourages your guests to attend future fundraising events. A complex or complicated event flow could make your attendees lose interest or become easily confused, hindering the success of your event.

Step 7: Event Page

In today’s world, an online registration page is the best move to easily share your event information with a large number of people. If you are using online software to manage your silent auction, an item catalog or auction preview should come included.

With ClickBid’s software, you can highlight your auction preview for all items in your silent auction and any other event features on your event page. Creating a clear, simple website with your event information has had a lot of success. Typically, this event page will be your guests’ first interaction with your event, so creating an easy, yet attractive page will have a lasting impression.

Some key information to consider adding when creating your event page includes:

  • Event dates and information
  • Ticket and sponsorship information and deadlines
    • Additional features/upgrade options for purchase
  • Registration process to obtain contact information, meal selection, seating preferences, and/or credit card information
  • Dress code or party theme
  • Organization highlight for any new guest that is unfamiliar with your charity
  • Contact information for any questions from registrants

Step 8: Promoting Your Event

The next step in this process is promoting your event to your guests. At this time, most of your items are procured, your event page is set up, and your logistics are coming together. Now is the perfect time to start promoting your event and spreading the word.

The most important part of this step is generating attention to your event and steering potential attendees to your event page. Typically, nonprofits promote their event on multiple outlets including social media platforms, your organization’s website and/or blog, email blasts to previous donors, and encouraging your supporters to share your event page on their social media pages.

When advertising your event on multiple outlets, be sure to include a direct link to your event page for simplicity and ease. We have seen proven success from many organizations by promoting their fundraising event on multiple outlets to reach a wider audience and boost overall fundraiser revenue.

Step 9: Item Displays

Another key step in planning your silent auction is the in-person display of your items. A silent auction plays a huge role in reaching your fundraising goals and attracting more donors, so making your silent auction as clear and straightforward as possible is essential.

Having the physical items available for viewing on the day of your event allows all your bidders to get a closer look at the items and gain excitement. Silent auction display sheets are physical sheets that are used to highlight relevant information about each item. These sheets contain all of the essential information and highlights regarding your items — allowing your bidders to receive more details.

Even if you are using mobile bidding software, display sheets are important for your bidders to quickly read more information about your items without having to look up the item details from their mobile devices. To help guests familiarize themselves with mobile bidding, you can include printed information about how to bid around your auction items. This information will help self-guide your bidders and reduce confusion, which could hinder the bidding experience.

With ClickBid, you can easily generate item display cards with the information already uploaded and ready to print. Including QR Codes around each item might be helpful for your bidders as well. Making the bidding process as simple as possible is very important to ensure that your bidders are not discouraged from bidding and hindering participation.

Time to Get Started

With all the planning information above, you and your team will be well-equipped to plan an excellent silent auction!

As with any fundraising event, thorough planning plays a significant role in the success of your event and in meeting your fundraising goals. Get started early, stay organized, and have fun along the way!

For more information about getting started with ClickBid’s event fundraising platform, click here to sign up for a free demo account.


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