Silent Auctions 101

What is a Non- Profit Silent Auction?

During a silent auction bids are written on a sheet of paper that is commonly placed before or next to the item. At the predetermined end of the auction, the highest listed bidder wins the item. This auction is often used in charity events, with many items auctioned simultaneously and "closed" at a common finish time. The auction is "silent" in that there is no auctioneer selling individual items. At charity auctions, bid sheets usually have a fixed starting amount, predetermined bid increments, and a "guaranteed bid" amount which works the same as a "buy now" amount. Many non-profits have turned to silent auctions either as stand-alone events, or as a way to maximize the revenue from an ongoing fundraising event.

Is a Silent Auction right for me?

A silent auction is not for everyone. Keep in mind that in order to raise a lot of money, your silent auction will either need to have a large number of items to auction off, or a ton of attendees bidding on a few high-end items. A silent auction is hard work: either you have to spend lots of time digging up a few large items and lots of well-heeled attendees, or you have to find a lot of small items and track them throughout the process. No matter how you cut it, silent auctions are time and manpower intensive. Before planning your auction, decide if the return is worth the investment of time, people, and resources for your organization.

Also, remember that silent auction events generally take a number of years to hit full stride. Your first year, you may only auction off 5-10 items. As retailers and business owners get involved with your event year after year, more and more of them will become "regulars".

Getting Started with Non-Profit Silent Auction

If you want to organize a non-profit silent auction, the following things will greatly impact your financial success during the event:

  • The nature of donations (content) you are asking your potential donors
  • The strategy you employ while coming up with packages, categories and bids for the silent auction event
  • How well you will integrate and present the event to the people who will attend it.

To conclude, non-profit silent auctions will bring substantial income at low costs, irrespective of the level or size at which they are conducted. However, they may take years to pan out.