Silent Auctions | The Ultimate Guide for Your Next Event


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Start off your silent auction right with a demo of Qgiv.
A silent auction is typically held as part of a larger fundraising event. Items for auction are put on display and bids are made without an auctioneer. At the conclusion of the bidding period, the highest listed bidder wins each item.

To help you gain a better understanding of how silent auctions work, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide. Our guide will cover everything from how to run a silent auction to helpful tips to the software that can help make it a success.

Use the navigation below to jump to the sections most relevant to you, or start with us from the top!

Finding a platform to help facilitate your silent auction is an essential step to take if you want to streamline the entire planning and implementation process. Now let’s take a closer look!

Silent auctions are great additions to fundraising events.What Is a Silent Auction?

As we mentioned before, silent auctions are usually part of a larger fundraising event that can supplement the amount of revenue raised. Below, you’ll find some useful information about how they work and why they work.

How do silent auctions work?

During a silent auction, multiple items are displayed, usually on tables, and the guests of the event can walk around and view each item more closely. If they’re interested in placing a bid, they can write down their bid on a sheet of paper next to the item or, if the event is using bidding software, place a bid on their laptop or mobile device.

Why are they popular?

Silent auctions are popular for a variety of reasons. When it comes to gathering support for your organization, you can find new prospects through:

  • Donated items. It’s fairly easy to get local businesses to donate items for auctioning off at your event. During this process, businesses will become more familiar with your organization and help support your cause. From there, your nonprofit can begin engaging them and cultivating them as regular donors.
  • Community. Many guests at your silent auction may bring their friends and coworkers to the event. These are also great new prospects for your organization, who you can reach out to afterward with thank-you letters, ways to get involved, and more.

Silent auctions are an effective way to gain new prospects and begin the donor cultivation process. Forge new relationships with your attendees by thanking them after the event and providing them with more information about your nonprofit.

Why do nonprofits turn to silent auctions?

Silent auctions are an excellent way to build up your revenue for a larger event and keep your guests entertained. As long as you take the time to procure exciting items that guests will want to bid on, the energy put into planning the event will be well worth the results that come out.

Learn how to run a silent auction.How to Run a Silent Auction

If you’re wondering how to run a silent auction, it’s important to consider some key steps. Running an event like this means planning before the event, staying on top of things during the auction, and following up with participants afterward.

Take these steps to make sure yours is a success:

There are many important steps to running silent auctions.

Before the Event

  1. Recruit volunteers. You’ll need volunteers to help set up, monitor tables, and understand the rules of the auction so they can assist guests who have questions.
  2. Procure items. Reach out to local businesses and individuals and explain your cause and what the items will go to benefit. Be sure to procure a variety of items, including tangible goods as well as services (lessons, experiences, etc.) that will appeal to your donor base.
  3. Advertise your event. Be sure to promote your event beforehand. After all, if people aren’t aware of the great items you procured, they won’t know to come and bid on them! You can even use silent auction software to allow guests to preview the items beforehand.
  4. Use online registration. Be sure to use an online event registration form to sell tickets, process payments, and offer a preview of what’s in store for your guests.
  5. Set up early. Try to set up a day before the event if you can, or several hours before the event if you can’t, and designate certain volunteers to go to the store if any supplies have been forgotten.

During the Event

  1. Implement your check-in and check-out procedures. Have a plan in place for checking your guests in and out. This can be done through your auction software and by having volunteers strategically stationed throughout the event. However you handle it, your check-in strategies should be as streamlined as possible to avoid frustrations and delays among your guests and your staff.
  2. Keep guests updated and engaged throughout the event. Your silent auction software can help streamline this, keeping bidders updated on their bids and engaged in the activities. They should also be notified when the auction is coming to a close.

After the Event

  1. Process the payments. Because your auction software will collect bids and payment information for the auction items, you’ll be able to easily process payments for the items once bidding is closed.
  2. Process leftover items. For people who don’t want to pay for the items they bid on, contact the individual with the second highest bid to see if they still want the item. For items that go unclaimed, use your auction software to find the contact information of the highest bidder to notify them again that they won.
  3. Wrap up the event and follow up with thank yous. Once your guests are checked out and have claimed their items, be sure to follow up and thank them for their support. You should also send personalized thank-you notes to those who donated items for the event and show appreciation for the volunteers who helped make it run smoothly.

Running a silent auction doesn’t have to be daunting if you take the necessary steps and have a planning process in place. Stay on top of each activity by recruiting volunteers and putting together a procurement team that can reach out to businesses and individuals for donated items. You can use this free auction planner as you plan!

There are many silent auction items that can raise a lot of bids.Silent Auction Items

It’s clear that having the right auction items will raise more revenue at your auction event. Here are a few of our favorite silent auction items that you can procure in order to bring in more bids and garner more support for your organization:

  • Restaurant gift card. Reach out to local restaurants to see if they’ll donate a gift card for your event. They can even be listed as a sponsor to help them gain some publicity.
  • Spa day. Spa days are great silent auction items, as they will appeal to many bidders. See if some local spas will donate a gift certificate for a couple of treatments.
  • Signed memorabilia. Signed memorabilia can drive in a lot of revenue for your silent auction. Depending on your location, see if any local sports teams are willing to donate something meaningful.
  • Technology. Procure the newest gadget, whether it’s a tablet, computer, smartphone, or TV. This auction item will be sure to drive up the bids.
  • Museum tickets. Look around to see if there are any new and popular exhibits at your local museums. Auction off a ticket to your bidders as a way to promote the arts as well!

For more great auction item ideas, check out this list.

Learn the silent auction tips that will help make yours successful.Silent Auction Tips

You may have everything ready for your silent auction, but there are a few tips you should take into consideration to increase its chances of success. 

  • Boost engagement with silent auction software tools. Silent auction software can help you facilitate your silent auction, collect bids for auction items, and process payments once the event is closed. In addition, you can use event registration software to process registration and ticket sales.
  • Procure the right items. It’s important to procure desirable items that will excite your audience and help you maximize your fundraising potential at the event. You can do this by first determining your event audience’s niche and interests and figuring out items that would meet these interests. From there, use your close network of friends, colleagues, and local businesses to procure these items.
  • Engage the event attendees. The room setup and staff on hand at your event should encourage as much participation in the silent auction as possible. Have someone walk around with a cordless microphone who can highlight some of the very special items available.

Learn these tips to make your silent auction the best it can be.

  • Keep engaging silent auction attendees after the event. Beyond thanking your event guests for attending, be sure to continue cultivating your relationships with them. You can do this by providing information about your nonprofit and its work, volunteer opportunities, and even asking for feedback on the event itself.
  • Arrange the items in an attractive manner. Beyond tables, you can use easels, platforms, and cases to display the items and draw people in to take a look.
  • Keep your silent auction related to your mission. People are attending your event to support your cause. Be sure to inspire your guests to participate by highlighting your mission so they’ll be more likely to support you going forward.

By finding ways to engage your guests (both through software and through your staff), you’ll be more likely to raise more and create long term relationships with those who attended. Give them a great experience at your event and you’ll be on your way to finding a brand new pool of supporters.

Learn about the types of silent auction software that will help you raise more money.Software for Silent Auctions

If you’re planning a silent auction, finding the right software is essential. With silent auction software, you can streamline your entire event from start to finish.

Certain types of software can help make your silent auction a success.

Be sure to incorporate these software features to make your silent auction a success:

  • Online event registration. Offering event registration online simplifies the overall process and will give you an accurate headcount of attendees. Set up your online event registration page using custom fields that gather important information from your attendees.
  • Mobile bidding. Mobile bidding is an updated process that allows nonprofits to raise more at silent auctions. Through mobile bidding, guests can look through the items in the auction and place bids from their phones. They can bid manually or even set a maximum bid amount so that the software bids on their behalf.
  • Easy check in and check out. Online event registration streamlines the check-in process, as the information has already been collected from attendees upon arrival. Because bidding software allows auction guests to pre-register their payment information, the check-out process will be less involved and easier to navigate.
  • Convenient payment collection. Once the auction attendees have won their items, they can easily send payment through your auction software.
  • Reporting and analytics. With dynamic reporting from your event registration and bidding software, you can track registrations, donor information, the total revenue brought in by bids, and more.

Your auction and event software can make the entire planning process easier by streamlining each step. Find the platform that works for you and you’ll be ready to put on a great silent auction!

Start off your silent auction right with a demo of Qgiv.
Planning a silent auction doesn’t have to be a challenge. With the right tools and resources, you’ll be able to navigate each step and keep your guests engaged. Take this guide and start planning your next great auction event!

If you’re looking for more information about auctions or fundraising in general, check out the additional resources below:

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