A silent auction is a classic fundraising tool, but many overlook the promotional benefits a silent auction can provide an organization.  Most people reading this are familiar with what a silent auction entails, so we’ll only provide a brief overview, but we want to take the opportunity to stress that a silent auction can be an event in itself and does not need to play second fiddle to another event.  Too often, we see silent auctions take second stage to other events of the night.  The more focus you can put on the silent auction itself, the higher the bids will go for individual items (especially any big ticket live auction items, as described below) and the more attention your cause will receive.  You want exposure for your cause and you also want to create an atmosphere that encourages people to make large bids.  If you make a silent auction a secondary event, people look at it as a way to acquire the items being offered.  If you make a silent auction the central focus of the evening, people think about acquiring the items as a way of demonstrating social status.  Everyone in town will know that “the Davidsons won the big screen TV” and “The Marshalls bid the most for the trip to Maui.”  In planning a successful silent auction for your charitable cause, you want to make sure you recognize and embrace these tendencies to demonstrate wealth in a way that people don’t consider ostentatious (because, after all, “it’s for a good cause”).  Again, by making a silent auction the primary focus of an event, you also get great exposure for your cause.

To ensure a successful silent auction, every silent auction should have a brief live auction component that features the big ticket items.  For maximum effect, the big ticket items should be emceed by a local celebrity (try asking a local radio host or television news anchor to do the event for free).  There should also be a meal during the course of the night (people can pay an inflated amount for attendance as many who pay for tickets view the tickets themselves as donations).  Additionally, there should be live music (get the local high school band or orchestra to save on money) throughout the event, but music that plays in the background during the social portions of the event (during dinner and after the live auction of the big ticket items) in order to keep the central focus on the auction components of the evening.

Don’t forget that you can also auction off privileges and services, as opposed to just tangible items (ideally donated by local businesses in exchange for the label of “sponsor”).  An example of a privilege that could be auctioned off is VIP seating at graduation.  An example of a service that could be auctioned off is a lesson given by people who have particular expertise in a field (such as a music teacher or a resume and cover letter review session given by career counselor).

A silent auction can be a great fundraiser idea, but make sure you design the silent auction fundraiser so that it benefits your organization as much as it possibly can.

To see how one school integrated dinner, dancing and a whole lot of fun into their silent auction fundraiser, see below:

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5 Responses to How to Host a Successful Silent Auction Fundraiser

  1. [...] a standard fundraising dinner; it will be a lot more fun than a standard fundraising dinner with a silent auction; and you can even offer dinner as part of the [...]

  2. 50-50 Raffle says:

    [...] A silent auction fundraiser [...]

  3. [...] a student gallery opening with a 50-50 raffle.  You could also turn the gallery opening into a silent auction fundraiser by auctioning off the [...]

  4. [...] You could combine the charity fashion show with an auction.  This could be either a live auction or a silent auction. [...]

  5. [...] a fundraiser and not an art competition.  You could also modify this fundraiser such that it is a silent auction for the art, instead of using dollars as a way to vote for the best piece of [...]

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