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How to Hold a Silent Auction to Raise Funds

Silent auctions can be the ultimate win-win-win for fundraisers for schools or for a non-profit. Maximize the success of this powerful fundraising technique by having a clear plan for the event.

A silent auction should be attractive – from the setting, to the décor, and especially to the items up for bid. Making an attractive package and ensuring that everyone understands the bidding process can go a long way toward making the event a success.

Bundling Items

Once all the donations for the auctions have been gathered, it is time to assemble them into attractive packages. Small, seemingly “boring” auction items can be made quite appealing by “bundling” them together. Add a restaurant gift card, free gas card, and movie tickets, and suddenly it’s a great night on the town. Books about animals, a pair of binoculars, and tickets to the zoo become an exciting “safari” package. Make sure to discard any dirty or obviously broken or used items (except for antiques). If appropriate, package bundled items in inexpensive yet attractive baskets.

While it is important to have auction items at a variety of price points, the bulk of them should be at a range that most people are comfortable bidding with. The winning bid for a desirable item that retails for $100 or $200 might be 80-90% of the item’s original value, which represents a discount for the winning bidder, and a great fundraising for the non-profit. The winning bid of an even more desirable item that retails for $400 – $600 might only represent 40-60%, however, just because fewer people are able to hand over that much money on a whim.

In other words, it is usually easier to make more money by splitting a big auction item up (if possible), than by over bundling smaller items. There’s a reason why things are called “dream” vacations, for instance – because most people cannot afford to make them into a reality.

What value ranges are the best? The amount most people are going to be willing to bid on depends greatly on the auction’s audience – some might be overwhelmed by $50, others wouldn’t think twice about handing over a $1,000 check — so a certain amount of trial and error might be involved.

Creating Bid Sheets

Each item/package to be auctioned needs its own bid sheet. (Having blank bid sheets in hand is a good idea, too.) The top of the sheet should include a description/inventory of the item, as well as the market value.

Next should come information about the minimum starting bid (which should be between 1/20th and 1/100th of the retail amount, which could be anywhere between $0.05 and $100 or more, depending on the item), and minimum bid jump. Items worth $20 or more should have minimum bidding increments of a dollar or more. Cheaper items might have bidding increments in .05, .10 or, .25 cent increments. Avoid upping by pennies.

The rest of the bid sheet should have spaces for people to put their names, possibly phone numbers, and bidding amount. Attach a pen (not pencil!) to each bid sheet.

Clearly post bidding procedures in strategic places along the auction room (such as at the end of each table, or on the walls). For instance, people must pay for their item at the end of the auction – or the prize goes to the next person on the list.

About James Carey

James Carey

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