How to Host a Silent Auction Fundraiser

Silent auction fundraisers are an excellent way to make money for your charitable organization, or better yet your stag and doe. These are fairly easy fundraisers to organize.

All you need is a large venue – such as a church, school or social club – some willing volunteers to help run the evening, and as many donated items as possible!

The key to a successful silent auction is really the items that you have up for auction. Typically these are donated, but if you are lacking items, some can be purchased and the buyer can be paid back from the evening’s proceeds.


If you are asking that volunteers purchase items, please ask them to keep and submit their receipts in order to be reimbursed properly. However, it is best to stir clear of purchased auction items as much as possible. If all of the items are donated, that means all of the proceeds go towards the charity you are helping.

The best way to get items donated is to ask long-standing members of the charity or local businesses to donate them from their businesses. Remind potential sponsors that this is also a great way to gain free publicity for their business – especially if the press covers the event.

But remember, a successful silent auction fundraiser is more than just a collection of great selection of items. Sure, your bidding items are the icing on the cake, the draw if you may, but it takes several other factors to help you raise the most money possible to meet your charity goal.

That’s why we’ve put together some helpful hits to help you reap all the benefits that silent auction fundraisers have to offer:

Auction Item Placement

You’ve heard real estate agents say it, “location, location, location is everything”! They might be talking about the housing market, but the rule applies to the placement of your silent auction bidding items as well. Item placement is just as important to your silent auction’s success.

Plan to showcase your auction items near your event ticket sales booth. This is so your potential bidders can peruse the items as they are waiting in line. Give your flashiest items prominent placement to lure your bidders in. Remember the longer they are in line; the more anxious they will be to bid – especially when you put the items right under their noses. Another good tip is to move the display tables once the majority of your crowd is inside the venue.

The key is to place the items in the midst of your highest traffic flow areas. So having the items initially at the door to greet your guests, then moving them to display tables in the best focal point – by the bar or in the middle of the room under nice lighting – will be your best bet for tempting bidders.

Write Tempting Item Descriptions

Each auction item needs to have a full and complete description of the following: what it is, what purpose it serves, what’s included with it, what’s unique about it, it’s retail value is, any unique or limiting details (is it a collectors item or an antique) and who donated it. Use clear and large font to write your signage so that it’s easy to read from a distance and by all.

Use Attractive Display Techniques

For example, don’t leave clothing in the packages (unless it’s designer name brand packaging is a lure, instead display clothing on racks, hangers or on mannequins and display art under fine lighting and frames. This will allow bidders to touch and examine items of interest – and better yet, it lets bidders envision how they would wear or hang items practically in their space.

If items are restricted – for example if alcohol is unable to be brought to the venue for insurance purposes – photograph the items, providing guests with a close-up view, and if possible, provide another shot of a willing volunteer posing with the item to give a sense of size and quantity.

Showcase your BIG Items

Feature your most valuable items front and center to temp bidders. That means placing your most impressive items in the most high-traffic and highlighted locations in the venue. If you have access to lighting equipment, place spotlights, visible signage and volunteer security around your best auction items in order to deem them as special.

Bundle Smaller Items

When accepting donated items, it’s common to get a bunch of smaller items that don’t warrant a lone prize descriptor. Instead bundle smaller items, gift certificates and crafty items into gift baskets of similar nature.

For instance, place candles, bath items and spa gift services into one basket, or place golf balls, hats and sporting goods and services into another. Guaranteed someone will want these and together the items will bring in more revenue than if they were auctioned off separately.

Publicize your Items

Enlist the talents of a volunteer DJ to act as emcee for the evening. The emcee will publicize silent auction items throughout the evening. Give the DJ a complete detail sheet of items and the time you are auctioning each off. The emcee will actively encourage bidders to open their wallets throughout the evening, and he or she can work up excitement around big ticket prizes.

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