Tips for Running a Silent Auction Fundraiser

Silent auctions are a constantly reliable source of fundraising income. Below you will find a series of tips on how to raise the most money possible through the running of a silent auction.

Location, Location, Location

As with real estate and property, location is of paramount importance - and the same goes for silent auctions. A great place to feature your auction items is near your ticket sales area/entrance because when people are queueing to enter they will have time to focus attention on what's being auctioned.

Another good spot for locating display tables is just to the right after entering the main area because that's part of the natural traffic flow. Don't forget that once everyone has entered your fundraising event, you can also relocate the display tables from the ticket sales area to other locations inside.

Use Attractive Descriptions

Each item should have a full page description of what's on offer, what's unique about it, what it's retail value is etc. Remember to mention any restrictions or limitations too. Use bullet points and large fonts so that all signage is easy to read in dim light or from a distance.

Perfect Your Display

Try to display clothing items on mannequins and, if possible, allow bidders to touch and feel the items of interest. Remember that keeping items out of reach does not encourage bidders to part with their hard-earned cash!

If you cannot display the items (e.g. if the item is a donated service that will be provided in the future), then ensure that you provide high-quality photographs and good descriptive information of precisely what is on offer. If possible, include people in the photographes holding or demonstrating the goods or services.

Dramatise Your Featured Items

You should consider spotlighting your most valuable items, both literally and figuratively. You can do this by placing them in the most visible and high-traffic areas of the room. Use accentuated lighting (and an actual spotlight where available) to enhance the appeal of the item.

You should also keep in mind the benefits of having a staff member or volunteer on hand at all times to talk to interested bidders about the item.

You can get the most out of your featured item by identifying and then capitalising on its main attractions. For instance, your featured item might be a vacation trip to a sunny destination. Create an attractive photo montage poster and set it up on a pedestal flocked with black velvet and spot light it for full effect. You could even produce a short video promoting the item and then project it on to a wall beside the presentation.

Create Item Bundles

Oftentimes, a bundle of goods or services will bring in more revenue than the items would if sold separately. Be creative in how you bundle things. For instance, place a variety of gardening goods and tools in a wheelbarrow and attach a big sign saying "Wheel It Home!"

Make Bidding Easy

Don't forget that bidders almost always have something in their hands like a purse, an appetiser, a drink, etc. Make it easy for one-handed bids by taping down the bid sheet and description. And of course, provide a pen next to each auction item and attach it to the table with a string or chain.

Provide Air Time

Make sure your event emcee announces the silent auction items that are up for bids. Provide them with a cheat sheet where they can get information at a glance to use to whet the audience's interest. Do everything possible to actively encourage bidding including providing periodic latest bid price updates on the top items.

Use a Last Call Reminder

Don't forget to make periodic announcements about when the bidding will end. Give countdowns of time remaining. And most importantly, issue a last call for silent auction bids when there's only ten minutes left for bidding.


Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Play up the fun aspect of bidding and do a good job describing and displaying your silent auction items. Create bundles of related items to attract more bids.

Start off each bid sheet with an opening bid from staff or volunteers. Then have your event emcee promote the auctions by giving bid price updates and time remaining reminders.

Follow these silent auction tips and watch the bids roll in!