Sep 16, 2021

How to have fun with your silent auction

How to have fun with your silent auction

Let’s face it — 2020 was a tough year. For those who run nonprofit organizations and fundraise for a living, it may have been challenging to operate normally and secure donations with their typical events. As we transition back to normalcy, one thing from 2020 is likely to stay — virtual fundraising

It may have been challenging to flip from all in-person fundraisers that were held annually and required less planning to figuring out a completely new way to raise money for your organization or business. However, it’s easy to admit that virtual fundraising has opened up new opportunities for fundraising. 

If your organization is worn down by an abundance of silent auction fundraisers, you may need some new ideas for how to have fun with your silent auction. As you review these tips, remember to keep the same out-of-the-box thinking and creative mindset that got your business through the past year.

How to make the most of your virtual silent auction

How to make the most of your virtual silent auction

Silent auctions are a common in fundraising. They are relatively easy to organize, inexpensive, and fun. 2020 ushered in the incentive to have virtual silent auctions — which we can now combine with classic in-person auctions to create a hybrid experience for participants and generate more money for your organization.

The following are some ways to keep your virtual silent auction fun and productive:

Offer unique silent auction experiences and prizes

Are there any new items on the market you’re interested in? What would your perfect date night look like? What is something you’ve been eyeing at the store but haven’t purchased? These are all great brainstorming questions to ask yourself and your colleagues to come up with unique silent auction prize ideas no one has seen before. You can even include mystery prizes.

New prizes may attract new people or more people to your auction and increase your fundraising amount. Many businesses will give nonprofit organizations and charities silent auction and raffle prizes — such as gift cards, shopping sprees, and hotel rooms — for free. Reach out to as many businesses as you can, and you may be able to get all your prizes without doing anything but asking.

Post photos of a few of the most exciting prizes on social media during the week leading up to the event. This will help get people engaged and excited about attending the silent auction, as well as remind them of the event.

Incorporate entertainment

Rather than hosting a virtual silent auction where people simply go online and bid on prizes, make the event a silent auction virtual party. Have employees and their friends or family donate entertainment — if they’re a singer, juggler, comedian, or have another great talent to share, give them a five-minute time slot to keep donors entertained in between bids.

Do you have a famous organization member? Is there a hometown hero everyone looks up to? Getting someone with high recognition that you can advertise with the event may bring in more people.

Offer dinner and a show

If you’re hosting a hybrid or in-person event, you can also consider combining the event with a food-related fundraiser, such as a spaghetti dinner. If you provide your donors a meal and entertainment, they will likely spend more time and money at the event.

Consider partnering with a local chef or restaurant to provide the food and perhaps even the event venue. This gives the restaurant free marketing and potential customers and lets you and your colleagues focus on running the auction.

Host a hybrid event

Now that people feel more comfortable with in-person events, you can start hosting hybrid parties and events. This allows those who don’t feel comfortable going to in-person events, those who live far away, or those who have other plans to be able to participate. 

Split prizes between the in-person and online events based on attendance, and set the online auction for a longer period so those that missed the event still have the opportunity to donate. With different items between the two events, people who attended in-person may also want to purchase online. You may consider having a few duplicate items as well.

Use visual tools to track progress

Many people find it helpful to visualize something to understand it, and visual tools are another way to make your silent auction fun. Here are some examples of how to track your fundraising progress while motivating your attendees to continue to donate:

  • Use a whiteboard or digital screen as a scoreboard of donors: Showcasing the top bidders is a way to thank them while also motivating others to donate more and inspire friendly competition.
  • Use a fundraising goal thermometer: This is another great visual tool that helps donors see the progress of the event and their donations. It may inspire donors to give more, especially when you inch closer to a higher number.
  • Give prizes to top donors: Advertise at the beginning of the event that top bidders will receive a special prize. This can be as simple as a small trophy, homemade medal, or candy. Donors will appreciate the recognition, and it may inspire them to give more. You can also recognize them the day after the event with a social media post featuring them with their prizes.

Offer instant items

Your event is centered around bidding, but a curveball can certainly make your silent auction more exciting. Instant items appeal to those who would rather purchase something outright, rather than spending time bidding. These items have set retail values, for example, two $3,000 plane tickets, earrings that cost $900, or two tickets to a show that cost $400. 

In this setup, your organization has people donate items, like in an auction, but rather than having people bid on them, you raise the item price by a certain amount and people buy the items outright. For example, you could raise the price of the earrings to $1,200. This way, those who don’t enjoy bidding or who can only attend the event for a small period of time still have the chance to donate.

At your next silent auction, consider having some big-ticket items available for instant purchase. Looking for the perfect software to use for your virtual or hybrid auction? GiveSmart offers tailored mobile bidding software, silent auction software and more so donors across the world can participate in your event.

Stay organized

Before the event, assign numbers to all prizes. Create a spreadsheet with item number, type, retail value, who donated the item, item winner, final bid amount for the item, and the winner’s contact information. Staying organized can make things much easier for your team after the event.

Include some raffle items

Another way to make an online silent auction fun is to include a few raffle items in addition to bidding items. This is great for those who aren’t as interested in bidding, and it can help your organization make even more money. Set a price for a certain number of tickets — such as one for $1, three for $5 for 10 for $15 — and include photos of each raffle item. Your digital raffle platform will do the rest for you. 

If you’re hosting a hybrid event, you can either put boxes in front of items for participants to drop their tickets in or encourage them to look at items in person and bid online.

Play fundraising games

Another form of entertainment you can provide is fundraising games. These activities help break up the event and make it more fun and engaging for participants. They are also a great way to get more donations. Here are some examples:

  • Trivia about your organization: Host “10 Minute Trivia” about your organization. Whoever gets the most questions right about your organization gets a prize — something small, like a bottle of wine, a box of cookies, or candy. The prize can be something that will encourage them to stay longer at your event
  • Stand up, sit down for longest members: If you have organization memberships, do a five-minute stand up, sit down game. Have everyone stand up or put their hand up, and call out periods of time, like six months, one year, five years, 10 years, and so on. The last person standing will be the person who has been a member the longest, and they win. This is another way to have fun with your silent auction and recognize organization members.
Enhance your virtual silent auction with GiveSmart

Enhance your virtual silent auction with GiveSmart

With these silent auction tips for how to make the most of your event in mind, consider hosting a hybrid event that will appeal to even more donors and be a fun and successful event. 

GiveSmart is here to help your organization with all of its fundraising efforts. Contact us today for a free demo to learn how to host your own silent auction virtual party!


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The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

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MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County