Silent auction guests love bidding on fabulous prizes at nonprofit events.
No matter who they are, they know there will be something that will excite them and they’ll come away with a prize they can use now or look forward to in the future. Their excitement is valuable, but you don’t want it to overshadow your nonprofit’s mission.
The hyped-up buzz your emcee gives an auction item when introducing grab your guests’ focus, stealing it away from the real reason your event is so important. Employing tactics that will bring their attention back to your mission, while at the same time providing a great experience for your guests, will ensure that your nonprofit’s mission continues to be the real focus of the night, no matter how high the bidding goes.
For more information on how you can improve your silent auction and raise even more funding, check out Greater Giving’s webinar with Mission Light’s CEO Talena Barker, “Power Up Your Auction Revenue Through Creative and Strategic Refinement.”
Create several packages that are all about your mission. Begin with a “wow” item that will excite the winner of the prize. Pick something that is related to your mission, not necessarily be a branded item from your nonprofit but something that related to it. For instance, if your mission is the protection of the orcas of Puget Sound you may want to include a whale watching trip as part of your package. Add in several items from your sponsors or important donors, then fill in with your branded items. Offer a few of these baskets with different prize collections to engage bidders with varied interests.
2. A Special Guest Prize
Ask a beneficiary of your nonprofit to either distribute or act as auctioneer during a part of the silent auction. This will give guests an opportunity to really see the great effects of your work. If your work helps school, include students from different grades. The emcee could even ask them a few questions about the events that will be funded by the money gained during the auction.
3. Time on the Front Lines
Many people find great satisfaction in giving their time to a good cause, so why not make that happen for your donors? Bidding on a chance to help on the front lines could create a lasting bond between the organization and your winning bidder. Plus, it’ll most likely deliver a feeling of joy for the donor when they see their contribution benefiting someone in real-time.
Get your guests in on the fun! During a break in the auction have your emcee lead the crowd in a song, cheer, or action that will get them out of their seats. This will take the energy up in the room and put a smile on their faces. You can choose a theme that is part of your mission or any funny bit that’s easy to follow along.
5. Thank special guest beneficiaries for coming at the mid-point of the auction.
A well-stocked silent auction can take a lot of time and it might be a good idea to include a mid-auction intermission in your program. Doing that provides you with a great opening in your program to introduce a special guest. Invite a beneficiary of your program or someone making the goals of your mission come to fruition. They can provide a personal account as to why your donors’ contributions are so important.
You don’t always need a formal, up-front presentation to get the point of your mission across to your guests. Putting together a simple slideshow or video that can be played on a big screen throughout the program will remind your guests of the importance they play in your organization. Add background music when the auction is not in progress and keep the show rolling. And, of course, refrain from any disturbing images and keep the images positive.
7. Have your sponsors introduce the packages
Your sponsors should be recognized, but you can go beyond that. Add them to the program by welcoming them on stage to present their silent auction offerings to guests. Give them five minutes to introduce their company and encourage them to share why they feel supporting your nonprofit is important.
8. Have “pop up” or surprise auctions items that relate to your mission
Delight your guests with surprise mini auctions within the larger silent auction. To add to the dramatic effect, you could conduct it as a call-out auction where bidders can raise their hands and the auctioneer recognizes them as the winner. Of course, this is calls for a very talented auctioneer who is comfortable with this method of auctioneering.
9. Create a short, but memorable out-of-the-ordinary presentation
For a light-hearted moment, add a short presentation to your program. This is especially good for school fundraisers where you can invite a group of kids on stage to perform or give a shout out to the donors that are supporting their school. Contact someone like a choir director or coach to explore the idea.
10. Give three cheers!
It’s always appropriate to celebrate your nonprofit’s accomplishments, so why not let all your donors join in? During a break in the program, you can provide an update on a project or some other good news, then lead them in a cheer to celebrate the good news. This is also a good time to recognize your key people that are responsible for the project’s success.