Green Means Go For Your Silent Auction

Perhaps you’ve had the same silent auction approach year after year, and you feel it’s becoming stagnant.

You’re looking for a way to do something differently. Consider the “bid on green line” approach.

What’s different about this, and what do you need to implement it?

This game requires you to preset your bid auction sheets. Here’s what that means. You may have an auction sheet that has a starting bid of let’s say $100, then you may allow bidders to write in their own bids. With this approach, you would typically set a minimum bid increment. For this example, let’s say $20. So the starting bid is $100, and you allow people to write in a bid. The next bid must be a minimum of $120, but the person can write in any amount above that.

The bid on green line approach requires you to set bids pre-printed on the auction pages. Therefore, your bid sheet would have $100 as a starting bid, and line items for $120, $140, $160, $180, $200 and so on. One of the line items, let’s say the $200 line item, is highlighted in green. The person that bids on that line is entered into a drawing for another fabulous prize.

For each of your silent auction items, you would determine the “sweet spot” for that item. How much are you trying to make on that item? For example, if you are trying to make $200 profit on each of your silent auction items, choose the “plus $200” line item for each item. It will differ depending on the item’s value and whether the item was purely donated or whether your organization had to spend a particular amount on that item. Basically, you are figuring out the break-even point for each item, then determining the starting price and the best green line price.

Silent Auction

In general, silent auctions typically produce 50% of the item’s value. Industry experts advise setting minimum bids at 30 to 40 percent of the fair market value (FMV).

Here is an example using two auction items.

Let’s say a restaurant donates a $50 gift certificate. Its fair market value is easy— it’s $50. You set the minimum bid at $15-$20. You hope to get half the value $25. You could set the green line bid for this at $50, enticing someone to pay full FMV and be rewarded for doing so by being entered into the green line special prize drawing.

Maybe your other item is a football signed by a famous coach. It was “donated”, but you had to pay a $40 handling fee. To determine its worth, the organization might have data on auction proceeds, or you can search eBay to see what these items are selling for. For items like these that have a lot of emotional appeal, you can set the value as priceless. Let’s say the value is $300 based on similar sales. You have to recoup your $40, and 30 percent of the starting value is $90. If you only get the minimum bid of $90, you’re really making $50. For this item, consider setting your green line at or near the $300 mark at $250 or $275.

These two examples give you some idea of how this works. Bid increments can vary per item. Some items make sense to have $5 increments, while others make sense to have $25 increments. Bid increments can really affect how an item performs, and a good rule of thumb is to set increments at 10 percent of the starting bid. For higher priced items, you might consider an even lower bid increment of perhaps 5 percent.

The “green line” is also a great way to get rid of overstock donations that you may have.

Each year, you may get donations that you don’t really know what to do with, or too many of one item. Bundle those together, and entice someone to bid on the green line.
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Regarding the special prize you’re offering for bidding on the green line, it needs to be something very enticing like a movie pass for four, a date night out to dinner, or even a trip. It’s a balancing act to decide whether you’ll make more money with this item as a “green line” prize or a standalone silent auction item. Crunch the numbers. Sometimes, you will get two identical items donated, such as two hotel packages. Keep one in the auction and use one as the green line prize.

Variations And Other Names

Your “Green Line” doesn’t have to be green at all! It can be any color — try to make it the same color as your organization or school colors, or tie it into the theme. Mix it up and have fun!

This revenue enhancer has also been setup as “Bid on a Star” or “Lucky Line 7” and can be used by itself or in conjunction with other strategies like the second bidder winner.

Catrina’s Advice

  • Sometimes it takes the guest some time to figure out what the line is for.
  • During the silent auction, have the MC and/or Auctioneer explain and promote, to encourage guests to place a Bid on the Green Line.
  • Make sure you are placing the green line at the right value level.
  • You can promote it by placing tent cards on the silent tables and adding a blurb to the bottom of the silent bid sheets.
  • Have a large poster printed and displayed by the prize package explaining how Bid on Green Line works and advertising the sponsor.

Some Personal Insight from Catrina

Many of our events incorporate “Bid on Green Line.” Since we are located in the Seattle, Washington, area, I recommend a Seattle Seahawks 12th Man Tailgating package and we call it “Bid the Blue Line.” Whatever your package, make sure it’s fun and visual — one that any guest would love to win. This special line is a great way to encourage higher bidding on items in the silent auction.

Most guests will skip the minimum bid and go straight to the colored line just so they will have the opportunity to win the prize package.

I recommend using it as a sponsorship opportunity—a fun way for a company to get exposure and be acknowledged throughout the silent auction and during the live auction when the winner is announced.

This article is part of our 26 Proven Revenue Enhancers for Your Fundraiser eBook available as a free download. If you looking for new revenue enhancing ideas and how to incorporate them into your event—this easy-to-use lookbook is for you.


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