Guest Post: The Do’s and Dont’s of Silent Auctions

So you’re having a fundraising event and want to incorporate a successful silent auction but you don’t know where to begin.

This blog will cover silent auctions 101 with a list of do’s and don’ts.  More often than not, your number one money-maker at a fundraising auction event will not be the silent auction; however the silent auction can many times be the most labor intensive element of your event.  Do not get too tied up handling the silent auction and forget to plan for your live auction and fund a need, which are the larger money-makers.


Follow these simple formulas to silent auction success:

  • Don’t allow more than 1-½ hours for your silent auction.
  • Don’t keep the silent auction open during the live auction or fund a need.
  • Have a great sound system for making pertinent announcements.
  • Have a professional auctioneer making announcements pertaining to the silent auction during this part of your event.
  • Use pens, not pencils at each bid sheet.

    Silent Auction benefiting Make-A-Wish conducted by Elite Auctions & Fundraising Services
    Silent Auction benefiting Make-A-Wish conducted by Elite Auctions & Fundraising Services

  • Do a count-down prior to closing the tables.
  • Starting bids should be no higher than 33% of the item value.
  • Only have two columns on your bid sheets; One column for bidders to enter their bid number and one column with the pre-calculated bid amounts (don’t make your guests do math).  Don’t require your bidders to write their names or phone numbers on the bid sheets.
  • Use the 1 to 5 rule:  One item per 5 guests.  This is just a guideline, if you have slightly more or slightly less than it will work fine
  • Don’t place your tables too close together so that your bidders can’t easily navigate through your auction.
  • Don’t put your tables too far away from the bar and hors d’oeuvres.  Guests tend to mingle around the bar and food so incorporate the silent auction where your guests will most likely be gathered.
  • If you have a large silent auction (40 or more items) then use staggered closings.  For example, group your items into 2-3 sections and close them in 5-10 minute increments with less expensive items closing first and more expensive items closing last.  Assign different colored balloons to each section so guests can see where each section is located.
  • Have a volunteer at every 10-15 items or so to assist bidders if they have questions.
  • Have your volunteers immediately pull the bid sheets as the auctioneer closes that section.

These are all very important ingredients to a successful silent auction, however to get the most “bang for your buck”, hire a professional fundraising auctioneer/consultant to help guide you through the process.  The final results will far outweigh the investment in a professional.  Hopefully this helps you have silent auction success.  Now go forth and fundraise!

Written by Mike Grigg, AARE, BAS

Elite Auctions & Fundraising Services

One Response to “Guest Post: The Do’s and Dont’s of Silent Auctions”

  1. when someone donates silent auction prizes for an event, then they cancel the event what happens to the prizes . should the prizes go back to who donated . donated by an individual not a company.


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