Silent Auction Ideas: Mastering Pricing and Selling Strategies
In a recent survey 85% of nonprofits said they incorporate a silent auction to raise revenue at events. One of the questions our team gets quite frequently is how best to price items in silent auctions. Luckily, Nicole Bennett of Perry Consulting joined us recently to discuss some silent auction ideas and offered great advice about how to devise an auction budget, and delved into what type of items to solicit.
Silent Auction Ideas to Maximize Bids and Revenue
Nicole reminded us that items rarely sell for their full declared item value. For that reason, typically she suggests setting the minimum bid at 40% of the item’s value as provided by the donor. When setting out to procure auction items, take into consideration that they will likely sell for less than their stated value, so set your fundraising goals (and budget) appropriately.
Price your items to sell. You don’t want to haul unsold items back to the office, and it’s never pleasant to tell an item donor that their donation didn’t sell. Set items at a price that will attract bidders.
These rules don’t always apply, however, and Nicole had some great tips and tricks for accurately pricing your silent auction items—and how to grab even more attention for them.
Perceived Item Value
In some places, an item can be worth much more than somewhere else. Some audiences will value certain items much higher than others. In a community with exclusive golf clubs, for example—where it’s difficult to schedule tee time—a few games at a popular course could be a hot commodity. Sold out seats at a concert or a local sports game may have a higher value than the purchase price because they’re unavailable elsewhere. High demand can raise the perceived value of an auction item. You may want to set a higher starting bid price for items you expect to be very popular.
Some items are beyond value, such as signed memorabilia. Especially if the player or team is a local favorite, signed sports memorabilia could sell for much more within your community than elsewhere. These items can be difficult to price, but don’t short yourself by starting bidding too low.
Donor pricing is sometimes different from the item’s actual value, which you should take into consideration when setting your minimum bids. If the donor has priced the tickets higher than you would pay at the door, set the minimum bid based on the actual market value of the item.
What should my silent auction bid increments be?
Pricing Tactics and Creative Options
Nicole suggests setting your individual bid increments at roughly 10% of the item value. Greater Giving can automatically calculate and generate your bid increments for you on both paper bid sheets and in the mobile bidding interface.
“Buy It Now” Options
One great silent auction idea to incorporate is the “Buy It Now” option. This option allows a bidder to pay a set amount higher than the value of the item to secure it and guarantee that they win the item. It can be a great upsell for a guest who is dead-set on bringing something home with them.
But Nicole cautions against setting the “buy it now” too low and potentially missing out on an even higher selling price, particularly on items in high demand that are likely to result in bidding wars. Consider listing a higher price or removing the option altogether.
Final Tips & Tricks
Give your emcee talking points for some of your big-ticket auction items so they can make announcements to the crowd. Your emcee should be encouraging guests to check out the no-bids section of their mobile bidding app to score some great deals on items that don’t have bids yet.
On the subject of items with no bids, some nonprofits use a method of seeding bids to encourage activity on less popular items. Often, guests are less likely to bid on items that don’t have other bids on them already. Having a staff member, volunteer, or board member plant a bid opens the door for more guests to feel comfortable bidding.
Watch the full webinar on The How To’s of a Successful Silent Auction for more tips from Nicole.