What about Secret Bids?

What is about Secret Bids? Why are they such a secret? What exactly is it? The secret is about to be spilled!

Secret Bids is a method of auctioning off packages without being able to see other bids. Once all bids are submitted, the highest bid is determined, and the bid is paid to win the item.

How Does it Work?

Similar to a silent auction, a package being sold by secret bid should be attractively displayed with a description, donor information, terms, conditions, and/or expiration date, retail value, minimum bid accepted, and a closing date and time.

Unlike a silent auction, you will not have a visible bid sheet. Instead, like a raffle, you display a closed container with a small opening. Interested bidders fill out bid slips with their bidder name/number, bid amount, and contact information (if not recorded elsewhere) and drop them in the container. If multiple bids are turned in by the same person, only the highest counts. At the end of your bidding period, someone reviews all bids for each package, determines each package’s highest bid, and, thus, the winner.

Secret bidding can be conducted easily by email as well, by sending descriptions of available packages and instructions to reply to bid. The winner is determined and contacted at the end of the bidding period, and payment is taken prior to delivery. You may wish to raise minimum bids to include shipping costs. Due to email deliverability issues, it is highly recommended to confirm receipt of each bid and notify bidders to expect this, in case bids are not received and/or are diverted to spam folders.
Download your copy of the Fundraising Revenue Enhancer eBook
No bids are disclosed except the highest bid. In case of a tie, you may decide do a tie-breaker with the tied winning bidders, asking for new secret bids, using their last tied bid as the new minimum bid.

Variations And Other Names

Also known as sealed bids, blind auction, closed auction. May be done either by email or in person, including at an event with other fundraising features.

Renee’s Advice

Secret Bids works especially well when:

Note: Many states have specific rules that govern auction games. Make sure to check your state’s raffle licensing laws as well as your organization’s bylaws. Also, check on alcohol sales rules and permits, as well as firearms, if those will be available at your event or in the auction.
  • You have multiple quantities of the same item—take a specific number of the highest bids for the quantity you have.
  • Your event space is large and you do not have mobile bidding, making it difficult to check bid statuses.
  • You want an alternative to “Buy It Now,” where you do not set a max price.
  • You have items left after an event and can conduct a second-chance auction by email.
  • You receive duplicate donations and do not wish to offer more than one at the main event.
  • And, if a secret bid is done via email, the bidding deadline should be no later than a week away, so to elicit a reply within the first few days.

Some Personal Insight from Renee

Several years ago, I could not attend the golf tournament and dinner for a charity I supported. I was excited to receive an email the week after, offering a list of items that were either duplicate donations and/or not won at the main event, along with instructions to simply reply within five days with my highest bid for items I wanted and my phone number. It turns out a gift certificate for a restaurant I had wanted to try was on the list. I sent in my bid, and found out I won a week later! I was very glad to have this second chance to support the organization AND have a good reason for a special night out. Many of your supporters will appreciate this type of opportunity, too.

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.

Share your thoughts