Tips and Tricks for a Successful Silent Auction

Coordinating all the moving parts that come with planning a silent auction can feel like a juggling act of donations, solicitations, follow-ups, and tiny details. Planning your event’s silent auction can be stressful to say the least, but it doesn’t have to be the nightmare some have come to expect.

Clients of Auction Harmony use our services for much more than event technology. Our Event Managers are experts at auctions and have extensive understanding of industry trends. We work with you throughout the event planning process to keep you feeling confident and excited about your fundraising efforts. Planners often ask us to review their silent auction items in the months leading up to their event.

Here are some tips for a successful silent auction:

Sell experiences – Aim to create packages that generate an “Oh, that would be fun!” response.  When you combine a restaurant gift certificate, a night at a hotel, and two tickets to a theater performance, you have instantly created a Night on the Town package. When the details are taken care of, guests are purchasing much more than the experience; they are purchasing the convenience of having a weekend “staycation” planned just for them. This added convenience drives up the value, resulting in more competition and higher bids.


Know your bidders – It may seem simple, but catering your items and packages to your audience will have a significant impact on how many attendees bid during your event. A casual women’s luncheon should have a silent auction that looks very different from a black tie gala for a hospital foundation. Tailoring your items to align with the demographics and lifestyles of your guests provides a good foundation for active bidding.

Avoid personal items such as art and clothing – Style and personal tastes vary greatly from one person to the next. Artwork such as paintings and sculptures has a tendency to sell for much lower than their value, often due to lack of interest. In order for an auction item to produce a lot of bids, several people must be interested in purchasing it. The task of finding universally appealing artwork and clothing can be challenging, and may not pay off in the end.

Diversify your price points – The best parties are ones where everyone is having a good time. Placing bids and initiating “bidding wars” is fun and exciting. Make sure you have items for everyone in attendance: high rollers and bargain shoppers.

Location, location, location – While considering your event space, it’s important to consider the overall flow of the room. Silent Auctions typically do well when guests have enough space to leisurely browse the items without feeling cramped or crowded. Allow for a lot of movement in the auction space; an auction item that no one sees is an auction item that no one bids on.  Another tip: guests get thirsty and the bars are popular. Having a bar tucked neatly within your silent auction space means guests don’t have to leave to get another glass of wine or a cocktail.

Even with all of this information, be sure to trust that your fundraising event is much more than just a silent auction. It’s a celebration for your organization and its’ supporters. Try to enjoy it. Follow these tips and sleep well. You’ll need your energy for the after party!