action against hunger

Silent auction or bidding wall

Silent auctions open up a wealth of opportunities: people only bid on the items of interest to them, prizes can be more varied and it practically runs itself.

Run this in the background to your event, either as well as, or instead of a raffle. Display the lots clearly on a table, and have clipboards next to them for people to add bids throughout the event.

Success story

Kate Thomas, PTA chair, North Cerney Church of England Primary School, Gloucestershire told us about their annual silent auction: 'Every year, as part of our Christmas fair, we set up a silent auction. I write to local companies in October, asking for donations. Another committee member, Charlotte, puts the silent auction together, including a booklet with descriptions. We try to get as many lots as we can! We are very lucky to have a supportive community, in the past we have had items such as: a week's stay in a house in France, wing walking, photo sessions, garden clearance, as well as smaller things such as a ride in a combine harvester, an interior design service, babysitting, a haircut or a cleaner for a day! The list of lots for the silent auction goes out in book bags one week before the event. At the fair we have a big whiteboard listing each item on offer and a column for the bids, as well as forms for each lot, where you put your name, phone number and bid. Charlotte runs the table, updating the whiteboard with the latest bid so everyone can see (although people could just add their bid to the list if volunteers are in short supply). It is all very relaxed and at the end of the fair we announce who has been successful for each lot. We give them a month to pay up! Our last silent auction made £1,500 and in previous years it has raised as much as £1,800!'

Tips and advice

  • Be organised: Good organisation is key. Track your auction items, set up bid sheets, have thank you letters ready to send to donors, and be firm with deadlines.
  • Promote the auction: The best way to build interest is to promote it beforehand through all available channels - social media, websites, local press and posters around the area.
  • Seek out new donors: Silent auctions are an easy way to build new connections in the local community. Approach new businesses, tell them about your cause and what you're raising money for.
  • Be creative: The more unique items you source, the more excitement (and bids) you will generate. Offer the usual fare (like restaurant vouchers), but also seek out special, one-of-a-kind items such as tickets to big sporting events or a luxury driving experience.
  • Cultivate donors: While most event organisers might send thank you notes to businesses and individuals that donate items, most do not cultivate these relationships long-term. Don't make this mistake. Donors can and should become firm friends.
  • Perfect your display: If possible, allow bidders to touch and feel the items offered - this will encourage them to part with their hard-earned cash! If you cannot physically display the items (e.g. if it is a donated service), then provide high-quality photographs.
  • State your terms: Explain that winning bids need to be collected and paid for within a certain time-frame. Where the bid is a service (i.e. garden tidy) stipulate appropriate 'use-by' dates. Display these terms next to your bidding sheets.
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