6 Easy Steps to Creating Your Silent Auction

Is it your first time in charge of your organization’s fundraising auction?

Whether you’re new at this and have no idea what to do next, or you volunteered to create the auction again this year, you’re in the right place. 

Let’s begin by first considering auction types and move on to reviewing the six steps to creating your silent auction.


Live vs. Virtual Silent Auctions: which should you choose?

We’ll walk you through the details and how-tos of the three types of auctions to help you choose:

          • Online (virtual—doesn’t require a venue)
          • Live (can be silent or with an auctioneer)
          • Online and Live (Takes the most effort but raises the most funding) 

What Is a Silent Auction?

Silent auctions, like traditional auctions, raise funds through attendees bidding on items donated by sponsors. The highest bid wins and the proceeds go to the organization or cause.

Unlike a traditional auction, however, a silent auction doesn’t have an auctioneer. Instead, attendees write their bids on bid sheets. Throughout the event, bidders can return to the bid sheet to see if they are still the highest bidder and/or raise their bid to secure the item. Fun and excitement can erupt when bidders get into a competitive bidding war for a single item.

Once you’ve selected the type of online auction you’ll use, review how an online auction moves from start to finish in the six steps below. It’s a helpful tool to help you organize a successful auction.

Six Easy Steps to your Silent Auction:

icon planning


Two things to do before creating your auction

1. Determine whether you want a live or virtual silent auction.
2. Select your auction platform to determine which platform suits your organization or cause best. 

Resources to help you with steps one and two:

Step 1:

img step1

Create an Auction Committee

Our online auctions are easy enough to be hosted by one person (seriously!) or a whole team. Live, in-person auctions usually require help, but don’t worry—we’ll show you how to structure your team.

As you assemble your auction team, consider these tips:

  • icon planningDetermine what roles need to be fulfilled
  • icon planningWhat tasks and responsibilities fall under each role?
  • icon planningKeep the committee focused and having fun!

Step 2:

img step2

Collect Donated Items

Asking for donations can seem daunting, but your community wants to help your worthy cause! In fact, we can help you streamline the collection and management of donated items. Here are some things to consider:

  • icon planningAsk the right people for the right things! Your community will be glad to donate items. If you’re a member of a Chamber of Commerce, ask the members for donations.
  • icon planningMake the donation process simple AND EASY!
  • icon planningConsider looking for a sponsor(s) for your auction. Tell them where their organization will be promoted (ads, social media, banners, emails, press releases, etc.), how many people they’ll reach and what your organization will do to honor their generous donation. This will increase your bottom line!

    Here are a few companies that offer matching programs as part of their corporate giving initiatives. 

Step 3:

img step3

Planning the Event

We know that planning an event can be stressful, but try to have fun! CharityAuctionsToday takes the guesswork out of the process, and we love that making it fun adds to its success!

To get the most out of your planning phase, consider:

  • icon planningMake it EASY for your guests (bidders). Is the venue easy to get to? Did you pick the best day/time for them to attend? Easy parking? Consider your guests in every step you plan. Make it as simple for your bidders to attend!
  • icon planningMoney-saving tips – check out some low to no-cost ideas!
  • icon planningMake a checklist of everything you want to accomplish!

Step 4:

img step4

Publicize the Auction

Social media is a terrific way to reach your intended audience. Review our best practices to help harness social media’s power to create a successful auction.


Other considerations for efficient fundraising:

  • icon planningCreate a buzz that translates into dollars for your organization
  • icon planningSimple, easy, and FREE ways to spread the word. People love to contribute to causes—all you have to do is ask them.
  • icon planningLeveraging your social media relationships without feeling pushy. Ask your friends for help to achieve your goal. Remember, people love to do good things.
  • Utilize email. What member lists do you have access to? Member lists such as Chamber of Commerce, districts, organizations, etc. are excellent ways to reach out to prospective bidders personally.

Step 5:

img step4

Organize the Silent Auction

Online and live, in-person silent auctions are easy to run with some planning. Over the past 15 years, we have fine-tuned the planning process to make it easier for you. Here are a few ideas that might help along the way:

  • icon planningCreate checklists to get you through the planning, administration, and closing of each auction.
  • icon planningBe mindful about how you structure the auction for maximum bid potential. Do your items have clear and accurate descriptions? Is the auction beneficiary listed and advertised? We joke that an auction platform is like a dating app—you must use your best photos and words to reach your goals!
  • icon planningAsk for help! Often volunteers are looking for “their role.” You don’t have to do this alone! Delegate! 

Step 6:

img step6

Close the Silent Auction

Between swiping credit cards and assigning winning bidders, closing out an auction can seem intimidating.  Our team of Auction Success Managers will be at your side as the auction closes in case you have questions.

Here are three end-of-auction tips:

  • icon planningClose out your auction so that it is memorable for all participants. A memorable closing will help get them back for your next event!
  • icon planningPlan out and review all payment options to minimize unexpected fees or snags.
  • icon planningTouch base with all participants after the event (that includes your volunteers!). Let them know how valuable they are to your cause.