How to Run a Silent Auction Fundraiser

Silent Auction Fundraiser

Any charity can use silent auctions as a means of fundraising to support their charitable cause. In fact, organizing and running a silent auction is much easier than it may seem, especially if you are hosting your auction online with a fundraising strategy.

You can start by following this simple step by step guide on how to run a silent auction fundraiser:

Step 1: Create your auction committee for silent auction

You will need to find some excited volunteers from your group to help plan and run the event. Make sure you have plenty of people to volunteer. It is necessary to make sure that tasks are assigned to people. It’s not possible to do everything on your own.

Auction Committee

Start out with a strong, dedicated group and assign leadership roles to those who will be in charge of managing and publicizing the event.

Step 2: Solicit item donations

To keep costs low, have members ask co-workers, friends, and family who own local businesses to donate items for your auction.

In exchange for donated items, you can offer businesses free publicity during the fundraising event and in your marketing materials. Free advertising is always a good way to reciprocate. You can make a separate PR and marketing team also for your auction.

donate for silent charity auctions

Try to get all offers for donations in writing, when possible, or collect the items on the spot. Most museum or recreational venues will donate items if you ask in writing.

Make sure you have plenty of copies of a request for donations written on the school or nonprofit’s letterhead.

Step 3: Determine a time and place for your event

If hosting your event in a public venue, you will need to find an appropriate and affordable space to hold the silent auction. In general, school auditoriums and cafeterias are the perfect space for such fundraisers.

Whether you are doing a school fundraiser or not, check with your nearest school and see if they will donate or rent the space. Be sure to find a place where doors can be locked or hire security, if necessary.

Time and place for charity auctions

The room should have good circulation and be comfortable for guests, giving them plenty of space to move around freely.

Arrange tables around the walls, placing items for bid on the tables. You can place a few in the center of the room, too, if needed. It’s ideal to place your auction items in the middle of all the action.

If you are holding your silent auction online, make sure you have studied the site hosting your fundraising program carefully.

CharityAuctionsToday.com offers a convenient way to run your auctions from anywhere at any time and provides back end management so you can stay focused on your events. As long as you have an internet connection, you can run your auctions and stay in touch with supporters no matter where you are! With free membership and no listing fees, how can you lose?

Step 4: Chose an activity

Be sure to have some form of entertainment to keep your bidders there during the silent auction and afterward while you determine the auction winners.

For instance, create a lively, fun elementary school fundraising event or church fundraiser that supporters will enjoy.

Auction activities

Host a dinner with an open bar during your auction. Other great possibilities include having a live band or even hosting a bocce ball tournament.

The idea is to keep donors interested, so they do not get bored and leave early.

Step 5: Publicize your silent auction

Market your event ahead of time. Create flyers or newspapers ads to advertise your event.

Purchase commercial spots at a local radio station or have a short video for public access television commercials. Word of mouth is also a great way to spread the news of your event.

marketing your event

Use whatever resources you have to let the public know when, where, and why your event is being held.

Show off some of the great items you will be auctioning on social media pages and get the community excited. Social media advertising like Facebook and Instagram ads can also do wonders and help you create a lot of foot fall for both online and offline events. Feel free to reach out to us, we can help you with marketing your events. 

Step 6: Organize the auction

It is crucial that your auction is well organized. It’s necessary to plan every step so that you and your volunteers know exactly what to do and how to do it. It prevents any last minute surprises. 

You will want to vary the costs of starting bids for different items. It is a good practice to have high priced items as well as inexpensive items.

organize the auction

Make sure you have diversity in donated items. It’s good to have items that appeal to men, ones that appeal to women, as well as, some for children.

The more variety you have in price and products, the higher your chances of success. Remember to check that all donations are clean and in good condition.

Step 7: Prepare bid sheets

Once you have organized your items, create bid sheets for each one. At the top of the bid sheet, list the name of the item in bold. Beneath it, write a short description and the name of the donor. The rest of the sheet should include a series of numbered, blank lines.

Make sure bid sheets are supported with cardboard or a clipboard, so people can write on the sheets. Hang a pen with each one.

bid sheet

Bidders will write their bids on the sheets. Have duplicates of each sheet handy and extra blank sheets for any last minute auction items that become available.

Step 8: Determine bidding rules

Set bidding rules ahead of time for your silent auction and post a sheet where supporters can view them easily. Consider some of these rules for bidding:

  • Establish minimum bids on all items.
  • Use whole dollar amounts so people will not bid in penny increments.
  • Supporters cannot bid less than previous bids.
  • Bids that have been changed or crossed out must be initialed by the bidder.
  • No bids will be accepted after the auction ends.

Bidding rules for auction

Step 9: Close the silent auction

Have the silent auction set to end at a pre-planned time. Alternatively, you can have a spontaneous ending where you announce that bidding is closed. If you opt for this, make sure your committee knows ahead of time exactly when the auction will end, so they are prepared.

Once the bidding has stopped, committee members should immediately begin collecting bid sheets. Go through every sheet and get the name and the winning amount for the winning bidder.

closing the auction

After these tasks are complete, have an area ready, that has been set up in advance, in which you announce winning bidders, and have them come to the area to pay. After payment, give them a ticket for their item.

After all bidders have paid, set up a delivery time and area where winners can collect the items they have won.

Make sure you have plenty of cash in hand for change. Also, if possible, set up a way to accept credit cards for your event. This can increase your sales volume tremendously.

PayPal is always an easy option, but the school or nonprofit organization may be able to set you up with their method of collecting credit card payments.


By following these simple guidelines, you can throw a successful silent auction that will bring in tons of donations!

Don’t forget! We provide charitable auction hosting services to help you reach your fundraising goals. If you want to host your silent auction online, get in touch with us to learn more about our Silent Auction Software for your very own fundraiser website.

2019-05-10T10:00:47+00:002 months ago|Fundraising Ideas|