How Do Silent Auctions Work?

How do a silent auction work? First, a disclaimer: The top 10 articles and links on Google on the subject “How Do Silent Auctions Work” are ALL from companies trying to sell you mobile bidding software which is ok but the traditional silent auction sheet of paper method is still a great way to do it and sometimes an even better option. So don’t let any of the other biased articles on the subject of “how do silent auctions work” discourage you from doing the traditional and still profitable way of a silent auction with sheet of paper. Should you choose a mobile bidding or software based silent auction program I will later in this article share with you some FREE (no strings attached) options as well as a few more high end silent auction mobile bidding app programs that cost just a couple hundred dollars. I’m a fundraising and benefit auctioneer & consultant with years of experience raising millions of dollars for schools and charities so I have zero biased opinion on what you choose to do. using software or a sheet of paper can work.

What Is a Silent Auction?

A silent auction is a type of auction where guests bid on items in a written format, rather than audible auction with an auctioneer. It is a great way for charities, schools and non-profit organizations to raise money and awareness for their cause.

At a silent auction, there will be a variety of items on display, such as jewelry, artwork, vacation packages, gift baskets, and gift certificates. It’s important to choose items that will appeal to the guests who will be attending your auction. I have written articles and videos on where to locate free items for all of these. Don’t they really are all free and not consigned items.

During the auction, the items are placed around a room and guests can view the items and place their bids on a bid sheet next to each item. The bid sheet will have a description of the item and a space for guests to write their name and bid amount. (unless your doing it through a software app on your phone)

At the end of the auction, the highest bid for each item will be awarded the item. Silent auctions can be a great way for non-profit organizations to raise money and get people excited about their cause. Many silent auctions are able to raise thousands of dollars from donated items from local sponsors, and others that support the cause.

How Does A Silent Auction Work With Paper -Vs- Software

A silent auction can allow guests to bid on items in writing or on a mobile app instead of verbally. Here’s how a silent auction works:

  1. Each item up for bid has its own bid sheet. (a real paper bid sheet or on a app)
  2. Guests can take a look at the items and then place their bid on the bid sheet by writing down the highest amount they are willing to pay for that item. (or through an app)
  3. Most guests how do silent auctions work guests see the bid sheet on the table next to the desired item or a picture of the item. Then they can bid above the current bid amount on the sheet. Announcements are made encouraging people to bid.
  4. Some silent auctions may use a different format where the items on a table and guests are assigned a number rather than using their names. This allows allows for a better tracking procedure. (Guests are assigned bid numbers as they sign in from a Google or excel spreadsheet or mobile bidding app) and also allows the guests to use the same bid number later for a live auction.
  5. Once the silent auction is closed, the items will go to the individuals with the highest bids. Typically a countdown for the silent auction is mentioned at different intervals till finally like the ball drop on New Years Eve a 60 second countdown is given. Encouraging last second bids.
  6. With the help of a silent auction app you can bid, view items, and view current bidding status from your mobile device. You could do this is well with silent auction sheets by taking pictures of the items days and weeks ahead and sharing it on your website and social media.

Best practices to keep in mind when planning a silent auction:

  1. Advertise some items ahead of time: Share a sneak peek of some of the items that will be available for bidding on social media or in an email newsletter. This will generate excitement and help guests plan what they want to bid on.
  2. How do silent auctions work: Making a  short video with your camera about your event and sharing  a short “how does a silent auction work” video including giving additional details ahead of time might be a good way to share information about your event. If your using a mobile bidding program this might be a good time to share a video on how to download and use the program as well.
  3. Establish a closing time: Set a specific time when the bidding will close. This creates a sense of urgency and ensures guests place their bids as soon as possible.
  4. Have the right number of items: Have around one item for every two guests at the event. Having too many items can be overwhelming and may not necessarily increase the number of items sold.
  5. Control traffic flow: Arrange the tables and display items in a way that makes them easily visible and avoids traffic jams.
  6. Organize items strategically: Organize items from least to most expensive. This will encourage guests to place bids on multiple items.

To run a silent auction, here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Promotion: Start promoting the event & how does a silent auction work as soon as date is set. Use social media & email to get the word out.
  2. Venue selection: Choose a venue that has enough space for display tables and allows guests to move around freely.
  3. Item selection: Choose items that will appeal to your target audience.
  4. Item display: Make sure all items are visible and easy to see.
  5. Item descriptions: Provide detailed information about each item to help guests make informed decisions.
  6. Registration: Consider having guests register to bid. This allows guests to bid anonymously and provides you with contact information for follow-up.
  7. Silent Auction Bid sheets: Provide bid sheets for guests to place their bids.
  8. Volunteers: Recruit volunteers to help with setup, registration, and other tasks.
  9. Auction monitors: Consider having experienced auction monitors to oversee the auction and ensure everyone follows the rules.
  10. Checkout area: Have a specific space for guests to pay for and pick up their items after the auction is over.

Now you know how do silent auctions work, lets look at the two most common options and what’s best for you.

 Benefits of silent auction using traditional paper bid sheets:

  1. Familiarity: Traditional silent auctions eliminate the question most of your guests will be asking IF you opt for mobile bidding hey: “how do silent auctions work?” or better yet “how does this silent auction work?” using paper bid sheets are a well-established format that many people are familiar with. This can make it easier for guests to understand how the auction works and feel more comfortable participating.
  2. Personal touch: With traditional silent auctions, guests are able to physically handle and inspect items before placing a bid. This personal touch can help build excitement and increase interest in the items.
  3. Social interaction: Traditional silent auctions provide an opportunity for guests to interact with one another and build connections. This can be particularly beneficial for schools and nonprofit organizations looking to get guest to stop being on their phone staring at a screen and looking up, being engaged in person with real social interaction.
  4. Simplicity: A traditional silent auction can be less technical and less reliant on technology, allowing for a more simple and straightforward experience for everyone to use and understand. No learning curve to use another app.
  5. Reliability: With no internet or power connection required, traditional auctions can be less prone to technical difficulties, assuring an uninterrupted auction. No need to worry about how much bad width a hotel or venue space has to handle all of the guests WiFi connection to bid or if the location has a good data connection for all phone network carriers your guests are using.
  6. Cost effective: Running traditional auctions is generally less expensive than digital ones, particularly if your organization don’t want to pay for the license fee to use the mobile bidding app or higher credit card processing fees most of these programs charge.

That being said, while some people may prefer traditional silent auctions, it’s worth considering how a mobile bidding app can bring new opportunities and streamline the process, giving more chances to reach more audience and to manage the auction efficiently.

How does a silent auction work on mobile bidding app and why use it?

A traditional silent auction usually has items displayed on tables throughout a room. This can lead to crowding around popular items. This can make it difficult for guests to see the items and bid and create bottle necks. With an online silent auction, guests can bid on items from the comfort of their own home. They can also share the link of the silent auction on social media. This is a great way to get friends and relatives all over the world to donate and bid even if they are not in attendance. This eliminates the extra need of auction space for your fundraising location which might save you money if your renting a venue. Donors and guests can view the items at anytime from anywhere. They can also bid and even track their bidding status all at the comfort of their device. At the end of the auction they can pay from the phone and receive an emailed receipt. This eliminates the long lines at the end of the night trying to check out and pay at the end of your event.

Now I know how does a silent auction work should I event do one?

Organizing and running a silent auction can take a significant amount of time and effort. Some schools and charities need a large amount of volunteers to procure, manage and track a silent auction it can be and exhausting and daunting task depending on the size of your silent auction. Some silent auctions I have been apart of raise tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is not typical however. Many events are switching to just doing a live auction with 5-10 live auctions and having the auctioneer do an appeal/ask/paddle raiser after the short live auction and raising a lot more money with less stress. Still other events do them both.