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Silent Auction Ideas and Tips

Updated on July 7, 2015

What is a silent auction? Well, if you don’t like the idea of attending an auction because of the loud, fast talking guy spewing out what seems to be a bunch of gibberish, then there’s no worries! With a silent auction, it is more, well, silent.

There is no auctioneer, everyone writes down their bids for each item, and the person who writes the highest bid is the winner for that auction!

Of course, a silent auction isn’t completely silent; if it is completely silent, it means that your guests are bored or that there is nobody there, or not enough people there!

Charities and Fundraisers

With most silent auctions is the need for money for a good cause standing right behind it. Silent auctions are typically a great money-maker for charities and benefits for people who have lost loved ones. Even if you are just looking to raise money for a school or sports team, the idea of hosting a silent auction should not be ignored

Silent auctions are best hosted indoors in a secure establishment. If you need a few silent auction ideas, places such as your home(if large), a church, or a clubhouse are all great locations to host such an event and generally have enough space to handle the traffic that will be coming in.


How to Have a Silent Auction

Hosting a Silent Auction

Hosting a silent auction is pretty simple! As with the hosting of any event, make sure there is food and refreshments available. You can even charge for these to make more money for the cause that the event is for!

Items for Auction

When deciding which items to auction off, try to think if it’s an item that someone will really want.

  • Antiques
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Gift baskets
  • Sports memorabilia

Oh, and don’t forget to include at least one high-ticket item if you have the chance!

Bid Sheets

Each item you plan to auction off, whether donated by you or others, gets a tag with a number, and a bid sheet with a coordinating number. The bid sheet will be somewhere nearby the item that it goes with, and it is where people will write their bids for the item.

Information to include at top of the bid sheet:

  • Item number

  • Description of item: Short and to the point.

  • Item retail value: What is it worth in a store brand new?

  • Minimum bid: The minimum amount the bid has to reach before it can be considered auctioned off.

  • Minimum bid increase: The minimum increase from the last bidder, for example $1.00, 5.00, $25.00

Columns that bidders fill in:

  • Name: First and last.

  • Phone number: In case this person doesn’t stick around for the whole event.

  • Bid: How much are they bidding?

Bid sheets should be secured down to a surface somewhere near the item they are paired with, to avoid them getting moved around, damaged or lost.

Closing the Auctions

There is a few silent auction ideas when it comes to the closing of the auctions. Depending on your crowd, this may require some agility on your part! No matter how you decide to close it, you definitely need to announce it via a microphone or megaphone when the closing time is near, whether there is five minutes or 10 minutes.

There will always be those people who try to sneak in a bid after time has been called, so try one of these silent auction ideas for closing it off:

  • Have a volunteer standing at each table to snag the big sheets once time has been called. These volunteers should also make note of people writing in a bid past time, and cross this bid out on the sheet.

  • Punch a hole in all of the sheets and string a long piece of yarn through all of the sheets. This way, when time is called, all someone has to do is pull the yarn to take the sheets away quickly.

  • Collect all of the pens and draw lines or a big X through the empty spaces on the bid sheet so nobody can vote when time is called.

Announcing the Winners

The winner of each auction is typically the highest bidder, but their bid must meet both the minimum bid requirement and the minimum bid increase requirement. If they didn’t increase their bid by at least the minimum amount, they are not the winner of the auction, and the winner then becomes the last person who met the requirements.

Some people will win more than one item, so be sure to keep their bid sheets together when you go to call out the winners to go to the “bank” area, where money will be collected and the items will be given.

One at a time, call the winners to the bank area to claim their auction item. If the person does not respond, place the sheet aside and try again later. Life happens and sometimes people just cannot stay for the full event, so make a good faith effort to call them after the event before awarding the auction to another bidder.


Silent Auction Checklist

With the hosting of any event, comes the necessity of a checklist; therefore, we are leaving you with this checklist to get started!

Auction necessities:

  • Master list of auction inventory

  • Tags

  • Bid sheets

  • Pens, markers, highlighters

  • Tape

  • Donation slips

  • Microphone or megaphone

  • Signs

  • Advertising

Food and beverage area: Complimentary or charge, your choice.

  • Napkins

  • Plates

  • Cups

  • Plasticware

  • Ice

  • Coolers

  • Condiments

Decorations and other supplies

  • Table cloths

  • Bunting

  • Streamers and balloons

  • Anything that shows the charity or cause

  • T-shirts or polos that clearly label volunteers, judges and bankers

After the Event

Once everything is over and it’s time to clean up, you may still have items left over that nobody bid on. This is not uncommon, so don’t feel bad! You can either return the item to the person who donated it, or donate it to an appropriate group of people who can put it to good use.

How To Display Items at Your Silent Auction


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I think if you have raised children and do not know about these --- you were asleep.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Very cool, thanks for sharing. I have donated some pieces of artwork to silent auctions in the past but have never attended one. Nice work here, thanks for explaining the process.