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Fundraising: Setting up a silent auction!

Updated on June 9, 2013

The step by step guide to setting up a silent auction fundraiser!

Setting up a silent auction may sound like a ton of work but in the end it could be fairly simple if you take the time to set up for it and review this guide. The best part about hosting a silent auction is you don't need any other type of fundraising event to have one. Now if you have a bull roast going on or a gala think about adding a silent auction to help raise extra money for your organization or benefit.

Silent auctions can be held at any type of facility including a local school, gym, church or activities center located in your nearby town. After you figure out where you might have the event the next step is getting items for the auction. Now this can be a little hard at first but after you do it a few times you will get better and better.

You can use a silent auction for a non-profit charity or organization as well as for other local charities including little leagues, karate or after school organizations. Hosting a silent auction is no different then any other charity fundraiser that is held to help raise money as well as collect donations.

That is why I have wrote this lens to help make setting up your silent auction a big success the first year or the tenth year!

What is a Silent Auction?

Do you know what a silent auction is?

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What is a silent auction?

Now some people know might know what a silent auction is but many might not know so here is a quick description of what a silent auction is.

A silent auction is similar to a live auction where items are auctioned off but it is done with out an auctioneer. The items are put on display with a simple piece of paper with a basic description of the item. Below the description will have a few columns one for name or bidder number and another for where the bid amount will be placed. Most auctions will list the starting bid price of an item so the organization doesn't lose money if they went out and bought the item. The most important part about a silent auction is knowing what time it ends so that you can get back up and put in your final bids!

So now that i filled everyone in on what a silent auction is take a look at an example of what a bid sheet might look like!

As you can see with the bid sheet I provided the item is a Cal Ripken Jr autographed bat. The silent auction starting bid price is $100 and the auction is using bidder numbers instead of using your name. This just means you have to sign up for the auction which doesn't cost a penny to participate in. The bid sheet also lets you know sales tax will be added to the final invoice price and that bids must increase by $10. This just means that if someone places a bid for $100 the next bid should be at least $110.

Have questions? Just keep reading hopefully I will help answer them throughout the lens!

Finding a place to hold the silent auction!

The first step in planning for the event is where the silent auction will take place. Now if it is being added to another event such as a gala, benefit or bull roast this is simple.

All you need for it to be added to a previous event is finding a location where the other event is going on to set up tables and the items that will be included in the silent auction.

Now if you are doing a stand alone Silent Auction consider having it somewhere that will be cost friendly so it won't cost you a lot of out of pocket money. For example if the event is raising money for a local church the church should have no problem letting you use a hall or room at the church to hold the silent auction in.

As far as some possible choices for holding you event consider local schools, recreation centers, churches and fire halls. With finding a place it sometimes comes down to what kind of event in general you are having. Just gotta consider how many people will be attending and what else will be going on. The best part about a few of the examples are they are fairly cheap and you will be helping out another great cause.

Silent Auctions don't require a ton a room so a gymnasium or classroom at a school can do the trick for a school event where it won't cost the school any out of pocket cost.

Bargains in a silent auction?

Have you ever purchased an item in a silent auction?

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Finding items for your silent auction!

One of the hardest parts in setting up a silent auction is finding the items to fill the auction. Now this could be a lot easier with proper planning throughout the organizing process. Try finding someone who is good with communicating with the community, has free time on their hands and is good with a computer.

When looking for items for any silent auctions try thinking about what items would appeal to people attending your event.

Here is a few items that make great silent auction items.

~ Sports Memorabilia (autographed photos, baseballs, footballs, etc. as well as nicely framed photos that are not autographed)

~ Gift cards to local restaurants (Applebees, Outback, Red Lobster, and small local restaurants)

~ Gift baskets (wine basket, liquor basket, movie night basket, candy basket, sporting goods basket)

~ Baked goods (baked cakes, baked goodies basket, and etc.)

~ Donated services (lawn services, hair styling, tanning, home improvement and etc.)

~ Sporting Tickets (local teams for either Major League sports or the Minor Leagues)

Now not everything in your silent auction needs to be donated as someone organizations will let you work with them on consignment. As well as making discounted purchases to make great baskets. Now if its your first year I would say try to get as many donations as possible as well working with organizations on consignment. We will get to consignments in the next section.

As your prepare to contact businesses remember to consider what is in it for them as the tough economy many small businesses can not afford to donate to every organization that approaches them. So if it is a local restaurant or business offer an ad in your newsletter or newspaper, add a sign to the silent auction thanking the local businesses and offer them to come set up at the event for free advertising.

The best way to approach a business is to write up a letter explaining what the event is for as well as how they will be recognized at the event. Once the letter is typed up make a day or two where you can stop by each store you are considering. Ask to speak to the owner or manager and explain what the event is going on, what the money is going to and how they will get recognized. Then leave them with your letter along with your contact information. Do not beg for donations as this looks bad on your organization. After a few days if you have not heard anything just contact them and ask them if they would be interested in donating.

As far as buying items some times organizations will look for bargains, sales and other promotions throughout the year to make a basket or auction item look a little better. For example a local coach purse outlet store is having a big sale. Purchase a few and use them as the "eye catcher" items that will bring people back to the event each year.

A few other places you can get items to place in your auction include EBay, local consignment shops and even yard sales.

Consignment items make great silent auction items as well!

Now many organizations never consider using consignment items for their events. This could be for a multiple of reasons but if they knew how it worked exactly and how many organizations make a ton of money with this method they would change their mind.

Now if you are one of those organizations that don't know what this is or are confused let me explain how this works.

For example lets say a store in town that sells sports memorabilia items such as autographed items such as footballs and photos signed by your local pro teams. They sell them in the store at full retail but allow you to take them out on consignment at a discounted price. Now the best part is if you don't sell it you can bring it back at and they won't charge you for it as long as it is in the same condition as it left the store. Many stores do this not just sports memorabilia stores you can reach out to jewelry stores and craft stores as well.

Sports Memorabilia Sites that do online consignment:


Steiner Sports

You can also look around for companies that will work with you directly such as:

BW Unlimited

Grandstand Sports

You can also do consignment with items such as trips, event packages and hunting/fishing excursions.

Some ideas for silent auction items!

If you have other great items for auctions let us know!

Has anyone ever purchased an item at a silent auction?

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    • justpjteb profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @MBurgess: Thanks... Yea a lot of like ebay but with out needing a computer to bid on items. They make great additions to any organization event trying to raise money.

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Neat description of silent auctions! It's kinda of like eBay without having to sign in... ;)

    • justpjteb profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @cynthiannleighton: Yea I agree with you they are a great way for any organization to raise money. Wow Lakers vs Blazers tickets... Thank you for the compliment as well!

    • cynthiannleighton profile image


      5 years ago

      Good lens! Silent auctions often raise money for good causes. When I've been in better times, I have gotten all kinds of things from silent auctions. My two favorites? Courtside seats to a Blazers vs. Lakers game (that I gave to two business associates who love basketball) and a retreat at a place hanging over Cannon Beach.


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