Congratulations, you are well on your way to hosting a silent auction! You are in the midst of planning, securing donations, and recruiting volunteers. The gala committee is thinking how to strategically design the display of donations to garner the highest bids.
Interestingly, auction professional, Sherry Truhlar, encourages the gala committee to treat your silent auction like a store. Sherry shares these five tips to make your silent auction an enjoyable spending experience.
Where are you hosting your silent and/or live auction? Ensure that you have adequate space. A nice display is never overcrowded. Think about flow. If you can, choose a zigzag format. Make it comfortable for people to view the auction items. Three items per table is recommended, but use your discretion. If possible, have bid sheets attached to clip boards with a pen on a string. Your item descriptions should be specific. For example, instead of stating “$150 worth of salon services” describe it as “hair services only but no esthetics”.
Props entice people to buy! If you are displaying sports tickets, then have a photo of the team or a piece of sporting equipment. If you are displaying dinner theatre tickets, then have a set of pretty dinnerware. Put jewelry or clothing on a mannequin. Consider free samples of a product or tasting stations. We tend to buy with our senses.
Address the need for a sound system. Does your space have a built in sound system? If so, you will want to test it for sound quality. It has been realized that built in hotel sound speakers are not effective for events. A better solution is to acquire a sound system with detached speakers that you can strategically place around the edges of the room. The speakers should not be placed on the ground unless they have legs that allow the sound waves to emit at ear level. What a shame if the crowd cannot hear anything but static and mumbled words. Provide the MC and/or live auctioneer with a wireless microphone, so they can create hype about certain items, announce “blue light” specials, and declare the closing of bids.
Light is energy. Be sure to look at the lighting in your space. Is it too intense? Is it too dim? It is not recommended to use candle light. One tip is to think about what your space looks like in the day time, but be mindful that when the sun sets you will no longer have natural light shining into your space. Consider spot lights, clamp lights, or book lights to feature your items.
A brilliant idea is to offer a “guaranteed bid” for certain items that make it possible to buy the item outright and not worry that you’ll be outbid! At the bottom of the bid sheet, print “buy me now” and list the guaranteed bid price. Have pre-made signs with the words “sold as buy me now” ready to be placed in front of the item. The person who bought the item can proceed to the checkout earlier than others who must wait until the bidding has closed. The rule of thumb is to set the “buy me now” price at 100-150% of the retail value. Men seem to like the guaranteed bid option!
Fundraising professional, Joe Garecht, suggests to categorize your items; for example, an entertainment area, a restaurant area, a salon and spa area, a travel area, a jewelry area, and so forth. Another way to categorize your items is: “experience” items for backstage passes and helicopter rides, “services” items for oil changes and tax preparation, or “household” items for barbeques and espresso machines.
Think about those who have been outbid, but wanted to buy something! Don’t let them leave empty handed and disappointed. Offer a display where people can “buy” items for clients, such as paying for a pool rental for your clients or 10 meals for $100. What a great way to support your mission.
Anticipate what it will be like toward the end of your event. Appoint auction monitors to keep an eye on items and collect bid sheets at the end. Have multiple lines for people to pay (one each for credit card, debit card, and cash). Have duplicate sheets for each item so the cashier can file the item as “paid” and the buyer can take a copy stamped “paid” to the claims station. Distinctly separate the cashier area and the claims station.
Best wishes for a successful silent auction fundraiser! You have put in a lot of work and attention to detail. Have fun raising money and awareness for your cause.