Silent Auction Ideas: 7 Ways To Raise More Money At Your Fundraising Event

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

Fundraising trends are constantly changing. Just 10 years ago, we fundraising professionals relied on a well-oiled strategy of direct mail, phone calls, and in-person events to support our organizations financially.

Today, fundraising looks a lot different because so much of what we do is online. And the same goes for our go-to, favorite fundraiser—the silent auction.

Back in the day, we’d all gather in a middle school gymnasium with other families, bidding on baskets full of gift cards, movies, soaps, and other goodies. But recently, silent auctions have made a swift transition to being run online. In fact, I received an email about my hometown YMCA hosting a holiday silent auction just moments ago.

The reason why we’re still doing silent auctions is because they work, but it’s time to start tweaking our strategies to match the needs of an online audience. Here are 7 ways you can raise more money at your next silent auction.

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1. Find The Best Platform For Your Needs

Start by deciding on a platform that meets the needs of your organization, which can mean an in-person event, online auction, or a combination of both.

While there are a number of quality online auction sites, don’t feel limited to these. It’s easy and also convenient to host an online auction with CauseVox.

2. Secure Items Early

Collect donations for items months ahead of your silent auction. Ask local businesses to consider donating items, experiences, and services (it’s tax-deductible for them). Also, reach out to supporters for additional item donations.

silent auction ideas
Request for silent auction donations

Securing items early not only gives you an idea of how much you’ll need to manage during the fundraiser, but how much you can expect to come in at the end of the event.

3. Send Out Information Ahead of The Start Date

Remind bidders ahead of time about the start of the auction. We suggest posting in your email newsletters, direct mail correspondence, and through social media starting a month before kickoff.

If time allows, let your supporters check out the items up for bidding before the event. This can help you build momentum and create a buzz for big ticket items.

4. Create A Detailed Marketing Plan

Don’t wing your communications. In fact, creating a detailed marketing plan is just as important as finding the right platform to host your silent auction.

Organize the messages you’ll be sending out before, during, and after the event. Specify who you’ll be targeting, the purpose/objective, and the time, day, and avenue you’ll be using.

In the end, you’ll wind up with something that looks like this:silent auction ideas

That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to send out on any given day, and anyone can jump in at any given time and pick up where you left off. This will also ensure that you get enough participants bidding during the auction itself.

5. Promote Big Ticket Items On Social Media

Social media can become one of your biggest assets when running a silent auction. Try using your nonprofit or charity’s social media accounts to rally bidders around certain items. You can also use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep the conversation going.

6. Ask Your Supporters To Share The Auction

Along the same lines, try asking your supporters to share the auction on their own social media accounts.

Depending on your needs, this will look different from one organization to the next. For instance, you can ask that donors/bidders share the campaign immediately after they’ve participated with a pre-made post. Or, you can essentially “coach” your supporters pre-silent action with an in-depth social media toolkit they can use, which can include prompts and a calendar to use for multiple social media platforms.

It’s virtually effortless for your supporters to share pre-made posts about the auction. Plus, the action itself engages them in your work while also increasing the range of silent auction participants.

Keep in mind that because of Facebook and Instagram’s recent algorithm changes, when your supporters share your post’s you’re bound to get in front of more people eager to get involved!

7. Incorporate A Crowdfunding Campaign

A sure-fire way to keep the momentum and participation high is to incorporate a crowdfunding campaign alongside your silent auction.

Use CauseVox to create a hub where you can direct donors who want to donate without participating in the auction itself. Make sure you link to the crowdfunding campaign alongside all your silent auction communications so you capture all possible donations during the fundraiser.

silent auction ideas
Funds for Nancy Fundraiser

Silent auctions are a great fundraiser for nonprofits and charities of all sizes. However, the key to running a successful silent auction is preparation.

By doing your research to find the best platform, securing your items early, creating an in-depth marketing plan, and using social media, email, and your supporters to promote your campaign, you’re ensuring no stone is left unturned. For the biggest impact, don’t forget to incorporate a crowdfunding campaign alongside your auction.

If you’re ready to get started, then consider using CauseVox to host your silent auction. As you build out your online fundraising website, use the Sidebar section or your “Blog” feature to upload images and include descriptions of your items.

Our Custom Donation Field feature provides a way for you to build out a customized drop down menu of all the items you’re auctioning, so that when a donor makes their bid, they can easily select the item.

While making the bid, donors can easily make their donation anonymous, to keep the silent auction silent!

As momentum grows, keep your donors updated using the blog.

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Check out 101+ Fundraising Ideas For Nonprofits for additional ways for your nonprofit to bring in funds.

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