Over the past few months I’ve been focusing on the Live Auction portion of fundraising since it is the part of the event which brings in the most money. But the Silent Auction portion is also very important and I have several tips which will certainly help your silent auction go more smoothly – and more profitably.
A silent auction does have a “life cycle.” My first advice is to have the silent auction tables set up and the silent auction items on display prior to the first guest arriving. This is important because the minute your guests arrive, they usually head directly to the bar and then begin having conversations with friends. After all, no one ever walks in the doors of a fundraising event and immediately begins shopping. This only occurs on “Black Friday” at 4 a.m. when the doors open at Best Buy.
Now, here’s a really big tip. Place your best silent auction items near the bar and/or where the line forms for drinks. This gives your guests something to do while they await their turn for the bartender’s attention.
Please understand that wherever you place the bar is the location where people are going to stop and congregate. So, one bar located deep in the silent auction area is a great idea.
Also, if you have high tables set up for people to gather around – place their drinks – and converse with friends prior to the sit-down dinner – be sure to place those tables close to the silent auction tables. This makes it easier for people to bid on silent auction items. By the same token do not place these tables so close to the silent auction items that they interfere with the traffic flow of the silent auction.
The silent auction should start the minute you open the doors to the venue but should only go on for an hour and a half. So if your event starts at 6 p.m. – the silent auction should conclude at 7:30 p.m. or before dinner. Never expect your attendees to go to the dining room and then get up and come back to bid more. The only people who do this are bargain shoppers.
During the time period of the silent auction it is perfectly acceptable to remind your guests about the auction items. And it’s a good idea for effective board members of the charity as well as Event Chairs and other high-ranking event volunteers to work one-on-one with the guests.
But don’t do it the minute the doors open. Give your guests about 30 minutes to relax – have a drink – and converse with friends. Then let the “did-you-see-our-silent-auction-items” sales pitch begin.
And finally – if you’re an Event Chair or in charge of the silent auction DON’T PANIC if a lot of people don’t participate early in the silent auction. My experience tells me the majority wait for the last 15 to 30 minutes to place their bids. That’s why it’s important to remind the guests about the silent auction while it’s going on.
It’s even more important to close the silent auction at the planned time. Deadlines create excitement and create a sense of urgency. More time does not equal more money.