Fundraising and Auction Insights

5 ways to raise more money at your silent auction

Silent auctions continue to be a popular way for nonprofit organizations to raise money and maintain their donor relationships, especially with high-level donors. It’s one of those rare win-win events where attendees may actually take something home for their donation! When considering the time and effort that go into these events, however, it can be troubling if your organization doesn’t raise the amount of money you were expecting. Don’t worry! Here are five ways to help you raise more money at your silent auction event:

1. Add fund-a-need or tangible donation items.

Donors love feeling directly connected to your cause. When they attend a fundraiser, they already know that the money they spend is impacting your mission. Finding ways to make that even more tangible will transform the way they think about your event. Feature opportunities to have an obvious impact on your cause by buying an item for those you serve or funding a program for one participant. Use different price points for these items to allow all of your guests to have an impact at a level they can manage. It will be one of the things they can’t stop talking about.


 2. Include something meaningful for sale.

Have someone who benefits from your programming create a piece of art, furniture, or another item that you can put up for sale or auction. Your guests will love the personal connection to your cause, and the person who made it will feel great about being able to give back.


 3. Incorporate a bit of risk.

Add a portion of your event that involves some risk—perhaps it’s a wine pull where guests pay a certain amount to participate, with the option of getting a bottle of wine worth less or more than what they paid. Another great option is a gift card station—have each gift card worth an amount ranging from $15-$500, with each guest paying $25 to participate. If you can get the wine or gift cards donated, you’ll raise a significant amount of money while your donors have the chance to get more than they paid for!

You can also add a raffle component—just make sure that you have a raffle license in your state!


4. Add in a match.

The psychological impact of offering a match at your event is incredible. One study estimates that it increase donations by 19% and makes a donor 22% more likely to contribute.

To do this well, there’s a couple things to consider. Secure a match before the event—often event sponsors, board members, or other large funders can be great sources for this. Determine if they want it to be a named or anonymous match, and make sure you’re careful about your phrasing. A matching gift is different than a matching challenge—the first is only donated if the goal is met, whereas the second is guaranteed no matter what the response is.


5. Ask.

As most people in the nonprofit world will tell you, the most important part of raising money is being willing to ask for it! Build an ask into the flow of the night, and think through the timing. If you’re event goes too long and you ask at the end, people get impatient. A short but powerful story goes a lot further than a 30-minute presentation of statistics—so work through the appeal with the speaker ahead of time.

Fundraising events can take a lot of time, energy, and expense. You want to be sure that the event is profitable and supports your cause well, and that your donors feel like it mattered. With these best practices, you’re well on your way to an event that will satisfy your guests and accountant alike!