Fundraising and Auction Insights

7 Mistakes to Avoid for Your Silent Auction Event

Silent auctions can feel pretty high stakes—you’re relying on the revenue to justify your event costs and the amount of time and effort you’ve put into it. It’s especially hard because you have a lot of pressure up until it starts, but little to do during the bidding! Here are seven mistakes to avoid for your silent auction.


Having too many auction items


One of the easiest mistakes to make when building a silent auction is to assume more is always better. While getting many items donated is exciting, too many auction items can dilute the excitement at your event and lead to lower bids on all of your items. The excitement of auctions is a lot about the possibility of not getting something, just as much as it is about getting something. If there’s too many items, people don’t feel as driven to bid—and your raise less money.


Having too few auction items


Unfortunately, the flip side is also true! Too few items can frustrate your guests who aren’t as big of spenders as some of the others. Typically, a good rule of thumb is to have one item for every two to three guests. While too many items can cause guests to lose motivation, too few will make your guests feel left out or frustrated.


Taking any item that’s offered


Just because you can get an item donated for your auction doesn’t mean you should feature it. This can be a hard one, especially for smaller nonprofits. You appreciate people being willing to help, and you’re worried if you’ll have enough items. But like in many things, quality beats quantity here. Featuring unappealing items, whether it’s cheap items or things that don’t fit your crowd, make sure that you consider whether your guests will be interested in something before you take it.


Offering items alone


Another tendency folks have is to offer items by themselves. Maybe it’s a gift card or other single item—generally, you don’t want to offer items solo. Think of ways to package what you’ve gotten donated in interesting ways. You can pick a theme and gather items for a package that is compelling—maybe it’s a gift card to a nice restaurant and theater tickets in a “Night Out” package, or something more creative! This will make items more attractive and help to drive up bids. Focus on the experiences that you can offer, not just the opportunity for someone to purchase something for less than face value.


Using paper bid sheets


Maybe you’ve been using paper bid sheets for years without any significant issues. What if I told you there’s an easier way? With mobile bidding, you can drive bids up, increase the amount of bidding, make the process easier and quicker for your guests, and reduce the amount of staff time and work required. Mobile bidding allows guests to track if they’ve been outbid, and it lets them bid from the comfort of their table or while they’re enjoying a drink or conversation. Even better news—it’s affordable and easy to set up! Check out iBid, our solution that streamlines mobile bidding and keeps costs low to make sure you get the most out of your fundraising event.


Slashing opening bids at the end


These last two tips are related. Maybe you’ve been there before—your auction closes in 10 minutes, and there are items that no one has bid on. Out of desperation, you slash the opening bids in half, figuring that will drive someone to bid and at least make your organization some money.


Do not do this.


Not only does slashing bids undervalue items that people have generously donated to your cause (and risks offending those donors), it also sends the message that guests should just wait till the end to get a good deal. Avoid this by strategically setting lower opening bids on items where you’re unsure of the interest. If you have items left over, consider a flash online sale to staff or other supporters before slashing opening bids the night of the event.


Extending past the deadline


Same advice for this issue—it sends the wrong message to your guests, and can easily frustrate guests who thought they won an item but are outbid in the extended period. This should only be done in an extreme circumstance.


Overall, it’s easy to make a poor decision or react to what’s happening the night of your event. Keep a cool head, trust that the work you did was worth it, and wait for the funds to roll in!