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The Functioning of Silent Auctions – How to Conduct One

Silent auctions are fundraisers that like traditional auctions are best optimized for raising funds for charities or any other cause. However, there are several differences between the two.

Traditional Auctions vs. Silent Auctions

In traditional auctions, participants gather at a venue where the items are displayed and bid for them. Auctioneers conduct the proceedings and motivate the participants to bid higher and higher. Generally, the proceedings are finished in a day unless they are a large number of lots to go through. There is a lot of bonhomie between the people in the venue not to discount the fun and excitement usually linked to such auctions.  

A silent auction on the other hand is just as the name suggests – an auction that is conducted silently without any competitive bids being called out as no auctioneer is conducting the proceedings. If you walk into silent auctions, you will find that the items are laid out on the tables for display along with a bidding sheet having about 10 to 15 rows in each for writing the bids. 

The usual auctions are conducted over three to four hours of hectic bidding but the silent auctions are more laid-back affairs. If the bidding is through physical sheets, they might stretch over a full day but can roll over on to several days if the format is mobile bidding. Silent auction experience is more like a retail store where the shoppers carefully examine the items on the shelves before reaching for the wallet. Once the time of the auction lapses, the bids are verified and the winners are declared. 

Bidding at silent auctions

Bidding at silent auctions takes place in one of the two ways.

The first is the bidding sheets which are placed before each item on display. Each of them has 10 to 15 rows, the usual expected number of bids for every item. The participants have to write their bids consecutively in the rows. At the end of the auction, the sheets are verified and the winners are announced. On the downside, this form of bidding is a bit laborious and to be successful requires the active involvement of the participants. Hence, the money raised from this type of bidding is often not as expected. 

The next is mobile bidding which has recently come into vogue and has given a great boost to silent auctions. As in bidding sheets, the attendees to the auction examine the items on display and then bid manually through a smartphone or any other Internet-enabled device for every round of bidding. Alternatively, a maximum bid target can be set and the auction software bids automatically till that price vise reached after which a fresh price input has to be entered. 

Comparatively, between bidding sheets and mobile bidding, the latter simplifies the conduct of silent auctions to a great extent. Hence, the final bids are three times higher for mobiles, mainly because the process is very convenient. Additionally, participants can pre-register their payment options like credit cards on their devices to do away with a complex checkout process. 

On the whole, both these bidding methods work well for silent auctions.

Goals and Guidelines for holding Silent Auctions

Unless you have goals for holding silent auctions and have clear guidelines and strategies before you implement them your fundraising efforts will not be successful. Once you have set goals, you can always evaluate the course of your project and take corrective measures if you find that the desired results are falling short of your expectations. 

Each will now be taken up in detail.

Goals for silent auctions

  • The most important goal is revenue generation or the funds that you hope to raise from the auctions. All your auction strategies should be directed at this target.
  • Promote the auction optimally so that you get more donors and subscribers than that already in your data bank. Carry out a sustained digital marketing campaign through emails or on social media platforms. From your databank select people who you think might be interested in your present set of items and send them a personal message inviting them to the auction.
  • During procurement of items, widen the net of sponsoring merchants so that there is an increase in the donations of merchandise for the auction. When you tie up with new corporate every time you hold silent auctions, the donors and sponsors will grow exponentially. 

Even though your primary goal may be increased fundraising, incorporating the others in your overall plans will help create a well-rounded approach.

Guidelines for holding silent auctions

The focus of the guidelines for holding silent auctions should entirely be on the logistics of holding the event. Here are some points that you will do well to follow.

  • Decide well in advance the date of the auction and the time frame that you want it to extend. This is important as potential participants will be prepared accordingly to take part. 
  • The scope of the auction – whether it will be a short one-day affair or a gala event with large numbers of participants and items. The promotion of the auction and the number of attendees to be registered will be largely dependent on this aspect alone. 
  • If you do not want to host a virtual online silent auction, the venue has to be selected and other arrangements finalized with time to spare. Estimate the time that will be taken to complete all formalities and start the preparations well in time.  

Summing up, silent auctions along with mobile bidding have become very popular after the restrictions clamped down on in-premises traditional auctions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.   

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