Silent auctions make great, low-cost fundraisers. They are also great social events, since you’ll usually generate a crowd, who’ll often stay around until the end for the very last sale. Following are some tips for hosting a silent auction for your organization.

Find a Venue for Your Silent Auction Fundraiser

If your group doesn’t have a facility, consider holding the auction at a park, at someone’s private home, a school gym, church facilities, a restaurant or a hotel conference room. If possible, find a space that already has plenty of tables available to display auction items and bidding sheets. A silent auction also makes a great add-on fundraiser to another event.


silent auction fundraiser - gift basket


Solicit Donations

Ask local businesses and individuals to donate items for auction. For example, ask the local day spa to donate a massage gift certificate and the local pet groomer to donate a free grooming session. When businesses donate items that they sell, the cost is minimal to them, and it decreases your out of pocket expenses.

Consider either many different types of items for your silent auction fundraiser, or focus on one type of item, such as art. For more silent auction fundraiser ideas search Pinterest for “gift baskets” or “gift ideas”.

gift basket ideas for silent auctions
Follow our gift basket board on Pinterest! Follow us here.


Let people know about the auction in advance, and let them know some of the items that will be up for auction. If you’re charging admission, offer tickets in advance and at the door for a higher price.

Also read: 10 Tips to Make Your Silent Auction a Success!

Offer Food

A silent auction generally means a lot of walking around, looking at items for sale and checking your bids. Consider providing finger food for your guests. If you’ve charged admission for entry, consider not charging for food. However, if entrance is free, you should charge for the food. Wine, cheese and other small finger appetizers are popular at high-end silent auctions.

Stagger Auction Closes

Have the bidding on items close at different times during the night. With one or two items closing at each half hour, you’ll generate excitement and keep the evening moving. You’ll also drive up prices on your late closing items this way. When bidders realize they’ve lost out on one item early in the evening, they’ll be willing to place a higher bid on some other items closing later. So, save your most expensive items for the end of the evening.

Set up Bidding by Phone or Internet

To ensure that you get the highest sales prices for your items, you may want to consider providing a brochure that lists all your items and provides a phone number for bidders who are unable to attend the actual event. You’ll need a couple of extra volunteers to man the phone or computers to ensure that the bids of outside bidders are included as they come in.

Also read: Going Virtual: A Quick Guide for Hosting Online Auctions

Have One Great Final Item

If you can obtain one big-ticket item for the end of the evening, you’ll generate lots of excitement that causes people to linger right up until the end of the night. An item that everyone wants is sure to bring in loads of bidders and make the evening even more fun!

A silent auction is a unique, high energy fundraising event. Your participants and guests just might find this event to be the most enjoyable event of the year – and the most profitable.

For more fundraising ideas read 100+ Fundraising Ideas!.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter

And receive fundraising ideas, how-to articles, and tips for a successful campaign!

Enter your email address below and follow the confirmation prompts. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time through a link in any emails.