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Benefit Auctions » Silent Auctions

Archive for the ‘Silent Auctions’ Category

The Super Silent Auction

Friday, November 9th, 2007


There can be items that don’t make it to the live auction, but deserve better then the silent auction.  You might consider a Super Silent Auction. 

I recommend no more then ten items in the Super Silent, and suggest you run it like a Keno game with bid sheets and pencils on the guest tables and runners to pick up the bids during the live auction.  Project the bidding on a screen that can be seen by the guests and auctioneer.  Keep the bidding open until the end of the live auction. 

You would of course, want the Super Silent items to be of significant potential value since it will require extra voulenteers.

The Silent Auction

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

The silent auction is an important revenue center for your fundraiser.  The more expensive items belong in the live auction, but the number of items in the live auction is limited by time.  A benefit auctioneer will sell an item every two minutes.  Allowing ten minutes for the emotional appeal, this leaves us with twenty five lots in a one hour auction or fifty five lots in a two hour auction.  The rest of the items go into the silent auction, limited by space.

Finding or creating more space, is much easier then finding more time.  A three hour live auction will produce severely diminished returns in the last hour of the auction and aggravate your guests.  How much space you need for your silent auction depends upon how many items or lots you have after filling the live auction.  Rule of thumb, you can put eight silent auction lots on an eight foot table, so there you are.  You can make more space by combining or packaging lots.

On the table you need room for your bid sheet and displaying the item or package.  Don’t crowd the silent auction.  Your guests need room move about without feeling crowded.  Remember you want your guests to enjoy the event.  It’s not fun to be crowded.



Recommend that silent auction sections se set up and closed by value with lower value items in the first section to close and highest value items in the last section to close.  The reason we recommend closing the tables in this order is when guests first arrive at an event their attention is divided between all the silent auction tables, meeting friends, getting drinks etc.  When the last silent auction table closes more attention will be directed to that table, thus more revenue.

The last silent auction section needs to be closed prior to the live auction.  This is my opinion, but it is shared by the majority of benefit auctioneers I have spoken whth.  You do not want to take attention away from the live auction.

Silent Auction Bid Sheets by Danielle Sloanaker, A1 Benefit Auctions

Friday, October 12th, 2007

The best Silent Auction Bid System is a very simple yet effective way to get the highest possible revenue from your silent auction. In order to put the system in perspective, let’s first discuss the “traditional” silent auction form.

The Traditional System

In the traditional system, a bid sheet is placed on the silent auction table in front of the item to be sold. On the bid sheet, there is a description of the item, a value, a starting bid, and a “minimum raise” requirement. Generally, there are 20 to 30 or more spots (lines) on the form for bidders to enter their bid.

To bid, the bidder first must read the description of the item, look at the value, understand the minimum raise amount, and read the amount already bid by the previous bidder.

After reviewing the information, the bidder, if wanting to enter a bid for the item must add the minimum raise amount to the previous bid amount, then must write in the new bid amount and then write his or her bid number or name. All of this takes time, is subject to a variety of mistakes such as improper bid raises, failure to write the new value clearly so the next bidder can interpret the previous bids, and other potential problems.

In addition, human nature dictates that if an item has a “minimum raise” of $10.00 as an example, we tend to do exactly as told, and will raise the bid by exactly $10.00. Rarely will people routinely “over raise”, that is, raise a bid by $20, $30, or more if the minimum raise is $10.00.

Finally, because there is an open ended bidding process, with no way to take an item out of the bidding before the close of the silent auction, the “hot” items will draw all the attention of the bidders, often at the expense of the bidding on the other items.

The Best Silent Auction System

The bidding process should be kept as simple as possible. You want your guests to be able to bid on as many items as possible as quickly as possible.

The amounts on the silent auction forms should be pre-filled before the auction, the bidder need only review the form, pick an amount to bid, and then write their bid number next to the pre-filled bid amount. This greatly increases bid activity for several reasons:

· No mental “math” for the bidder to deal with
· Only 14 steps keep activity on a “hot” item to a reasonable level. The very hot items are purchased using the “Own it Now” step. The balance of the silent auction items will receive more attention once the “hot” items have been purchased.
· The bid activity is spread over a wider selection of items since it takes less time to bid using this system.
· Bidders routinely skip bids on the forms and go directly to the level they wish to pay for the item. That is, if there was an item worth $100, the opening bid would be $20.00 and each of the remaining 13 bids would be filled in to a “Own it Now” amount of $150.00. Bidders will often skip increments and go directly to the $60 or $70 slot.

We recommend you use a form that has only 14-steps available to it, is a half-sheet in size and has pre-printed areas to list the bid increments. The normal opening bid is 20% of the estimated fair market value of the item, and each of the 13 remaining increments are set at 10% of the fair market value of the item. Since there are 14 steps total, this makes the final bid on the form worth 150% of the estimated fair marked value of the item. The 14th step is called “Own it Now” or “Guaranteed Purchase” which means a bid number entered there is an “instant winner” of that item.

The silent bid form should also be a 3-part carbonless form. The white and yellow copies should be removed at silent bidding closing and taken to the cashier for data entry and filing. The pink copy should remain on the table in front of the item so your bidders can check back to see if they were the successful bidder. The winning bid amount and bid number should be circled at the conclusion of the bidding.


Your organization will see at least a 10% to 20% increase in silent auction revenue compared to the traditional system. It is any easy system to use and will make your organization more money. The conventional wisdom is that with fewer places to enter bids, some items might sell too cheaply. Actually, on a single basis, that may be correct. However, when you look at what your overall yield is for the silent auction, your bottom line is what you deposit in the bank, and you will earn 10% to 20% more revenue from this system.