Silent auctions are some of the most complex and rewarding fundraising events out there. While that means that silent auctions are lucrative and engaging, it also means that planning one can be somewhat involved. Because there are so many moving parts to oversee, it’s easy for nonprofits to run into silent auction challenges when executing their events.
Luckily, these problems are completely avoidable (or, at the very least, correctable). All it takes is being aware of some of the issues you might encounter and knowing how to tackle them!
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 of the most common silent auction challenges and give you some actionable advice for solving each one.
1. You Don’t Have Room At the Venue to Display All Your Items
You have more auction items than you can fit on each table.
If you run out of room to display your items, your organization should do everything in its power to keep your auction items to one row per table.
Packing more items onto a table can make your display seem cluttered and obscure the visibility of some of your items, both of which can make them seem less valuable to your bidders. Instead, try creating packages by grouping related smaller-ticket items into bigger groups. Oftentimes, you’ll receive higher bids on packages than you would when trying to auction off these items solo.
2. You Have More Items Up For Auction Than People Participating
The number of auction items you’re featuring greatly outweighs the number of bidders participating in your silent auction.
With so many items up for grabs, your guests are overwhelmed with choices and see no rush to bid. That means your organization isn’t getting nearly as many bids as you’d like to see, and the bids that you are getting are much lower than they should be.
When your items outnumber your bidders, it greatly reduces competition for those items. To raise the most funds, adjust the number of your items based on the number of bidders participating.
Here’s how many silent auction items we’d recommend you should have: Aim for a ratio of roughly one item to auction off for each guest that you’re planning to have. If you don’t get the ratio exactly right in your planning, you can adjust the presentation of your items to match this.
You can also try packaging your items. For example, five gift cards to local pizzerias could become “Best Pizza in Town.” Three gift certificates to local boutiques could be repurposed into a “Total Makeover” package.
Don’t forget there are also always online fundraising options for auctions. Try using an online auction before or after your event.
3. You’re Featuring Two or More Identical Items
During the procurement process, your organization received two of the same items, whether it was from the same donor or two different donors. Your bidders keep tabs on both, monitoring the bid activity to see which one currently has the lowest bid.
Both items end up receiving fewer bids, and your organization ends up raising less money.
The key to featuring two identical items is to obscure the competition between them as much as possible. If you received the items from the same donor, keep one under wraps. If you received them from different donors, display both apart from each other.
Once the bidding has closed, approach the bidder who placed the second-highest bid on that item. Tell them that you still have an identical item up for sale and would be willing to part with it if they’re willing to pay as much as the winning bidder. Since they want the item and have usually only lost by a small margin, the bidder will almost certainly say yes.
Just make sure that you don’t display the identical items near each other. While some bidders still might catch on to the fact that there are two, at the very least, this will make the competition less apparent.
4. People Are Camping Out By the Items They’re Watching
Some of your bidders are glued to your display tables, protectively watching the bids on the items they want.
Because they have to wait until the bids on the item have increased until they reach the highest amount your guests are willing to pay, your bidders have to delay placing their highest bids.
To see higher bids and open up more time for mingling with your guests, reduce camping either by using mobile bidding software or by filling out bid sheets before opening the bidding.
Mobile bidding allows guests to bid and browse items from their smartphones. Guests will even receive notifications when they’ve been outbid on the items they’re watching, and they can set maximum bid amounts on certain items so that the software will bid for them.
If your organization chooses to use bid sheets, you can still address this problem by filling out the bid amount fields on your bid sheets in advance.
Start by filling in the first column with the minimum bid amount, then raise it incrementally by the minimum raise to fill in each subsequent field.
This strategy will speed up bidding both by reducing the time that guests have to spend handwriting their bids and by allowing them to initially submit the highest amount they’re willing to pay.
5. People Are Trying to Sneak In Bids After Your Items Have Closed
Some of your guests sneak in last-minute bids after the items have technically closed.
By implementing mobile bidding or staggering item closing when you’re using bid sheets, your organization can better prevent cheating and, consequently, any hard feelings among your attendees.
To prevent cheating with bid sheets, you should stagger item closing by shutting down the bidding on one of your categories of items every 5 to 10 minutes.
Make sure to have plenty of volunteers stationed by the correct category of items once it’s time to close it down. The minute your emcee announces that the category has closed, have your volunteers grab all of the pens and bid sheets from the table and circle the winning bid for each item.
Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.