Peter Hair lifts the lid on three secrets to boost revenue from your fundraising event’s silent auction.

Peter Hair lifts the lid on three secrets to boost revenue from your fundraising event’s silent auction.

With electronic auctions now an affordable option for the majority of fundraising events, and considerably more effective than paper bid sheets, the easy-to-implement top tips below can help you raise more funds at your next electronic auction.    

1. Increase the number of bidders and bids

There are two easy ways to increase the number of bidders and bids: the first one is to open your auction at least a week before the event and invite guests to start bidding before the day. This has the added benefit of giving guests more time at the event to enjoy themselves, instead of reading through silent auction item descriptions for the first time.

The second way is to leverage your database and social media channels to invite people not attending the event to also participate in the silent auction.

During the event itself, make the most of your master of ceremonies by giving them details of items which need promoting and have them verbally count down to the close of the auction. Also add a count down timer to the large screen display to encourage a final bidding frenzy as the auction draws to a close.

2. Make it easy for guests to give

It’s important to choose a system which allows bidders to quickly register and then easily participate by donating on whichever device is most convenient for them. For example, many guests will bid on a computer before the event and their smart phone during the event, so a system which also sends a link to guests’ mobile phones when they register on a computer will make it more convenient for them to bid.

There should also be a way for guests without a smart phone at an event to easily place bids. This could be via a tablet manned by a volunteer or using SMS. SMS outbid notifications with a link to the item is another convenience that bidders have come to expect from electronic systems.

Make sure the system you choose also allows you to easily add and edit item information and images as they become available. If the relevant information is available for each item, guests will feel more comfortable placing bids.

If you have lots of items and/or you expect lots of donations, you should also provide an option for guests to pay online on their mobile phone instead of queuing at a payment desk.

3. Give your guests more ways to give

Silent auctions remain popular, as they are fun and have been proven to generate the best prices for one-off items. But what if you have more than one of the items available? Consider selling to the under bidders once the auction has closed or add the items as ‘buy it now items’ with a fixed price.

Some guests prefer to make a donation, so it’s important to make it simple for them to do so. Suggested donation amounts often help achieve a higher total and recognition for donors via a leaderboard during the event has also been proven to generate more donations. Just be sure to remember to give donors the option to remain anonymous if they prefer.

It can also be effective to call for donations once other fundraising activities have finished at the event. Directly after your live and/or silent auctions, consider having the MC promote an option for guests to make a donation. You can automate this process for the silent auction by sending an SMS with a link to donate to everyone who participated in the silent auction but didn’t win.

Peter Hair is the cofounder of event technology provider Crowdcomms Australia. For more tips, insights and case studies on fundraising technology at events, visit: