Silent Auctions are a lot of work.  In fact, they are the most work for the least amount of return at your event.  If you procure $20,000 worth of silent auction items on average the national return is $10,000 or 50%.  In the Pacific Northwest, we can expect $15,000 or 75%.

One of the biggest trends in silent auctions – is not doing them at all, or having one small section.  Less is more in a silent auction.  My friends at Greater Giving say you should take the amount of bidding units at your auction, cut that number in half, and that is how many items you should have in your silent auction… and I say cut that number down by 25%.  For example, you have 200 guests, and let’s say they are all couples.  That means 100 bidding units.  The formula would say 50 silent auction items… I would say about 35.   Less items, but quality items will drive prices up.  You don’t want your guests feeling they have spent too much before going into the live auction and special appeal.

A lot of groups spend too much time focusing on their silent auction.  The better use of your time is finding sponsorship money, networking, procuring better selling live items.  Also spend extra time thinking of creative and better revenue enhancers.

Your silent auction is not a GARAGE SALE.  Less items means higher returns, and fewer unsold items for your silent auction.



  • Mobile Bidding
    • This has the potential to increase your profits by 20-40%.
    • The key is to weigh the expense against the extra revenue. How much will extra WiFi and IT support cost you?
    • You will also need extra volunteers to help bidders who don’t “get it.”
    • If you don’t use mobile bidding – Use auction software that has a texting function so you can notify silent auction winners that they have won an item and where to pick it up after the auction.
  • Silent Auction Display
    • Make sure your guests know which silent section is which. They should be obviously labeled.
    • Closing times for each section should be obviously displayed.
    • The silent auction area should be well lit – so people can see the tangible items, and they can read the descriptions on the bid sheets.
    • Don’t use too small of a font on the bid sheets.
    • Make sure the items are displayed creatively, and nicely.
    • Make your silent auction visually appealing.
    • Include photos and display all tangible items.
    • A table crammed with auction items is very unappealing. Space out your silent auction items.
    • Make sure your guests know which bid sheets go with which item.
    • VERY IMPORTANT – Make sure there are nice-looking pens for EVERY item.
  • Bid Sheets
    • Should you include value on silent auction bid sheets?  Yes!
    • How many bidding spots should there be on a silent auction bid sheet? At least 10-12.
    • What percentage should you start the bidding on a silent auction item?
      • That varies – some say 50%, but standard is 35%.
      • Your auction software should be able to set the bid amounts.
    • Don’t leave the bid sheet open-ended, make sure to have a buy-it-now or guaranteed purchase section.
    • Make sure all the pertinent information is on the bid sheet.
      • For example: How many does the cabin sleep? How many nights is it for?
    • What about all those extra donations?
      • You can use them as give-aways. Or you can bundle them together to make 1 silent auction package.  A tip if you bundle or package items together, come up with a creative title or display to make them stand out.
    • What about all those gift cards?
      • Gather 10-12 restaurant gift cards and do a restaurant frenzy. Or you can you do a buy-it-now board at the auction with all sorts of gift cards.  If you want more information on restaurant frenzy, email us: stephen@kilbreathauctions.com.