Silent auctions can be one of the best parts of your charity fundraising event.

Folks who contribute have fun finding the perfect donations, while those participating in the auction itself gain access to items they might not otherwise be able to obtain. And everyone feels great participating in them, since they’re for a good cause.

We’ve collected together some of our absolute favorite silent auction ideas, along with some basic information on how to run a silent auction.

What is a Silent Auction?

A silent auction involves several things, but primarily a set of tables nicely dressed with items on display for attendees to make bids on. These bids, unlike in regular auctions, are made through writing down your identification number or name, with your bid, on a sheet of paper attached to the item desired.

As the event proceeds, more and more attendees pass by the tables, make their bids and wait until the conclusion of the event, or a later date during which the winners of auction items are announced.

How Does a Silent Auction Work?

These items  will make your silent auction a success.

1. A Way of Keeping Things Organized

One of the most important things for your silent auction will be a system for keeping track of donations, guests, seating arrangements, and anything else logistics related. We’d recommend using a program like Silent Auction Pro to keep things in check. Otherwise, make a lot of spreadsheets and checklists, and stay on top of the details to avoid any costly errors.

2. Volunteers

You’ll need to recruit volunteers for your event. These will include people to assist you in setting up, tearing down, and running the event. If you’re able to, get at least one volunteer to help you with the planning of the event itself.

3. Donations

For any silent auction to be successful, you’ll need to acquire enough donations. Many companies and individuals are happy to donate an item or some of their time as the prize for silent auctions.

What Can be Donated to a Silent Auction?

Donors can donate one of two types of items: skills and services, or physical items.

Skills and Services

Some folks may want to give a donation, but cannot afford to donate items, or would prefer to donate their time. These are great auction items, so celebrate and advertise accordingly.

  • Web design
  • Programming
  • App creation
  • IT help
  • Childcare
  • Lawn or garden work
  • Lessons — music, horseback riding, crafting, sewing, athletics, et cetera
  • Pet care
  • Construction
  • Editing
  • Writing
  • Driving service
  • Tours — if someone has the local know-how, or a pilot’s license
  • Artistic skills — portrait, or caricature drawing, et cetera
  • Celebrity or unique experiences — ride in the fire truck, lunch with the mayor, inside tour of a theatre or museum

Physical Silent Auction Items

Of course, most people will offer to donate goods for your auction. These are great, and should be utilized properly to gain the most benefit for both the charity and those attending.

As you contact potential donors, feel free to suggest items that they may have at their disposal. Specific requests often receive more positive responses than vague questions.

When you contact potential donors, ask for donations that relate to their business or skills, or suggest something like a silent auction basket. These often can include items like tickets, coupons, freebie coupons, such as free meals from a restaurant, or products from physical retailers and companies.

Silent Auction Baskets

Some of the most popular auction items are baskets. These usually consist of themed items combined into one great package of things. Some silent auction basket ideas include these types of items, often with clever or cliché names attached for a cute feel.

  • Makeup and beauty items
  • Gift baskets for pets
  • Backyard items
  • Beach themed items
  • Perfumes, scented candles, scented waxes, and aromatherapy items
  • Holistic health items
  • Expensive and fine food items
  • Wine with accessories
  • Family outing items — such as tickets for events with accessories that would be used at the event
  • Vacation themed items — tropical, country cabin, mountainside, et cetera

Other Items to Donate

  • Gift cards
  • Celebrity donations
  • Art work by local or famous artists
  • Memberships to clubs, gyms, et cetera
  • Catering packages
  • Travel tickets
  • Experiences
  • Musical instruments
  • Collections
  • Sports paraphernalia

Anyone can donate just about anything to your worthy cause. Engage your imagination as you seek donations, and ask potential donors for additional ideas beyond the suggestions you offer.

Final Thoughts and Suggestions

Be sure to check out resources on running your silent auction. You’ll need some supplies lists, set up assistance at your venue, and, of course, a great venue that’s easily accessible to your attendees. Be sure to also know exactly what regulations you must follow, including how you and your donors should declare everything on your taxes.

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