Five Ways to Create a Successful Silent Auction

Have you lost the fun in fundraising?

Everyone has had to rethink how they generate funds and donations. Here are 5 ways to create a successful fundraiser.

Silent auctions have always been a tried and true way to garner additional funding from an event. Due to recent health concerns many organizations have made the choice to pivot events to an online platform to reach potential donors. Here are 5 ways to create a successful fundraiser.

1. Consider your audience.

If your audience tends to be a more mature group, then consider auction items reflecting the group demographics and affinities. Polling your audience in the planning stages may give you some insight what would be of interest (and competitive bidding) to that group. For example, if you know you have a large population of wine enthusiasts, then seek wine-related donations such as gift baskets, tickets to wine tastings or pairing, or winery tours.

2. Look for creative ways to seek donations.

First of all, START EARLY! An event is usually planned months in advance. Consider starting soliciting donation in January or February when company budgets are still flush. Consider branding a bid sheet or bid page with the company logo of the company donating or sponsoring the item. It give recognition to the donor and gives you a way to document the item actually appeared in the auction. In today’s climate, consider adding humor to some of the auction items like a package of toilet paper or a collectable like a lava lamp. You may be surprised at the outcome!  Rounds of golf are always popular, but also consider gifts for the non-golfer such as event tickets, theme park tickets and gift cards. When selecting gift cards and other coupons, seek items that are portable from one city to another for call-in or online bidders.

3. Be creative in ways to get incremental donations.

Have a larger donor sponsor an auction table or category. For example you may have a home and garden category in your auction, regardless of whether it is an on premise or on-line event. Consider having a “big box” sponsor for this category in addition to individual donations. Again, this gives additional donor recognition with very little expense.

4. Theme your event!

themeing your event makes it more fun for your guests
Themeing your event makes it more fun for your guests (Aviation theme provided by Upscale Event Productions)

This is a great way to courage engagement and you present an award for the “best dressed” participant. You can tease your audience, too. For example, you have a pirate-themed event and the pirates invade the event and hold one of the staff members ransom. You plead for the release of the kidnapped staffer through nominal donations to meet the pirate’s ransom. It is a light-hearted way to gain the “release” of the staffer and get additional donations with genuinely no cost. Similarly, a roaring 20’s theme could land your “bootlegging” staffer in jail, needing bail money. The theme twists are endless and fun. The ultimate goal here is to make your event engaging and leaving the audience wanting more next year.

5. Compare fees with online auction platforms.

Online auction item provided by Upscale Event Productions.
Online auction item (courtesy of Upscale Event Productions)

There are several different auction platforms and equally diverse set of pricing plans. Platforms like Qtego ( and Proxibid ( are full-featured but come at a cost and steeper learning curve. These require you to write the copy and take and upload your photos. On the other hand, Upscale Event Productions ( has an in-house platform where the auction items are cataloged, photographed and documented as a turn-key solution, including bid sheets, registration and collections. All of these all the bidder to use a mobile device to bid from the comfort of their home or gala banquet table.

Now you have several tips to help plan your next successful silent auction. Think this may still be overwhelming? Contact Upscale Event Productions to put the fun back in fundraising and let you focus on your organization’s mission and vision.