50+ Silent Auction Items You Can Get for Free for Your Next Fundraiser
The Ultimate Guide to Silent Auctions: 50+ Free Silent Auction Items You Can Secure for Your Next Fundraiser
Silent auctions are some of the most popular events to hold at nonprofit fundraisers — and for good reason. Not only are these events incredibly lucrative, you can start them days or weeks before your actual fundraising event. This helps build a ton of buzz around your upcoming gala as people keep returning to your website to bid on their favorite auction items.
Of course, this all means you need to get popular silent auction items that people want to keep bidding on, which can be a problem. Sure, you could offer the usual silent auction prizes — gift baskets, restaurant gift certificates, spa days — but if you really want your next silent auction to generate interest, your items need to be the type of prizes people really want.
Fortunately, we’ve put together this list of good auction items for a fundraiser your guests will absolutely love. And the best part? You can get every single one of these items for free.
That’s right: not only will the items below generate immediate revenue and marketing buzz for your nonprofit fundraiser, they’ll do so at zero cost to you. Intrigued? Then read on to learn the best auction items for 2023. This article is packed full of auction item ideas so you can leave the guesswork behind.
The Benefits of Unique Silent Auction Ideas
Silent auctions are a great way to raise funds for your organization or cause. For many people, they are a go to for a variety of fundraising needs. Not only are they fun for attendees, but they also provide an opportunity to offer unique and valuable auction items that can generate significant interest and bids. Here are some of the benefits of incorporating silent auction items into your next event:
Auction ideas and Item ideas
Silent auctions offer an endless array of auction ideas and item ideas. From high-end experiences like vacation packages or spa days, to practical items like kitchen appliances or sporting equipment, there are countless items that can be procured for a silent auction.
Silent auctions can add an extra layer of excitement to your event, and planning for them can be a great way to involve your team and generate buzz leading up to the fundraising event. Make sure to have fun with the theme and get creative and you will definitely procure guests to get involved.
Auction attendees and Auction guests
Silent auctions can attract a diverse range of auction attendees and auction guests. Whether your audience consists of families, professionals, or members of your local community, silent auction items can appeal to a broad audience.
Basket and Auction Basket Ideas
Baskets are a great way to package silent auction items together, and can be tailored to fit specific interests or themes. Consider creating auction baskets that cater to hobbies like cooking or gardening, or put together a basket of items that showcase the best of your town. Keep reading this article to learn about some more auction basket ideas!
Users and Software
There are numerous software solutions available for managing silent auctions, which can help streamline the auction process and make it easier for users to bid on items. Consider incorporating this into your next fundraising event to ensure everything runs smoothly. Keep reading to learn more about different softwares that may benefit your event experience. You can also find more information online that helps you utilize software to manage pesky admin tasks.
Peer-to-peer software can also be a valuable addition to your silent auction planning. This type of software allows users to connect with their peers in a virtual environment, making it easy to share information, track bids, and stay up-to-date on the latest auction news.
Donation and Effort
Silent auctions provide a unique opportunity to give back and support nonprofit organizations or causes that align with your values. By donating silent auction items or bidding on items, you can make a significant impact with minimal effort.
Management and Data
Silent auctions can generate valuable data that can be used to inform future fundraising efforts. By tracking the data of auction attendees and bids, you can gain insights into what items sell well and what demographics are most likely to participate.
Online management makes it simple to have a profile on your team and attendees. The more streamlined your management processes are, the easier it will be to keep everyone organized. Even if it’s a fundraising event, consider using an online management software to help out.
Date Night and Silent auction items that sell well
Items that cater to date nights, like romantic dinners or weekend getaways, often sell well at silent auctions. Consider procuring unique and memorable experiences that are sure to generate interest. You can also make some basket ideas with wine and fruit, or consider hosting a wine vineyard tour. You will learn more about these fundraising event ideas by reading on through the article.
Unique silent auction items and Silent auction items for nonprofit:
Offering unique and one-of-a-kind items can generate excitement and drive up bids at fundraising events. And for nonprofit organizations, silent auctions can be a great way to raise awareness and funds for important causes.
Best silent auction items for school fundraiser and Silent auction items for golf tournament
Silent auctions can be particularly effective for school fundraising events and golf tournaments. Consider procuring items like sports memorabilia, golf accessories, or unique experiences that are sure to appeal to these audiences.
Free silent auction ideas and Inexpensive silent auction ideas
Don't let a limited budget stop you from incorporating silent auctions into your next fundraising event. Consider procuring items that are donated or can be acquired at a low cost, like gift cards or DIY baskets. With a little creativity, there are plenty of free and inexpensive silent auction ideas to choose from. Always remember, the items you procure don’t have to be expensive if you get innovative with it!
50+ Auction Item Ideas For Your Next Silent Auction
1. Private Cooking Lessons
Whether you're interested in perfecting your sushi-making skills or learning to cook traditional Italian cuisine, there are private cooking lessons available to suit your specific culinary interests.
Cooking classes have been a mainstay for many nonprofit, charity, and fundraising events. Some organizations go out of their way to hire a professional gourmet chef who can teach a class of foodies some of their favorite recipes.
But what if you already have a skilled chef or professional cook in your organization or town who’s willing to donate some lessons to your silent auction? The fact that many people may have tasted their dishes might just add to their desirability. Consider creating a cooking basket with some high quality ingredients and wine if you want to take this package to the next level.
Bonus: In this age of social distancing, it’s easier than ever to offer these lessons through livestream broadcasts, allowing you to offer this auction item to bidders in different states and even countries. Now that’s a great way to start a bidding war!
2. Original Art
Some people may have a preference for a particular artist or artistic style. This subcategory can be helpful for those who are interested in acquiring original art from a specific artist or with a specific style, such as abstract expressionism or pop art.
This silent auction item works particularly well if your nonprofit is centered around artistic activities like art therapy. A good rule of thumb is to try to theme your fundraising event off of your industry, specialty or target audience’s interests. Invariably, these activities are bound to produce some one-of-a-kind pieces that attract attention and admiration from many people.
Contact these people. If they’re willing to donate some of their paintings, sculptures, or collages, you could have a highly sought-after work on your hands. It doesn’t matter if the artist in question is a professional or not (although it may help generate greater brand awareness if they are). Auction item ideas like this are a great way to get the local community involved!
3. Lunch with the Executive Director
Fancy luncheons are always nice to attend, but many people go to these events for the company. WIth the addition of a special guest, this could be a fan favorite at auctions! Consider selecting one of the nice restaurants in your town and coordinating a well-known figure to join the winner.
Take advantage of this. Is there a board member, director, or manager many of your supporters would love to connect with? Auction off a private lunch with that person, giving the winner a chance to network and talk about important issues. The meal itself can be donated by a local restaurant in exchange for a sponsorship mention on your event website.
4. Date with a Local Celebrity
Charity bachelor and bachelorette auctions are popular at many fundraising events, so why not auction off one of these “dates” by getting a local celebrity to donate an afternoon or evening with the lucky winner? Meals and activities can be donated by local organizations (in exchange for sponsorship mentions), but being able to spend time with a popular figure is how to get silent auction donations for this prize.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to make this into a romantic event — simply offering a fun day out with a celebrated personality will be enough to generate interest among your bidders at auctions.
5. Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Tour
Can you contact local news or radio stations and see if they can donate a behind-the-scenes tour of their work areas for interested patrons? How about a zoo or the firehouse? Offering a private, one-on-one tour of a workspace people are curious about could be a really fun experience to offer as a silent auction prize! Make sure to share some information about your fundraising event to get local businesses interested in supporting and participating.
It’s important to realize that for the uninitiated, any business venue can be exotic and exciting. Maybe you have cooking enthusiasts who’d love to check out the kitchen of a popular restaurant. Or civic-minded folk who’d love to see what the mayor does every day. The possibilities for this one are endless.
6. Ceremonial Honor
Have you ever dreamed of throwing the first pitch at a baseball game? How about cutting the ribbon at the opening of a new community garden? Or breaking a bottle of champagne against a boat during its christening? If that’s the case, this might be the ideal item you’re looking for.
Ceremonial events like these offer one-of-a-kind experiences that can be highly desired items to auction off at your next silent auction if you can partner with community organizations that will offer these experiences. Just the fact that people don’t get to do these activities every day (or at any time in their lives) makes them eye-catching offerings for fundraising auctions of all kinds.
7. Classic Memorabilia
Odds are you’ve held a few garage or rummage sales to raise money at some of your other nonprofit events or fundraising auctions. If so, you’ve probably seen some unusual and potentially valuable items show up during these fundraisers. From autographed movie posters to vintage music instruments to rare first-edition books, people regularly (and often unknowingly) donate some real treasures. Consider putting together a basket for your guests!
Keep an eye out for these items. If you spot them early on, hold onto them. They can make some very valuable items for your next silent auction. Just be sure to know what should be the starting bid for these silent auction items. Making your starting bid — and the silent auction bid increments — too low might prevent you from getting a good closing bid. To help, we offer guidelines for how to set good silent auction starting bids and bid increments for silent auctions.
8. Frequent Flyer Miles
Did you know you can transfer the frequent flier miles you’ve collected to someone else? If you can’t use these miles for yourself, this is a nice way to ensure your frequent flier miles are being enjoyed before they expire. As such, frequent flier miles make an attractive silent auction item that can be donated by your staff, volunteers, or supporters.
Bear in mind that there are fees associated with transferring or giving frequent flier miles which should be taken into account before you request someone donate their miles. Nevertheless, many bidders hoping to do some traveling will appreciate being able to purchase some frequent flier miles and lighten their travel bill.
9. Event Tickets
Offering tickets to sports events, Broadway shows, and concerts will definitely catch the attention of bidders. And these ticket items can be acquired for free if you reach out to local venues in advance and request some donated tickets in exchange for a sponsorship promotion on your website. Just make sure to tell them it will be for one of your auctions!
You may also be able to offer tickets to your own upcoming events in town. For instance, if you’re planning on hosting a live or virtual concert at a future fundraiser, you can simply offer a pair of tickets to the show at your current silent auction. This is a great way to generate future buzz, particularly if these concerts and events sell out quickly.
If you want to bulk up this fundraising item, create a basket with some merchandise that is relevant to the event. This can include business or team swag, a musical soundtrack, snacks, etc.
10. Birthday Party Packages
A fully-catered birthday party package that takes care of all the details, from invitations to decorations to entertainment.
Your event team is clearly skilled at hosting popular activities that get people excited. Why not procure their talents for other events — like birthday parties? Offering a party package as one of your silent auction items can be a great way to bring in bidders who need help creating a memorable birthday.
Depending on your team’s skills and resources, you can offer packages for kids and adults. Do you have access to costumed entertainers willing to volunteer their time? Bakeries willing to donate cakes and goodies to a good cause? Extra party favors and supplies at your office? All of this can be assembled into some memorable events people are willing to bid top dollar for! Make sure to use the resources available to you to gather items for auctions. Put everything together in a basket and you’ll be ready to go!
11. Childcare Services
A package of childcare services to help busy parents balance work and family life.
Parents who support nonprofits and charities often have to balance their parental responsibilities with their desire to help the community. Why not show your appreciation by offering the services of a professional nanny or daycare center? These businesses make excellent sponsors, especially if your supporters are primarily families that need their services, making childcare service donations a great way to increase their brand recognition.
12. Family Photoshoot
By now, it should be apparent that one of the best ways to get free items for your next silent auction is to gauge the talents and professions of your supporters and discover if they’d be willing to donate some of their services.
With this in mind, securing the services of a professional photographer would be a great way to offer a professional family photoshoot. Once again, this can be marketed as a win-win for both parties since your nonprofit gets a popular free item for your auction, and the photographer gets a publicized shoot that can lead to more business, especially if there are many families in your nonprofit who’d like group photos. If you want to make a basket, you can also add some props for the family photoshoot!
13. Donor Spots
Recognition plaques, engraved tiles, and memorial benches are all nice ways to recognize your donor contributions. What’s nice about this is that you can offer spots at multiple places, not just big locations like libraries and hospitals.
For instance, if your nonprofit or charity organization has a pleasant physical space like a garden, you can arrange for certain spots like fountains, statues, and bricks to be engraved with the names of winning bidders at your auction. This is a nice way to show recognition to your supporters while supplying a unique auction item needed for your fundraising event.
14. Free Oil Changes or Car Maintenance
Exotic and unusual items might attract a lot of attention at auctions, but there’s something to be said about products and services that everyone needs at some point. Making arrangements with an auto shop or garage to provide free oil changes or car maintenance can be a very pragmatic item to include in your list of auction items. Sure, it’s not the flashiest thing you can offer, but who wouldn’t want to avoid the cost of auto maintenance for a year?
15. Free Christmas Light Decorating
A Christmas light decorating service to transform your home into a winter wonderland.
If there’s one thing your volunteers can offer that’s of incredible value, it’s manpower services. And if you focus that manpower on annual events people need help with, you’ve got a great auction item on your hands.
Take putting up the Christmas lights. Everyone loves seeing a decorated house, but getting everything set up (and taken down) is a hassle not everyone wants to (or can) handle. If you have skilled volunteers with experience assembling Christmas light displays, this can be a great auction item to offer folks who want to show off a bit more Christmas cheer but don’t want to strain their backs when the holidays come.
Consider adding multiple things to this package, including other Christmas or outdoor decorating assistance. If you want to add more bulk to the gift, give away a basket of Christmas or holiday themed decor.
16. Free Halloween Decorating
On a similar note, assembling a team of volunteers to put up some spooky decorations during Halloween is a great service to offer at your silent auction. People love receiving services that take things off their to-do list.
This can work particularly well if your nonprofit puts on haunted houses and other Halloween activities during the fall — you might be able to loan your own decorations, saving the bidder from some expensive shopping. Now that’s a silent auction item worth bidding on! Similar to the free Christmas light decorating, consider making a halloween basket to give alongside the decorating.
17. Zoo Memberships
A membership to a local zoo that includes behind-the-scenes access and exclusive events.
Offering an annual membership to the local zoo or aquarium can be a great item to offer at your silent auction. It’s a gift that keeps on giving as there are so many things to enjoy at the destination. You can get these by partnering with local organizations who will be happy to donate an annual membership (with various tiers) to your auction in exchange for being mentioned as a sponsor. If your nonprofit organization already offers such attractions, you can provide bidders with access to your own institution.
Other great memberships include memberships to museums, national parks, theaters, concert halls, or amusement parks. Just consider your guests’ interests and the types of organizations in your area you can partner with.
18. Pet Services
We all love our pets, but sometimes fitting in for walks or days at the dog park can be problematic. Being able to bid on pet services with experienced and reliable dog walkers and pet sitters can create plenty of enthusiasm among your supporters. You can arrange for some of your volunteers to provide a set number of walks or pet-sitting days. This is a great item to consider depending on your target audience. Consider throwing in a basket with some dog or cat goodies as well!
19. Parking Spaces
People regularly covet good parking spaces and love having a spot reserved just for them. Consider offering a reserved parking space in front of your community center. This is a particularly great auction item if you’re raising money for a school — what parent wouldn’t appreciate the chance to park in a prime location during school pickups and drop-offs? You could also throw in a few free valet services to certain locations in your town.
20. Closet Cleanouts
Spring cleaning is a hassle, so why not give your supporters a break by hooking them up with your favorite declutter expert? Odds are you have multiple volunteers or staff members who are experts at cleaning out and organizing closets. See if any of them would be willing to donate a few hours or an afternoon to reorganizing a guest’s problem spaces. This is a unique item that is sure to please your audience. You can even add in a basket of some organizational accessories to go along with the closet cleanout services.
21. Santa Claus Appearance
Getting a photo taken with Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition — but having Santa show up at your door can really make the holidays memorable. If your nonprofit is already equipped to handle holiday events, why not have a Santa performer make a personal appearance for the family that places the winning bid at your auction? You can even have St. Nick offers donated gifts for the children to make the appearance extra special. You can even get one of your staff members to play the role of Santa Claus if they fit the part!
22. Your Name on a Menu Item
Who wouldn’t want to feel special by having their name attached to a delicious ice cream flavor or a new sandwich? By partnering with local delis, snack shops, and restaurants, you can create this free but very popular auction item where winning bidders can get a menu item named after them. This can range from entrees to desserts to new drinks, giving you plenty of different options to offer during your auction. Consider including one free purchase of this item for the winner. Packing it in a nice basket can also increase the curb appeal.
23. Reserved Event Seating
Finding good seats is something everyone wants, but not everyone prepares for. You can take advantage of this by offering reserved seats at an upcoming popular event. This event doesn’t even have to be a major sporting event or concert — simply providing prime seating at a local baseball game frequented by the community can be enough to generate interest. This item can attract a certain audience while having the appeal of exclusivity.
24. Pizza Party
Yeah, okay — so this might be a bit of a cliché. Still, what group of office workers or students wouldn’t want to take a break from their workday with a fun party full of donated pizzas? Even if you can’t get a restaurant to sponsor this event, pizza parties are one of the more inexpensive silent auction ideas and can fetch a good closing bid.
25. Cameo App-Style Appearances
Cameo is an app that allows celebrities to make personalized videos for a price. Movie and TV stars record everything from special birthday greetings to funny video roasts. While this might be a bit out of your price range, you can provide the same appeal by getting the manager or CEO of your group to agree to make a cameo-style video where they offer silly or heartfelt messages scripted by the winning bidder.
If there’s a local celebrity in your area (like a TV anchor or popular media personality), you might even be able to convince them to get in on the fun by volunteering their time too! Make sure to tell them you’re auctioning off an item and would love for them to be the star of the show.
26. A Year of Free Dry Cleaning
Just like oil changes, laundry is something no one can escape from. Partner with your local dry cleaner to provide a year of free dry cleaning to a lucky supporter who makes the winning bid for this auction item. Their entire family will thank you!
27. Personalized Autographs
Autographed merchandise is nice — but what’s even cooler is when that autograph is personalized to the recipient. You can help provide this special item by reaching out to a celebrity and seeing if they’d be willing to sign something for one of your supporters.
Again, this celebrity doesn’t have to be an uber-famous movie or TV star. Sometimes, a favorite author, local sports legend, or media personality can provide the personalized memorabilia their fans love. This is always a good auction item for a fundraiser, provided your audience is into these celebrities.
28. Breakfast at the Firehouse
You don’t have to break the bank by purchasing a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant for your guests. The items you give away don’t always have to be flashy to gain attention. People love free items and events! Sometimes, the best meals are served at places you wouldn’t consider formal eateries. Consider partnering with community organizations to offer breakfast at the firehouse or lunch in the mayor’s office. You can bet the winners won’t have many dining experiences like this one!
29. Free Magic Lessons
A fun and interactive experience that offers the opportunity to learn magic tricks from a professional magician.
Ask anyone, and they’d probably all love to learn just one great magic trick that can impress their co-workers or kids. If you have some magic professionals or hobbyists on your staff, maybe they’d be willing to break the Magician’s Code for a few lucky people who’ll finally learn how that amazing card trick was done. To further entice folks, show a brief video of your magician’s talents on your website to reveal what the winning bidder could learn.
30. Unique Gift Basket
Gift Basket Bonanza
A selection of creative and thoughtfully curated gift baskets that offer a one-of-a-kind gifting experience.
We’ve all bid on gift baskets full of beauty products and food. But what if you offered some really unique gift baskets that catered to your supporters’ needs and interests?
Consider offering a car emergency kit gift basket complete with jumper cables, a tool kit, flashlight, and portable phone charger.
Or how about a campfire activity gift basket with S’more mallows, graham crackers, a lighter, Duraflame roasting logs, and a book of ghost stories? You can even do a home office set with a keyboard, mouse pad and office supplies. The possibilities are endless — which means you can combine your donated items into any number of attractive gift baskets.
31. Reserved Pew
The chance to reserve a special pew or seating area in your local church for a special occasion or holiday service. This provides a comfortable and exclusive experience for you and your loved ones to worship together, while supporting your church community.
If your nonprofit or charity is connected to a church or other religious organization, offering special seating at a religious event might be a nice item to offer in your auction. Many people appreciate being able to provide their families front row seats during Christmas Mass or other ceremonies, so be sure to indicate which event this reserved seating is for.
32. Fitness Package
Fit for a Cause
A collection of fitness packages and experiences, including gym memberships, personal training sessions, and fitness classes, to help you achieve your health and wellness goals while supporting a worthy cause.
Fitness packages are a popular silent auction item, and while you might be familiar with the usual gym memberships or yoga classes, you can also come up with some more innovative fitness items based on your supporter interests.
For instance, if your audience includes several hiking enthusiasts, maybe you can find an experienced professional hiking guide to take them on a tour of some local natural landmarks. If you have some golf pros on staff, having them offer to share some tips can really motivate some target bidders to give generously. Be creative and build your fitness item packages around what your bidders like to do to stay in shape.
33. Personal Chef for a Day
A personalized culinary experience with a professional chef who will create a custom menu and cook a gourmet meal in the comfort of your own home.
Chances are you’ve got some cooking enthusiasts in your organization who always seem to offer that special dish everyone loves during your community luncheons and social gatherings. If so, maybe your cook would be willing to act as a personal chef for a day and create the winning bidder’s favorite meal. It’ll be less expensive than paying for a restaurant certificate and much more memorable.
34. Storytime Sessions
Here’s another great auction item for families. Offer some story time sessions with volunteers who can really engage children with their readings of popular picture books and novels. These readers can also include activities along with the readings and perform in front of entire groups of kids, making this a fun mini-event in itself.
An additional way to do this is to find the author of a popular book and see if they’d be willing to do a reading of their own work. This can even be done through Zoom calls or livestreaming videos if distance is a factor. This is a great item idea for a virtual fundraising.
35. City Tour
Seeing familiar landmarks becomes a whole new experience if they’re shown by someone with a unique knowledge of your city. Find out if anyone in your network knows a lot of interesting stories about your city’s history and is skilled at offering tours. You can even divide responsibilities among people who know more about certain districts and landmarks than others.
36. Taste Tour
A guided tour of the best local food and drink spots in town, including tastings and behind-the-scenes access.
Here’s something that can be offered in tandem with (or separately from) your city tour. Partner with multiple restaurants, eateries, and bars on a popular route and arrange to have them provide tour groups with some samples of their favorite dishes and drinks.
Winners of this auction item will get to try multiple cuisines while the restaurants will be able to advertise their offerings, possibly leading to some increased business. Depending on where you arrange the tour, you can theme this event as a wine-tasting tour, ethnic food tour, dessert tour etc. Consider adding in a free uber ride or gift card to go along with it, if residents are able to walk everywhere by foot.
37. Tailgate Party
A fully-catered tailgate party experience, complete with food, drinks, and game-day entertainment.
People love throwing tailgate parties at sporting events, drive-in movies, and other outdoor venues. Offer to supply the food and party supplies for these fun events using your own resources. If you can partner with the venue, you might be able to offer some free tickets to the event as well. This can be a free (or low-cost) event for people eager to hang out in groups again.
38. Book Packages
Book packages are popular for a variety of fundraising needs. Plenty of nonprofits and charities arrange book drives where supporters can donate books to raise funds or supply community organizations with reading materials. Why not create themed packages of some of your best donations and offer them at your silent auction?
You could offer a package of multiple graphic novels and/or classic comic books that let people discover the source material behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or how about a package of vintage western or mystery novels for people who can’t get enough of either genre?
Incidentally, audiobooks and eBooks are both popular with readers today. If your supporters prefer consuming literature this way, maybe you can arrange for an annual subscription to Audible or get some free downloads for their Kindles.
39. Podcast Appearance
The opportunity to be a guest on a popular podcast and share your unique perspective with a wide audience.
Podcasts are attracting huge audiences these days, and they will very quickly break into the fundraising event space. Your nonprofit or charity may already have a popular podcast with thousands of listeners — or perhaps some of your staff members produce their own special podcasts with unique themes.
If that’s the case, you can offer bidders the chance to appear in a future episode of a podcast. This can be anything from a short mention of the winning bidder’s business to having the winner as a guest on the show. Everyone has a fascinating story to share, and getting the opportunity to chat about their interests for an hour is something many people would love to do.
40. Staycation Packages
A curated package of experiences that offer a vacation-like experience without leaving town, including hotel stays, dining, and local activities.
With travel restrictions and lockdowns still an issue in different parts of the world, people still need ways to relax and unwind. Help them out by offering premium “Staycation Packages” that let your winning bidders feel they’re on vacation in the comfort of their own home or local hotel.
Just what you put in these packages depends on the needs and desires of your audience. Granted, you can include the usual bath bombs, fluffy robes, candy boxes, and other amenities, but you can also get a bit more creative.
Consider adding an annual subscription to a popular streaming service, a mini projector to enhance movie night, or even a portable hammock that lets people sleep island-style in their backyard. And be sure to choose a good silent auction starting bid — you’re offering a lot for this item!
41. Naming Rights
Special recognition and benefits for donors who support your cause or organization.
Being able to name a building, street, park, or really anything your nonprofit is building is considered a great honor — so why not make naming rights one of your silent auction items?
This differs somewhat from simply engraving an honorary plaque with your winning bidder’s name. In this case, the winner can name an item anything they desire. It doesn’t have to be anything big like a building either — being able to name a painting, sculpture, or room can be just as fun. You can even auction off naming rights to an entire group of donors, granting them the public recognition they desire and your nonprofit a higher bid.
42. Video Game Equipment
A collection of video game equipment and accessories for gamers of all levels.
Gaming culture attracts a passionate crowd. In fact, video game enthusiasts can become some of your nonprofit’s most passionate donors if you team up with “geek philanthropists” and host a video game tournament or other livestreamed gaming event.
If you happen to have a lot of gamers in your support network, you might want to consider offering hard-to-get gaming consoles in your list of silent auction items. These might include the latest Play Station or Xbox console — or you might consider going vintage if you have gaming enthusiasts who enjoy playing retro games.
Again, these items can be acquired by asking your staff or volunteers to donate their video game equipment. Alternatively, you can get local game stores to sponsor your event and donate some desirable equipment or accessory items. Considering how passionate some gamers can get about their interests, a “video game basket” can attract a lot of attention.
43. Buy-In for a Charity Poker Tournament
Poker for a Purpose
The chance to participate in a charity poker tournament, with the buy-in fee going towards a good cause. This unique and exciting event allows you to test your poker skills while making a difference in your community.
Poker tournaments are popular activities at fundraisers. These games generally require each player to purchase a set amount of chips that they can use to participate in matches among friends. Rather than exchange the chips for money at the end of the game, the winning players generally get some nice prizes (and bragging rights). Meanwhile, the money raised goes to your nonprofit to fund your programs.
If your nonprofit happens to host a popular charity poker tournament, why not offer a “buy-in” as one of your silent auction items? No actual money needs to be spent, and the winner gets to try their luck at winning one of the bigger prizes in your tournament. By offering multiple buy-ins, you can even attract more players to your tournament, which can motivate other people to participate.
44. Zamboni Ride
There’s something oddly satisfying about watching a Zamboni resurface and clean the ice during hockey games or ice skating tournaments. If you can find someone with connections to your local hockey league or ice skating rink, see if they can arrange for some spectators to ride the Zamboni during the next game. Promote it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a ride,, and you’ll likely get some curiosity seekers bidding on this silent auction prize. Fundraising made easy!
45. Collaborative Art Projects
A chance to work with a local artist to create a one-of-a-kind collaborative art project.
We’ve already suggested offering paintings and sculptures created by local artists as silent auction items. Collaborative art projects, on the other hand, are a bit different as they involve getting an artist to collaborate with someone your nonprofit is helping.
For instance, some art therapy projects have children recovering from trauma work with professional artists on everything from paintings to album covers to graphic designs.
Many of the pieces that result from this collaboration are quite eye-catching, and if you can offer some of this art in your silent auction (along with the story of how it was made), you can find many of your guests passionately bidding on the work.
46. Fun School Experiences
This next item works best for school fundraisers. Younger kids still get a thrill out of being principal for a day or pulling the fire alarm. Putting some of these “privileges” into your silent auction can be a lot of fun for a parent and/or student who bids to pull an alarm at the school’s next fire drill practice or shadow the principal and get them to read the morning announcements.
Parents can get in on the fun too by bidding for VIP seats at graduation events or a special reserved spot in the carpool pickup line. They might not sound like much — but for parents who want to pick up their kids sooner or take pictures of them from the perfect spot, these silent auction items are worth their weight in gold.
47. Personal Assistant for a Day
Busy Bee Benefits
The chance to hire a personal assistant for a day to help with errands, scheduling, organization, and other tasks, allowing you to focus on what's important.
Here’s a nice silent auction item for the person who has way too many things on their to-do list. Having one of your volunteers offer their services as a personal assistant can really make your winning bidder’s life run smoother — at least for a day. Services might include grocery shopping, cleaning duties, and possibly even minor repair work.
48. Virtual Assistant for a Day
Virtual Support System
A virtual assistant who can help with administrative tasks, scheduling, and other support services for a day.
If your guests happen to need a lot of help in the office, you could contact some virtual assistants and see if they’d be willing to offer a free trial period as an auction item. Virtual assistants handle many tasks remotely, including scheduling appointments, making phone calls, arranging travel, and organizing emails. If the free trial goes well, it’s possible the bidder might just hire the virtual assistant to work on a regular basis, which just works well for everyone.
49. Movie Theatre Rental
A private movie theater rental that allows you and your guests to enjoy a movie on the big screen in a cozy and exclusive setting, complete with snacks and drinks.
With social distancing requirements being lowered, people are finally able to go back into movie theaters and enjoy the latest blockbuster films on the big screen with excellent surround sound. Renting out an entire movie theater for a private viewing is the perfect way to celebrate a party or entertain a family gathering. While movie theater rentals do cost money, it’s possible you can get your local theater to donate their space for your auction. See if you can get refreshments included to sweeten the deal.
50. Flag Flying
If you have a flagpole on your property, consider offering your audience the chance to fly their personal flag or banner — like the flag of their alma mater or their family heraldic flag — alongside the usual flags for a day. This can offer some fun photo opportunities for your winning bidder.
51. Private Museum Event
A private event hosted at a local museum, complete with a personalized tour and exclusive access to exhibits and collections, creating a unique and memorable experience for you and your guests.
If your nonprofit is affiliated with a museum, aquarium, or other fun place to tour, take advantage of this by arranging for a private after-hours party for your winning bidders. This is a great fundraising prize! You wouldn’t have to expend too many resources and the novelty of having a public space all to themselves can excite a lot of potential bidders.
BONUS! About Charity Consignment Items
Some nonprofit charity auctions make use of charity consignment items. These can be high-ticket, rare items like vacation packages and autographed sports memorabilia that are provided by a third party for no upfront cost to your nonprofit or charity.
Charity consignment items have a consignment price (also called a base or reserve price) that’s collected by the third party if the item sells at your auction. Anything above that base price gets collected by the nonprofit organization.
For example, let’s say you offer a vacation package to Lake Tahoe with a consignment price of $2000. If you sell this item at your auction for $5000, the consignment company would collect its $2000 and your nonprofit would pocket the remaining $3000. And if the vacation package doesn’t sell, you don’t have to pay the consignment company.
This can be a good way to obtain popular or one-of-a-kind auction items like exotic trips or autographed sports memorabilia. Your nonprofit or charity won’t have to pay for anything upfront and if the item sells for a good price, you can pocket some profit.
Charity consignment auction items are also best when used in a live auction where activity levels are higher, although you can use them in both silent and live auctions. Be sure to keep the following things in mind:
Don’t Sell Auction Items for Less Than Their Consignment Price
If you accidentally sell your consignment item for less than its consignment price, you still owe the company the agreed-upon original price. Thus, if you sold a vacation package with a consignment price of $2000 for $1500, you need to pay the remaining $500 out of your own pocket.
Some auctions start the bidding at the consignment price to ensure they break even or make some profit. Others start the opening bid at a price lower than the consignment price, but make sure the auctioneer knows they can't actually sell the item unless it goes over the consignment price. (You’ll also have to make sure your silent auction doesn’t accidentally let these items go for below-base prices).
Invest in a Professional Auctioneer
A professional auctioneer can get an audience excited and stir up a bidding frenzy that drives up the price of items very quickly in a live auction. A less-experienced auctioneer won’t be able to generate this kind of hype. If you want your consignment items (or any of your auction items) to sell for good prices, hire a professional auctioneer and follow their advice.
Know Your Audience’s Needs
While it might be tempting to offer a trip to Paris at your next charity auction, you should keep your supporters’ needs in mind. If your guests are big travelers (with generous donating habits), then a consignment item like a Paris vacation would make sense. On the other hand, if your audience loves to collect items, sports or rare movie memorabilia might be a better choice.
Likewise, be familiar with how much your auction items usually sell for with your audiences. You don’t want to offer items that are out of your bidders’ price range. Make sure you have at least a few bidders in the audience who bid high on a regular basis.
If you’d like to look into charity consignment items for your next auction, be sure to check out our partners page to see which consignment companies will fit your needs the best.
Engaging Donors: Key Strategies for Successful Silent Auction Fundraisers
Donors play a critical role in the success of any silent auction fundraiser. Without the generous support of donors, it can be challenging to procure the auction items needed to generate significant interest and bids. However, with the right approach, it is possible to attract and engage donors to ensure that your next silent auction event is a success.
One way to encourage donors to contribute to your silent auction is to communicate the impact their donations can have. For example, if you are having a charity auction, make sure to share all the amazing things the funds have helped accomplish. Remember that at a fundraising and charity auction, many participants want to feel involved in the true mission behind the event.
Consider highlighting success stories from past events or sharing information about the specific programs or initiatives that will benefit from the funds raised. By showing donors the tangible impact of their contribution, you can help them feel more connected to your cause and motivated to give.
Another way to engage donors is to offer them unique recognition or benefits. For example, you could offer special VIP access to the event, a listing in the event program, or a personalized thank-you note. These small gestures can help donors feel appreciated and valued, which can go a long way in building long-term relationships.
It's also important to make the donation process as easy and convenient as possible. Consider providing a range of options for donors to contribute, such as an online donation portal, mail-in forms, or in-person drop-off locations. The more flexible and accessible the donation process is, the more likely donors are to participate.
In addition to attracting new donors, it's essential to maintain strong relationships with existing donors. Consider creating a donor stewardship program that includes regular communication, exclusive events, and other perks that help donors feel connected to your cause. By nurturing these relationships, you can build a loyal base of donors who are invested in your mission and committed to supporting your silent auction events.
We hope you enjoyed these auction item ideas! At the end of the day, what makes an auction item popular isn’t its dollar value. It’s how special each item makes the winning bidder feel. By taking stock of your supporters’ interests, you’ll be able to determine what special experiences, opportunities, or services they really want. And as this list shows, a lot of what people want doesn’t have to cost you a dime.
Of course, there’s more that goes into hosting a successful charity auction than simply collecting great auction items. You also want an online platform that makes listing and promoting your items easy for your hardworking staff. Whether you are hosting an in-person or online auction, this is essential!
PayBee can help with this. Our online tools make building your silent or live auction campaign a snap. Plus, your guests will have the option of online mobile bidding, encouraging higher bid prices for your items.
Learn more about how all of this works by signing up for a free online demo of PayBee’s platform. You’ll be able to participate in a mock live auction (complete with virtual money!) and ask all of your live and silent auction questions to our team of experts. Come discover how easy hosting a successful auction can be at your next in-person, online, or hybrid event!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good ideas for a silent auction?
A: Good ideas for a silent auction include unique experiences, travel packages, fine art, sports memorabilia, electronics, jewelry, and gift baskets. These items tend to attract a wide range of bidders and generate significant interest and revenue.
What is sold at silent auctions?
A: Silent auctions typically feature a wide range of items, including experiences, services, art, jewelry, electronics, and more. The items are usually donated by individuals or businesses and are sold to the highest bidder during the event.
How do you get stuff for a silent auction fundraiser?
A: To get stuff for a silent auction fundraiser, consider reaching out to local businesses, artists, and individuals who may be willing to donate items. You can also try soliciting donations through social media, email campaigns, and other marketing efforts. Additionally, you can consider procuring items from online auction sites or purchasing them from wholesalers.
How do you show items in a silent auction?
A: To show items in a silent auction, it's important to create an appealing and organized display. Consider arranging items on tables or in baskets with clear descriptions and bid sheets. You can also use creative displays, such as easels, mannequins, or display cases, to showcase specific items. Additionally, be sure to provide ample lighting and signage to help bidders navigate the auction and find the items they're interested in.