Hosting a Non-Profit Silent Auction at Your Hybrid Event

If you’ve hosted many fundraisers for your nonprofit or charity, you know that silent auctions are a great way to get your supporters to donate to your mission. By offering everything from luxury resort stays to stylish luggage, you can entice your attendees to bid a lot of money on their favorite items and raise plenty of money for your cause.

Typically, silent auctions are done at an in-person event where your bidders get to see the auction items and write their bids on slips of paper, with each prize going to the highest bidder. But because of COVID-19, many nonprofits and charities switched to virtual silent auctions that allow their supporters to place their bids online from the comfort of their homes. Virtual silent auctions offer many advantages over in-person auctions since they can be held for several days, allowing you to raise more money.

With in-person gatherings becoming more possible, however, your nonprofit or charity can now offer something better – a hybrid silent auction. This event merges many of the advantages of in-person and virtual silent auctions, providing you with a fun, interactive activity that can prove extremely profitable.

Let’s take a closer look at hybrid silent auctions to learn the advantages of holding one at your next hybrid gala – and how to host a successful silent auction for in-person and online attendees.

What Are Hybrid Silent Auctions?

Hybrid silent auctions allow your supporters to experience your auction in-person and online. Instead of writing their bids down on paper, both your in-person and online attendees place their bids through mobile bidding apps like the PayBee App. These apps organize all the bids and make your event run more efficiently.

Like traditional silent auctions, hybrid silent auctions offer a variety of popular items. However, because you’ll be competing against in-person and online bidders, getting the winning bid can be more challenging – and more fun!    

Advantages of a Hybrid Silent Auction

As in-person fundraisers return, more nonprofits and charities are making the switch to hybrid silent auctions. And it’s easy to see why. As popular as traditional silent auctions were, hybrid silent auctions offer both your organization and your supporters more benefits, including:

Better Participation

Typically, people who bid at your silent auctions had to come to your event and place their bids in-person. This limited the people who could participate in your fundraiser, and while your supporters may have bid generously, more bidders would have probably encouraged higher selling prices.

With the creation of virtual silent auctions, people from anywhere in the world can now participate in your virtual fundraiser with a mobile bidding app or a laptop to place their bids. This encourages competition, making your silent auction more profitable.

Hybrid silent auctions combine the best of both worlds. Not only can you host an in-person event that attracts people who prefer to mingle with other bidders and get face-to-face with auction items, you’ll also be able to retain hundreds of online bidders. Since everyone places their bids using a mobile bidding app, this increases the excitement surrounding your event and invites more participation.   

A Longer Auction – and Higher Bids

One thing many nonprofits and charities enjoy about virtual silent auctions is the ability to hold them days in advance of your actual main fundraising event. Since the event is held online, people can visit your website any time and place their bids up until you close the silent auction. This usually means you’ll earn more for your auction items since participants have more time to drive up the prices.

You can enjoy the same advantage at your hybrid silent auction. Just open your silent auction virtually – we recommend a week in advance of your in-person fundraiser – and then continue the auction at the main event. People who attend in-person will be able to view many of the auction items and see the current bid on their mobile bidding apps. As the deadline for bid submission nears, more people will want to participate, both in-person and online.

A word of advice: make sure to end your silent auction before you offer other types of entertainment (especially live auctions). Running multiple activities simultaneously during a hybrid event will split your audience’s attention, which can negatively impact your donations. Plus, it’s easier for you to manage one activity at a time in hybrid galas.   

More Exposure for Your Auction Items

Being able to display your auction items online and in-person gives them plenty of exposure, making it easier for you to generate interest among your attendees. This is particularly true if you run your silent auction before your main event and give your supporters more time to bid.

Even better? If your auction items are donated by your sponsors, this extra exposure translates into more free advertising for their business. This is a great selling point that you should make sure to emphasize when you’re getting companies to sponsor your next hybrid fundraiser.

A Less Expensive Auction

One great thing about virtual and hybrid events is that they tend to cost a lot less than in-person galas. Even if you do need to rent a room to display your auction items for your in-person bidders, it won’t need to be as big as your usual venues since many of your attendees will be online.

Plus, since you’ll be using silent auction software to create and manage your campaigns, you won’t need to invest in a large staff either. All of this means more savings for you – and more funding for your nonprofit or charity’s mission.

Hosting a Successful Hybrid Silent Auction

So, how can you make sure you’ll enjoy all of the above advantages at your next hybrid silent auction? Successful hybrid silent auctions follow many proven guidelines, including:

Invest in a Reliable Mobile Bidding App

Successful hybrid silent auctions need a reliable mobile bidding app like the PayBee App. This app lets your in-person attendees place their bids at the event site through their mobile devices. The bids get entered into the online system along with the bids placed by people attending the event online. Your bidders also receive live item notifications via email that inform them of the status of their auction item.

Mobile bidding apps help you coordinate your hybrid silent auctions, allowing both your in-person and online bidders participate fully in your event. As your attendees see how efficient your auction is, they’ll be encouraged to interact more and ultimately raise more money for your nonprofit or charity.

Give Your Bidders Plenty of Options

Since both your in-person and online bidders will be using mobile bidding apps to bid on your auction items, it’s important to offer them plenty of options to get what they want. For instance, PayBee enables you to turn on a “Buy It Now” option for your silent auctions that allows your bidders to immediately purchase an auction item for a price that you set in advance. Donors appreciate this especially if they’re pressed for time and want to avoid a lengthy bidding period.

PayBee also gives your supporters the ability to customize their bid increments. This allows a bidder to raise his or her bid well above the minimum bid increment. Not only does this encourage larger bids, it also gives each supporter more control over their donations to your cause.    

Offer Great Auction Items

Of course, in order for any silent auction to be successful, you need to offer items that appeal to your supporters. Traditionally, auction items like travel packages and concert tickets have been very popular. However, you may have to take new sensibilities into account for the COVID and post-COVID era. Consider the following items:

  •  Streaming Services: Offering paid subscriptions to Disney+ or HBO Max can be appealing.
  • Tech Toys: Laptops, digital cameras, and mobile devices are more in use now.
  • Virtual Event Tickets: Concerts, comedy shows, and even cooking classes are now all offered online.
  • Resort Stays: Taking into account travel restrictions, offering fun “staycations” at local resorts can be more attractive to bidders.
  • Private Dinners: Offering catered meals that can be delivered to your home or a private dining experience at a restaurant may be more appealing today.
  • Equally important is your ability to display your auction items attractively. While you can offer nice item displays for your in-person audience, you should also take advantage of how you can showcase your items online. PayBee, for instance, allows you to include photographs of your auction items and an enticing description of each item. You’ll also be able to list your items via bulk item uploads, making the virtual portion of your event easier to manage. 

Make Shipping or Picking Up Auction Items Easy

Since your winning bidders won’t all be at your in-person event, it’s important to make it easy for your online bidders to get their items. Attendees who live close by can come to a pick-up address and collect their items. People who live further away or can’t make the trip for other reasons need to have their items shipped to them. Consider offering free shipping to make the process easier.

Be sure to include all of your pickup/delivery information available on your online auction’s website – PayBee offers this option on their online platform. The easier you make the delivery process, the better your supporters will respond to your silent auction and hybrid gala.  

Managing Your Next Hybrid Silent Auction

While there are some new logistics to consider when hosting a hybrid silent auction, the benefits to your nonprofit or charity are considerable. Thanks to the larger number of bidders, increased sponsorship exposure, and all the savings for your organization, the hybrid silent auction will be a very popular fundraising event from now on.  

To take full advantage of this new silent auction, make sure you learn as much as you can about hosting a hybrid gala. Contact PayBee to view their live demo and ask their experts about hosting a hybrid silent auction for your next fundraising event. As you discover all the tools and resources available to you in this new era of live and virtual events, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the opportunities in modern nonprofit fundraising.

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Michael Jung


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