Best Practices for Using Silent Auction Bid Sheets

Best Practices for Using Silent Auction Bid Sheets

It’s no secret that silent auctions are a major source of funding for nonprofits and charities. These auctions are so adaptable they can be used for virtually any type of fundraising event, from church fundraisers to art museum galas. What’s more, you can start your silent auction days or even weeks in advance of your event, making it a great way to generate publicity while also making money for your organization.

In order to make sure your silent auctions run smoothly, PayBee has provided you with several articles on how to run a successful silent auction. In this post, however, we’d like to focus on an essential element of every silent auction — the silent auction bid sheet — and discuss how you can use them to not only manage your bidding but also maximize your profits. We’ll also explore how PayBee is bringing silent auction bid sheets into the digital age with our QR code bid sheets.

What are Silent Auction Bid Sheets?

Silent auction bid sheets are used to collect and track how much participants in an auction bid on each item. Once the auction closes, the highest listed bidder on each bid sheet is considered the winner for the item.

You’ve likely seen silent auction bid sheets at in-person silent auctions. These sheets are printed and placed next to each auction item (or a photo of the item), allowing attendees to write in their bids by hand.

However, in today’s digital age, it’s just as likely to use an online auction bid sheet for your silent auction. These online bid sheets make collecting and tracking bids simpler and open your auction to a much wider online audience. This is particularly important to know if you’re planning on hosting a virtual or hybrid fundraiser that allows people to attend online.

What Should Be Included on a Silent Auction Bid Sheet?

While silent auction bid sheets can be customized to fit the needs of different auctions, all these bid sheets should include some standard components. These include:

  • Auction Item Number: Each auction item should be assigned a number that matches the numbered bid sheet for each item.
  • Item Description: Each item should have an enticing name and description that will motivate attendees to bid on the item. You should also include an attractive photo of each item, especially if you’re holding a virtual silent auction or the item can’t be easily displayed. For instance, vacation packages can have a nice photo of the destination to show people where they’re heading.
  • Bidder Name/Number: Bidders should be able to write in their names or an identifying number next to their bids.
  • Starting Bid: Each bid sheet should show what the starting or opening bid for the item is, allowing people to start their bidding at or above the starting bid price.
  • Minimum Raise Increment: Bidders should be shown the minimum amount they must increase each bid. Be sure to make this amount small enough to encourage bidding but large enough to ensure you make a good profit. In general, we recommend the raise amount be between 10 to 15 percent of the item’s fair market value.
  • Item Value: Find the fair market value for each auction item and showcase it on the bid sheet. This can stimulate bidding, especially if bidders feel they’re getting a good bargain and/or bidding on a priceless item.
  • Buy-It-Now: This is an optional feature that PayBee allows you to include in your silent auction bid sheets. Buy-It-Now Prices allow attendees to simply purchase an auction item for a set price. This makes it convenient for bidders who are short on time to just buy a desired item. To make sure you make a decent profit, set your Buy-It-Now price around 100 to 200 percent of the item’s fair market value.

How Can Silent Auction Bid Sheets be Used During a Fundraiser?

Traditionally, nonprofits and charities have used printed silent auction bid sheets during their in-person fundraising auctions. In general, this required you to place each bid sheet next to the corresponding auction item and allow your participants to write in their bids. Staff and volunteers would monitor bid sheets and disqualify any bids as needed (for instance, if someone placed a bid below the minimum raise increment).

To stimulate bidding, an emcee could announce how much time was left before the auction closed, encouraging people to check back and place higher bids if someone outbid them. Once the auction ended, volunteers would manually close the bid sheets and the sheets would be reviewed to ensure their accuracy. Those with the highest bids would be assigned the winners of each auction item, receipts would be created, and the items would be delivered to the winner at check-out.

There are still plenty of audiences who appreciate this traditional way of conducting silent auctions, which is why PayBee automatically generates printable bid sheets that save you the trouble of bothering with cumbersome templates.

For nonprofits and charities interested in expanding their silent auctions to reach a larger virtual audience, however, you have the option of using digital silent auction bid sheets, which can not only make your auction easier to manage but also more profitable.

How Do Digital Silent Auction Bid Sheets Work?

PayBee offers QR Code silent auction bid sheets that make accessing bid sheets, placing bids, and staying updated much easier for your in-person audience. Rather than placing a single bid sheet next to each auction item, you can create multiple bid sheets with item-specific QR codes and place them anywhere at your event.

This means people can access silent auction bid sheets for any item by simply scanning the item-specific QR code with their smartphone. They can then enter their bids directly through their phones rather than writing them down on a specific sheet.

Since guests don’t have to crowd around a single bid sheet to place their bids, this makes it much easier for them to bid on a desired auction item. And since they can return to the bid sheet using their phones instead of running back to the auction item’s table, they’ll be able to raise their bids easier and more frequently. Not only is this more convenient for your guests, it can also be much more profitable for your nonprofit.

As with traditional silent auction bid sheets, digital bid sheets can (and should) include an enticing photo and description of each auction item to encourage bidding. These descriptions can also be seen by people who attend your silent auction virtually, who can encourage even more aggressive bidding by placing their own bids through their smartphones or laptops.

In addition to all this, digital silent auction bid sheets come with some other useful features, including:

Text/Email Bidding Updates

Traditionally, guests needed to check back with silent auction bid sheets to see if they’d been outbid. Of course, if they got distracted by your fundraiser’s other events or just couldn’t find the time to check on their auction item, they might not raise their bids and you could miss out on a higher closing bid.

Now, however, your guests can receive live text or email updates if they get outbid by another guest. This lets them know immediately when they need to increase their bid — and since it’s so easy to access silent auction bid sheets from a smartphone, it’s also easier for them to raise the price of an auction item, or just purchase it outright if you enable the Buy-It-Now option.  

Max Auto Bidding

One very popular feature on the PayBee system is our max auto bidding option. With this feature, guests can set up bids to be placed automatically if someone outbids them. This automatic increase continues until the guest’s “max bid” — or the highest amount they’re willing to spend on an auction item — is met.  

Why is this feature so popular? Well, with all the text messages and emails people receive on their phones these days, it’s easy for an auction notification to get ignored, preventing your guests from winning a desired item. With max auto bidding, guests don’t have to worry about monitoring their auction bidding while still keeping to their budgets. Meanwhile, your nonprofit or charity will be able to raise more during your auction.

Mobile Payment Processing

Once your silent auction closes, there’s still the matter of checking out your guests with the winning bids. PayBee makes this entire process fast and convenient with mobile credit card readers linked to the PayBee mobile application. This lets you check your guests out with a single credit card swipe. Guests who prefer to pay by other means can also use mobile web checkout, cash, check, and bank transfer payment methods.

Moving Forward

As silent auctions continue being a staple of successful fundraising events, the technology around them will keep improving. This makes it easier for your guests to participate in silent auctions while maximizing their earning potential for your nonprofit.

If you’d like to learn more about how the PayBee system can enhance your fundraising events, sign up for a free demo of our online platform and experience first-hand how easy our platform is to use. You’ll be able to participate in a mock live auction (complete with virtual money) where you’ll see how much fun your guests will have at these events.

If you’d like even more one-on-one support, PayBee now offers “mini-demos” where you can schedule one-on-one sessions with our experts. Not only will you be able to ask more of your technical questions, you’ll also discover how PayBee’s digital tools can support all your in-person, virtual, and hybrid fundraising events. Learn how your nonprofit can improve its future fundraisers by signing up for a free demo now!   

Online Fundraising
Nonprofit Fundraising
Michael Jung