Best Practices for Using Silent Auction Bid Sheets: How Investing in a Silent Auction Bid Sheet Increases Bids Received at Your Fundraiser

Best Practices for Using Silent Auction Bid Sheets: How Investing in a Silent Auction Bid Sheet Increases Bids Received at Your Fundraiser

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 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 auction events are without peer, PayBee has already provided you with several blog articles on how to run a successful auction. In this blog post, 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 auction but also maximize your profits. We’ll also explore how PayBee is bringing these bid sheets into the digital age with our QR code bid sheets.

What is a Silent Auction Bid Sheet?

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

You’ve likely seen auction bid sheets at in-person auctions. These sheets are printed and placed next to each auction item (or a photo of the prize), 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 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 Bid Sheets?

While silent auction bid sheets can be customized to fit the needs of different auctions, all these bid sheets should allow each bidder to view resources that will give them essential information. Each form should allow your supporters to read:

  • The Auction Item Number: Each of your items should be assigned a number that matches the numbered mobile bidding sheet for each item.
  • The Item Description: Each item should have an enticing name and description that will motivate attendees to bid. You should also include an attractive photo of each product, especially if you’re holding a virtual 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.
  • The Bidder Name/Number: Bidders should be able to write in their names or an identifying number next to their bids on your form.
  • The Starting Bid: Each bid sheet should show what the starting or opening bid, allowing people to start at or above the starting silent auction bid price.
  • The 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 participation 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.
  • The Item Value: Find the fair market value for each item and showcase it on the bid sheet. Silent auction bidders appreciate this since they can feel they’re getting a good bargain, encouraging more mobile bidding on a priceless item.
  • The Buy-It-Now Option: This is an optional feature that PayBee allows you to include in your auction bid sheets. Buy-It-Now Prices allow attendees to simply purchase an 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 a Buy-It-Now Option on Auction Bid Sheets Encourages People to Bid at a Silent Auction 

One question nonprofits tend to ask themselves is if they should take advantage of PayBee’s Buy-It-Now option and include it on their bid sheets. After all, why would a donor spend more than the fair market value on an item if they’re looking to score some good deals at your auction?

While using Buy-It-Now is up to you, this pricing option can increase donations at your silent auction, even if you decide to offer a Buy-It-Now price that’s double the fair market value.

Let’s say you’re offering a few nice vacation packages at your auction. This auction item has attracted some interest, but the general mobile bidding is still pretty low.

One attendee decides he wants a vacation package but doesn’t want to go through the hassle of constantly checking his phone to raise his bid every time he might get outbid. He sees the Buy-It-Now pricing option on your bid sheet and immediately purchases the vacation package.

Later, other bidders, including those who showed interest in the vacation package earlier, see that one of the vacation packages has been snapped up. This increases the scarcity (and perceived value) of each product, so they place higher bids on the remaining packages — or just use the Buy-It-Now option themselves, granting your nonprofit some hefty donations.

To increase the chances of this strategy working, you’ll want to invest in some high-value auction items you know people will want. Make sure the Buy-It-Now price you set is still a fair price your donors would be happy paying.

Although PayBee gives you the option of offering a Buy-It-Now pricing option on every item in your silent auction, you could also just offer a Buy-It-Now option on your high-end, highly desirable products. This saves your event team the trouble of coming up with a good price for every auction item. This also communicates to your audience that the items on your bid sheets that do have a Buy-It-Now option are high-value — and therefore worth purchasing right away.

Using Silent Auction Bid Sheet Templates

If assembling a bid sheet for your silent auction seems complicated, don’t worry. PayBee offers printable silent auction bid sheet templates that you can download in a variety of different formats. These include Google Docs, PDF, and Excel formats. Using these templates takes a lot of guesswork out of building a silent auction event and reminds you of the information you need to collect on your products.

Modifying Your Silent Auction Sheet Template

After you download your silent auction bid sheet template, you can modify the form to emphasize the information you want bidders to focus on. For instance, if you decide to offer a Buy-It-Now Option, this should appear prominently on your bid sheet.

PayBee also makes it easy for you to write descriptions for each of your items and display them on both the bid sheet and your web page. While our templates take care of a lot of the basic groundwork, it’s still a good idea to spend time adding your own details to your bid sheet. This ensures each bidder will have all the information needed for your silent auction to run smoothly.

Templates can be designed to be as basic or as complex as your silent auction event requires. As always, it’s a good idea to keep the needs of your audience in mind so you don’t make your bid sheets too complicated while also collecting all the information you need from each guest.      

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

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

To stimulate mobile bidding, an emcee could announce how much time was left before the auction closed, encouraging people to check and place higher offerings if someone outbid them. Once the auction ended, volunteers would manually close the bid sheets and the forms would be reviewed the ensure their accuracy. Those with the highest bids would be assigned the winners of each 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.

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

How Does a Digital Silent Auction Bid Sheet Work?

PayBee offers QR Code 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 item, you can create multiple online bid sheets with QR codes keyed to your items and place them anywhere at your event.

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

Since donors 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 item. And since they can return to the online bid sheet using their phones instead of returning to the table, they’ll be able to raise their bids easier and more frequently. Not only is this more convenient for your supporters, it can also be much more profitable for your nonprofit.

As with traditional bid sheets, digital bid sheets can (and should) include enticing photos and descriptions to encourage bidding. These online descriptions can also be seen by people who attend your silent auction virtually, who can encourage even more aggressive mobile bidding by placing their own bids through their smart phones or laptops.

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

Using Text/Email Updates in Your Auctions

Traditionally, donors needed to keep returning to 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 items, they might not raise their bids and you could miss out on a higher closing bid.

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

Max Auto Bidding for Silent Auctions

One very popular feature on the PayBee system is our max auto bidding option. With this feature, donors can set up a virtual bid 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 donors from winning a desired item. With max auto bidding, donors don’t have to worry about monitoring their auction activity while still keeping to their budgets. Meanwhile, your nonprofit or charity will be able to raise more during your auction.

Payment Processing

Once your silent auction closes, there’s still the matter of checking out everyone. PayBee makes this entire process fast and convenient with credit card readers linked to the PayBee application. This lets you check your donors out with a single credit card swipe. Donors who prefer to pay by other means can also use 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 donors 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 people 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