The Best Guide to Hosting a Super Silent Auction for Your Nonprofit or Charity

The Best Guide to Hosting a Super Silent Auction for Your Nonprofit or Charity

Are you planning the event season for your nonprofit or charity? Consider adding silent and super silent auctions to your event schedule. What are silent and super silent auctions, and how can they benefit your organization? 

Auctions have long been associated with charitable events. They give nonprofits and charities a way to benefit from the donation of “lots” or prizes by local businesses or private donors and the charitable donations from supporters who bid on these lots. 

If you’ve ever seen an auction on TV, you’ve probably seen a room of aristocrats bidding on fine art or collectibles. They raise a paddle in the air as the auctioneer introduces the bidding cycle. The bidding starts at a low price, and the auction attendees bid up the price by raising their paddles. 

Charitable auctions used to operate in the same manner, but the introduction of “silent” auctions changed the game. Some auction attendees don’t want to sit around for a full day to wait for the introduction of their lot; they want a seamless, easy way of bidding on what they want when they want. 

The silent auction would typically involve attendees arriving at the auction venue, looking at the lots on offer, and making their bid using a form. They complete the form with their details, what lot they’re bidding on, and the financial commitment they want to make to the auction process for that lot. 

It takes the time commitment out of the process. Attendees don't have to spend hours waiting for the auctioneer to introduce their lot so they can attend the bidding process. They can enjoy the festivities of the evening and bid on what they want without waiting around. 

This auction structure has several benefits for the event organizer as well. It allows for greater attendee engagement with other events hosted during the evening. The organizer can incorporate other fundraising or educational activities into the event that drive further prospective donor engagement. 

A silent auction is a lot of fun and an incredibly powerful fundraising tool for nonprofits and charities. However, the introduction of “super silent auctions” changed the game for fundraising organizations, and that's what we’ll discuss in this post. 

The Concept of the Super Silent Auctions for Your Nonprofit or Charity

So, what's the difference between a silent and super silent auction? A super silent auction is also known as a “best of the silent auction section.” Simply put, it’s a section of lots that carry more financial value and offer a more valued experience for the attendees. 

The super silent auction operates in the same manner as a silent auction. Attendees make bids on lots. The bidding will start at around 5% to 10% of the lot value. So, if you’re auctioning a vacation at a five-star resort worth $1,000, the bidding might start at $50 to $100, depending on the cost of the lot to the event organizer or donating organization. 

Attendees will bid up the price, competing for the lot. Typically, the bids increase in increments of 5%. So, if bidding starts at $100, the next accepted bid will be $105. The bidding continues until the super silent auction closes, and the highest bid wins the lot. 

The primary difference between the super silent auction and the silent auction is the value and prestige of the lot. For instance, a silent auction lot could be something of value between $50 to $200. However, a super silent auction lot will have a value from $500 to $1,000 or more. 

The purpose of the super silent auction is twofold. For the attendees, it gives them a separate category where they can bid on high-value lots and stand a chance of getting something of high value for a deeply discounted price. Going back to our previous example, imagine winning a $1,000 restaurant voucher or vacation stay for 75% of the price. That's a 25% discount, making it more than worthwhile for the attendee to bid.

For the organizer, it increases their fundraising efforts. For instance, it might take five to ten lots in a silent auction to raise the same funds as one lot in a super silent auction. So, attendees get a great deal, and the organizer gets more funding for their organization's mission and goals. 

Silent and super silent auctions happen in the same auction event. The super silent category is the prestige component of the auction and is highly valued by the organization. While every lot might not sell out in the silent auction, it's common for all lots in the silent auction to sell on the night. 

For instance, if you have a wine and cheese basket, it might fetch 60% of its retail value. However, the super silent auction items may fetch 75% to 85% of the retail value. If the super silent lot is exceptionally rare, such as a signed NFL helmet or another highly sought-after collectible, it may start a bidding war and end up selling for over the recommended retail price. 

Planning the Best Super Silent Auction

Selecting Auction Items

Every auction needs interesting lots that capture the attention of the attendees and intrigue them into making a bid or purchasing the lot outright. Your super silent auction lots should be head and shoulders above the other silent auction items in both their value and the experience they offer the winning bidder. 

The super silent auction items should offer a high-value experience to the bidder that sets them apart from the other lots. For instance. A signed baseball from an MLB player will create more attention and intrigue with attendees than a collection of unsigned, mint condition baseballs. 

Or a dinner party at a premium local restaurant valued at $1,000 will create more of a stir with attendees than a wine and chocolate basket. The idea is to create value with your items that initiate demand, creating a sought-after lot that drives a bidding war. 

Presentation and Display of Auction Items

The display of your auction lots on the day is a vital component of building desire and engagement in your attendees. One of the principal rules of sales is to put the item in the prospect's hands. This tactic increases the prospect's emotions and the chances that they’ll bid on the item during the auction. 

So, effective placement and structuring of the auction lots on the day is essential to a successful auction. Your super silent auction lots should stand out from the silent auction items. You’ll need to create a sense of superiority and prestige on the super silent lots to make them more appealing to the attendees. 

Strategically place the super silent auction items in a unique display area separate from the rest of the lots. Experienced auctioneers will arrange a separate table or display case away from the silent auction items that draw attention. It’s usually the last display area before exiting the venue to the drinks and food area. 

Lighting also matters. Ensure the lots are lit well and that attendees can read the descriptions on the display cards. Make the lot numbers stand out from the rest of the text on the display card. They should be bold and big, so the attendee knows what to search for on their mobile bidding app. 

Auction Promotion

If organizations want their event to be a success, they need to market it to as many prospects as possible. Social media offers a fantastic promotion tool to attract prospective attendees to the auction. Followers are already interested in your organization, and they are prime candidates for your auction attendees. 

Therefore, event organizers will get plenty of organic traction through marketing activities on social media pages. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok all offer excellent marketing platforms for your event, and they’re free to use. 

It’s a way to extend the word-of-mouth marketing efforts of your supporters and volunteers, giving you a broader reach than conventional marketing tactics like posters, flyers, and local media posts. 

Email is another excellent tool for the promotion of your auction. Email drip campaigns offer organizers a way to promote their event well ahead of time. You can start eight weeks out from the event and send a weekly email introducing the auction. 

Follow up with information on the confirmed date and time, what attendees can expect, and information regarding the purpose of the auction and what your organization intends to do with the funds raised. 

Email campaigns also provide a conduit to thanking everyone for attending after the fact, and a way to show appreciation for your donors. Send out an email after the event showing how you’re using the funds to increase donor satisfaction and improve the likelihood of them attending another auction or fundraising event in the future. 

Both social media and email marketing strategies can integrate into your event management software, which we’ll discuss next. 

Technology and Super Silent Auctions

Gone are the days when auction organizers needed to hand out paper bidding sheets or host conventional auctions using bidding panels. The advent of event software disrupted these traditional auction methods, making it easier for the attendees to place and track their bids.

The software also enabled event organizers to improve tracking of the bidding process and their donors, allowing them to establish long-term donor relationships. There are several firms offering silent auction software, with PayBee being one of the leading providers in the space.

The software allows event organizers to create a virtual experience at physical events, managed through the attendee's mobile devices. When the attendees arrive at the venue and look at the physical offerings, they can open an app on their phone provided by a QR code on their ticket or at the door. 

The app opens the auction details, welcoming them to the event and giving them a rundown of what to expect for the evening's festivities. These details can include the time bidding opens and closes and how to make bids on the items they want. 

The software tool and app provide a more engaging experience for the attendees and provide valuable data to the event organizers. For the attendees, the software allows for mobile bidding that circumvents the need for paper and paddles to process their event. They can search for lots on their phone and get further details on the items.

The auction software also incorporates “buy it now” features where the attendee can make a donation, typically above the expected final bid price, and take receipt of the item right away. This feature might seem like it detracts from the event experience, but it adds more value to the event organizers, giving them the maximum value for the lot.

Software allows for automated ticketing and RSVP for the auction event. It gives organizers a better overview of how many people to expect for the event and reduces the need for administrators to personally follow up with every prospective attendee, automating the follow-up process into a seamless process.

Auction software enables tracking of the auction process for both the event organizer and the attendee. It sends out notifications to bidders when someone outbids them, allowing them to stay in the game and increase their bid. The tool also allows event organizers to track the total auction value in real time, allowing them to see and share how close the event is to achieving its financial goal. 

Auction software also allows event organizers to broaden their attendee's horizons by integrating virtual and hybrid auction events. For instance, there might be a significant number of people who want to attend the auction but are unable to attend the physical event on the day. 

The software tool allows the attendee to participate in the auction from a remote location using their phone and the dedicated auction app. This tool allows for extended reach into the donor market, broadening the prospects for the organization to achieve its financial goal for the auction. 

Here are some of the features of top-rated super silent auction software.

  • Integration for live, virtual, and hybrid auction events
  • Mobile bidding for convenience
  • Buy it now functionality
  • Ticket sales
  • Attendee tracking
  • Real-time updates and bid tracking
  • Secure payment processing
  • CRM integration to capture donor information
  • Inventory details to make lots desirable
  • Automated invoicing for tax purposes
  • Automated thank you messages

These tools help you host better events that create more buzz around the auction leading up to the event date. They allow for optimal management of the auction during and after the event, giving you vital information on attendees and donors. 

Your high-value donors may decide to continue to support forthcoming charity events for your organization, or they might decide to offer regular donations. The integration of auction software into your CRM allows you to track this vital information and continue the donor relationship. 

Super Silent Auction Best Practices - Bids, Procurement, Engagement, & Closing

Procuring Your Super Silent Auction Items 

The goal of the auction is to capture the highest bid possible for the item. In most cases, that's going to be a lower value than the retail cost of the item, which is why it’s so crucial to have partners donate items that fetch a decent price at the auction, allowing you to reach your fundraising goals.

There’s a chance you won’t receive bids on every item, and there might be a few stragglers at the end of the event that don't receive any bids, especially the silent auction items. However, you can expect the super silent auction items to sell, but don't assume you’ll get the full value. For instance, if you’re giving away a $500 dinner, don't be surprised if it doesn't fetch more than $400 at the event.

So, with this in mind, you don't want to go out and buy a bunch of items for your auction at the full retail price. Or you’ll end up taking a loss for the event, defeating the purpose of hosting it. Instead, look for partners who can provide items, either at their cost price or for free. 

The super silent auction items offering the best value for your organization and your attendees are service-based. This means they have a low cost-value to the provider. For instance, giving away a dinner for four at a luxury hotel costs the hotel next to nothing. It’s about the perceived value they offer the bidder and what they’re willing to pay. 

Sure, it may cost the price of the food and the loss of table space, but these aren’t tangible costs compared to giving away something like a motorcycle, which has a set retail value. Service-based items are easier to procure for your event. You’ll find the hotel in our example is more than willing to trade you the dinner for four in return for some online or at-event advertising. 

Collectibles are also highly sought-after super silent auction items. Like the aforementioned service-based lots, they have a high perceived value. So, attendees are willing to pay a high price for the right to secure these lots in a bidding war. 

Engaging Your Bidders

The best way to engage bidders at your auction is through event software. The software provides a countdown timer to the closing of the bidding window. This tech also alerts bidders when someone outbids them, giving them the chance to up their bid. 

This feature increases the sense of competition between bidders, creating a fear of missing out on the win that plays on their emotions, driving them to increase their bids. When you’re setting up the tables for your auction, create cards next to each of the items on offer. Ensure the cards feature a large lot number so the attendees know which lot they have to choose to bid for their preferred prize. 

Hire an emcee for the evening to host announcements during the bidding window, updating the attendees on the progress of the bidding war and who is close to winning the lot as the window starts to close. The emcee for the event can also remind bidders how their contribution makes a difference and give an update on the total amount raised every 30 minutes to an hour to keep the excitement rolling. 

Closing the Auction

The auction software will automatically close the auction and issue a winning announcement to the attendees who bid on the lot. The system issues a payment link to the winning bidder, with the option to pay with a credit/debit card, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or PayPal. After concluding their payment, the bidder receives an automated invoice for tax purposes. 

After the auction closes, the emcee for the event can announce the winner. They’ll thank them for their contribution to the fundraising event and impress the value they receive with their prize and with the donation they make to your organization. 

Case Study: A Successful Super Silent Auctions

Let’s look at a case study to understand what it takes to host a successful super silent auction. By learning from other nonprofits, you can host a highly engaging event that drives more revenue to your nonprofit's mission and goals. 

A Milwaukee High School worked with Sherry Truhlar to host their annual fundraising auction. The school used the auction to raise funds for renovations and other educational expenses to improve the student experience at the school. 

The school hosted their auction in their hall, laying out tables with pink drop cloths to display the items. As the attendees walk into the hall entrance, they’re greeted by a winding row of tables featuring the silent auction items on display. 

The final three tables were for the super silent auction items. These tables were elevated above the height of the other silent auction items to make them stand out, attracting attention from the front of the room as the attendees walked in. The elevated positioning also creates a sense of prestige for the super silent auction items. 

The event hosts do a good job of marketing the items. Each item had a plaque next to it with the item number, a detailed description, and an estimated opening bidding price, along with a “Buy it now” price. 

This strategy gives the attendees everything they need to know about the item, assisting them with their decision on which items to bid for. The silent auction items included a Palermos Prime Time Pizza gift card, a wine and chocolate basket, and much more.

The super silent auction items were featured on large, stand-up easel-mounted boards that are five times the size of the other silent auction items. This presentation method makes them stand out and creates a sense of superiority over the other items on auction that night. 

The super silent auction items consisted of a baseball experience at Milwaukee Brewers Miller Lite Park for them and 12 of their friends, a $1,000 gift certificate for Ken Michaels Furniture and an interior design consultation, and a Fireboat cruise dinner for six. 

The event organizers used a mobile bidding system through event software to capture bids during the evening. This strategy allowed the school to reduce costs on printed materials and improve the bidder experience. Attendees could search for the prospective items they wanted to bid on and make their bid on the spot. 

All the mobile bids went through a fundraising software tool, allowing the event organizers to capture live payments from their bidders when closing the bidding. It included payment portals for credit/debit cards and instant settlement. 

The fundraising system automatically sent out receipts to the winning bidders, and information on the delivery of their items. During the event, the software provided a thermometer to display how much money was raised to date in real-time with each passing auction. 

The event was a success, exceeding the school's target fundraising goal. The lesson we can learn from this successful auction is that it pays to market your auction items effectively. The tier strategy used by the fundraisers creates a sense of prestige for the super silent auction items without discounting from the other silent auction items on display.

The use and integration of the auction software system into the event allowed organizers to create a seamless event experience for attendees while improving the experience. The software also reduced event expenses and allowed for better event management by the organizer on the backend. 

Implementing a silent / super silent auction software like PayBee to your event can impact the quality of the attendee experience and improve the efficacy and efficiency of the event for organizers. 

FAQs on Super Silent Auctions

Q: How do you determine which items qualify for a super silent auction?

A: High-quality items for super silent auctions have a much higher value than the other typical items. For instance, if you have a $1,000 3-night stay at a fancy hotel in Hawaii as one of the items, that would qualify for a super silent auction item. 

In comparison, a product hamper worth $100 would be a low-ticket item and not qualify for the super silent auction. The purpose of the super silent auction is to offer high-ticket items that fetch more from bidders or start a bidding war, resulting in a higher price fetched for the item in comparison to its retail value. 

Q: Can super silent auctions be conducted entirely online?

A: Yes. It’s possible to conduct a super silent auction completely online using fundraising event software. Your attendees don’t need to be at the venue to make their bid. This system is especially good for nonprofits who want to save costs on hiring event locations. If there is no real benefit to hosting the auction at a physical venue, an online system is the better choice. 

Q: What are the benefits of using event fundraising software for super silent auctions?

A: If you’re running a live auction, event fundraising software offers the attendees a more immersive bidding experience. They can make their bids using their cellphone or tablet, doing away with the need for paper bidding sheets. These systems update in real-time to ensure a clean, efficient bidding experience for attendees.

Event software allows you to launch online silent auctions without the attendees needing to be at the physical event venue to bid. The software can create both online (virtual) and hybrid silent auction events, helping you expand your audience and reach and attracting more bidders to your event. 

Q: How can organizers ensure the security of bids and payments?

A: Auction organizers must include secure, encrypted payment links for winning bidders. The most common payment processors used in silent auctions are credit/debit card portals. However, you have the option of setting up PayPal payments or other trusted payment processor providers. It’s important to ensure that all payment processors used in online auction events are encrypted. For live events, you can take payments via credit cards, EFT bank transfers, or PayPal payments.

Q: What is a good starting bid for a silent auction?

A: While it’s not set in stone, the typical rule of thumb is to use bid increments of 10% of the fair market price of the item, or $5, depending on which is the higher amount. If the auction lists the item with a starting bid of 30% of the market value, it’s common to reach 70% of the market value in as little as four bids. In many cases, the final bid is less than the fair market value of the item. 

Q: Can you bid more than once in a silent auction?

A: Of course! No one wants to be outbid at an auction. You can bid as many times as you like, provided it's during the bidding window and meets the minimum bid requirement or is more than the last bid. If your bid is outbid by someone else, you have the opportunity to outbid them and take home the item.

Q: What is another name for a super silent auction?

A: Some fundraising teams prefer to use the term “The best of the silent auction section” to describe a super silent auction. This verbiage gives the attendees the impression that the items in this section of the auction are the best of the lot, giving them a sense of prestige over the rest of the lots on auction. 

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