Silent Auction Tips

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I recently received a phone call from a parishioner at a Maryland church. He’d been tasked by his pastor to organize a silent auction as a fundraiser. “I’ve never done this before,” he said, “How do I get auction items online silent auction ideas and what kind of stuff is popular?”

In this article, we’ll look at the second part of his question: what makes for a “good” silent auction item.

Here are some consistently hot sellers.

Wine: If your local laws allow it, sell wine. Bottles, cases, and interesting collections sell. Maybe it’s two reds from Italy, 6 whites the Chairmen of the Board loves, or 12 bottles of screw-top wine. Even wine accoutrements such as wine stoppers and openers sell well.

Food baskets: You name the food theme, and I guarantee someone will buy it. Food sells! It might be South African treats, a chocolate lovers basket, specialty cheeses, homemade jerky and dried meats, gift cards from restaurants, or even a container stuffed with Girl Scout cookies collected from all those extra boxes you and your neighbors didn’t really need to buy.

Coffee: With the rise of home brew systems, flavored coffees and brewers sell well. Conduct a Web search to find the contact information of manufacturers and send them a donation request. Some companies will send you a coffee system or a basket of coffees as a donation for your silent auction.

Electronics: If you offer a just-released gadget, it will sell above value. When the lines were forming outside Mac stores for the new iPad, our benefit auction clients were selling them for $200-$500 over the list price. Same with the KindleFire. But electronics as auction items have an ultra short shelf life. The key is timing.

Some spa services: Massages, facials, manicures and pedicures generally do well in silent auctions. (Haircuts and coloring services won’t.) If you’re living in a metropolitan area, the key is to put the salon’s location / suburb in the description. Women won’t generally travel great distances to a spa they’ve not heard of, but they’ll take a chance on a spa near their home or work.

Sports memorabilia, in moderation: Don’t go overboard, but a signed ball or jersey and other types of memorabilia will generally do well in your silent auction. For best results, match the crowd’s age to the types of memorabilia you opt to sell. NASCAR auction items won’t sell at some galas; golf won’t sell at others.

Trips: A week at the beach, or two nights at a trendy downtown hotel can bring top dollars to your silent auction. They might not sell above value like the electronics or food, but they do bring in significant money.

The good news is that you can accept a wide range of auction items for your silent auction — and should! Until you know what your crowd craves, aim for diversity.