We often see silent auctions at charity fundraising event to raise money. Silent auctions are not only visible at charity events but also witnessed as a part of regular events. People wants to include silent auctions in their events because it is a kind of fun event and revenue generating attraction. Checkout some important information from our post and also get professionally designed silent auction templates.

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Conducting a silent auction can seem cool and fun but also it is a little bit tricky and challenging to enjoy the fruitful results. That means, planning, promoting, organizing, and executing a successful silent auction is a daunting task for many. This tells us that planning and coordinating are the key tips to have successful silent auction.

So What Exactly Are Silent Auctions?

Silent auction is an English auction generally organized without an auctioneer. Instead people use papers or work sheets to place their bids. Bidding is done on any item that is available for auction. These bidding items include anything from jewellery to art works to personal services like spas etc.

What happens during silent auction? During silent auctions, the bidding items are placed on the tables if they are small enough or else a detailed description of the item is displayed with an image or photograph. People come and bid privately through clip boards or on paper sheets that are set near the tables.

A silent auction differs from the regular traditional method where an auctioneer is present and run the bidding process on one particular item and closes the bids once the bidders stop bidding.

As I told you earlier, silent auctions are generally conducted for raising the money by keeping the items offered by the companies for bid. The winning money goes to the non-profit group or organizations. On the other hand, silent auctions are a great way to encourage non-profit and growing organizations in order to gain awareness among the clients.

Silent auction basics                          

Here is a list of some basic information that help you get started with silent auctions.

  • Item Display- Make sure the items displayed for auction stand out and appear more appealing and attractive. Displaying items appropriately will help to accentuate the auction.
  • Bid Sheets- Bid sheets are something important where an actual auction happens. They need to contain information like name of the item, a short and simple description, its value, a minimum bid amount, and enough space for people to write down their names and bids. 
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  • Desirable Items- Displaying valuable and attractive or desirable items attracts the bidder to bid for the highest amount. This will help you to gain maximum possible revenue from the auction.
  • Volunteers- Silent auctions are a kind of labour intensive. Well trained volunteers are highly required to these kind of auctions. They manage to help with inventory management, auction set-up, soliciting of items, etc. In this way, volunteers help to run the silent auction smoothly.
  • Auction Monitors- Make sure to arrange experienced and trained volunteers or auction monitors to keep an eye on the auction items and bid sheets whether the bidders are following the auction rules and regulations.

Here are few tips to run silent auction smoothly and professionally: It is like a small guide to have a successful auction.

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Preparing for the Event

  • Make a master list of the value of all the items
  • Ask for donations and recruit volunteers
  • Make sure to display attractive and desirable items and give numbers to each item
  • Print bidding sheets and secure the bid sheets
  • Start setting up early
  • Lay out all the items and the bid sheets so people can see them

During the Event

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  • Have volunteers monitor the tables
  • Give people plenty of warning as closing time approaches
  • Collect the bid sheets and pens once bidding is over
  • Check to make sure the winning bids have followed the minimum bid and minimum increase rules
  • Cordon off the bank area and ask everyone to wait
  • Call people to the bank when the bankers are ready
  • Have a volunteer collect the items as people pay

After the Event

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  • Deal with the leftover items
  • Prepare for derelict bidders
  • Count the money and checks before going to the bank
  • Give thanks and recognition to those who donated and bought

Silent Auction Rules – Legal Clauses

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This is an important part of bidder registration document. Everyone who wants to participate in any kind of silent auction has to follow these rules mentioned in the registration document. Have a look! Any person bidding in your silent auction organization means that the person agrees to these auction rules.

  • All the sales are final and there is no exchange or refund for the sold item
  • Restaurant certificates do not include alcohol, tax, or gratuities unless specified
  • The value of auction item is the fair market value. The amount paid above this fair market value is considered as tax deductible amount. So please consult a tax adviser to get a clarity on deductible amount.
  • Payment for purchased items must be made in full on the night of the auction to the cashier.
  • After payments are done, the items are need to be collected in check out area. Paid receipt must be shown to pick the purchased item at the checkout area.
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  • The purchaser must collect all the purchased items on the same night with prior arrangements. Any purchased item left unclaimed without prior arrangement will be sold and the proceeds will be submitted to the organization.
  • The Organization who conducts the silent auction reserves the right to add or withdraw the auction items, without notice, to or from the auction.
  • All silent auction gift certificates must be used within one year of the date of the auction.
  • Each bidder assumes all risks and hazards that are related to the auction and items obtained at the auction.

Bidder Registration

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  • One who wants to participate in the auction must register and receive a bidder number to use it during silent auction
  • Use the registration form containing legal clauses and obtain a signature
  • Bidders are asked to enter this bidder number on the bid sheet to bid and make their bid valid.

Types of Items to Auction

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We have been stressing the words ‘Desirable Auction Items’ since we start the article. Now let us discuss what are those items we talking about. Items such as museum tickets, all-inclusive trips, music lessons, spa days, and golf outings may be of more exciting for the bidders. Sometimes, the most successful items are referred as ‘experiences’. There are more experiential items that are included in the auction. For example:

  • Wine and dinner pairing
  • Boat cruises
  • Dog-training sessions
  • Backstage passes to a concert or show
  • Yoga classes
  • Sailing lessons
  • Hot-air balloon rides

Silent Auction Do’s and Don’ts

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Getting the items to the silent auction is also an interesting part. Sometimes, the auction items are offered right from your company employees or organization to local businesses to auction consignment suppliers. The only intention is to raise money. To have a successful silent auction, the organiser must follow listed do’s and don’ts of silent auction.


  • Group together low-priced items into a themed basket or bundle
  • Offer auction consignment items like autographed music & sports memorabilia, hot air balloon rides, and vacation rentals
  • Use a “Grub Grab” rack for restaurant gift cards and a “Wine Pull” for donated wine
  • Use bid sheets with a starting bid of 40% of FMV (Fair Market Value)
  • Mandate bid increments of 10% of FMV
  • Remind people that bids that don’t follow the rules are invalid
  • Use high-quality forms that are easy to read
  • Include the item name and item number on the bid form
  • Mention the opening and closing bid increments


  • Don’t fail to heavily publicize and promote your event
  • Don’t fail to use a sound system to promote your auction items
  • Don’t have more items than you have active bidders
  • Don’t hide your best items amidst a jumble of lower-priced items
  • Don’t fail to put your bid sheets on a clipboard to make it easy to write on
  • Don’t forget to place a copy of the final bid sheet in front of the item after it’s closed
  • Don’t use photocopied forms and do not hand write
  • Use only computer and printer
  • Don’t allow bidders use their names on the bid forms, instead they can use their bidder ID number


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Are silent auctions illegal?

Generally, non-profit organizations often conduct silent auctions to raise money. Some states ask these non-profit organizations to get registered in order to participate in any silent auction. If the auction goes according to the state laws and procedures, then the silent auctions organized are considered legal.

What is a silent auction basket?

Silent auctions are a great way to raise money for non-profit organizations for good reason. To accomplish this in a simple and cool way, the themed silent auction baskets work best. Silent auction baskets are used to keep the contents within the reach of getting donated and also provides an easy way to pack excess or smaller items.

Do you need a license for silent auction?

Actually silent auctions do not require a lottery license. However, an organization conducts consistent activities for the charitable purpose for a minimum of one year.

How do online silent auctions work?

All the auction items are displayed along with the photographs on an online auction site. Bidders need to register, enter, credit card information (required as a proof of guaranteed payment in case winning bidders), then place the bids with in a set period of time (mostly 2-3 weeks).

Can I deduct silent auction items?

Of course yes! The bidder has an opportunity to deduct the amount as a charitable contribution. Donors who purchase the auction item are allowed to claim a charitable contribution deduction for the purpose of excess money paid for an item beyond fair market value.

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