In the nonprofit sector, plenty of fundraising methods are available when considering effective strategies for your campaign. So many, in fact, that all too often nonprofits fail to diversify their approach to raising money.
However, it is possible to focus on improving your current fundraising efforts while also finding new ways to put a fresh spin on tried-and-true fundraisers.
Silent auctions are an excellent way to gather interest and financial support for your nonprofit, no matter the size of your organization or its constituency.
Still, if you’re setting up a silent auction, and need silent auction ideas, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to maximize the event’s potential. That’s why it’s helpful to take a look at techniques for getting the most out of your silent auction and ensuring that all of your bidders have a positive experience that will lay the groundwork for future support.
This article will help you in planning a fantastic silent auction for any kind of fundraising campaign. To get started planning your next silent auction, your nonprofit should:
Offer great silent auction items.
Provide mobile bidding solutions.
Know your ideal auction attendees.
Incentivize attendees with gamification tools.
Enable supporters to participate remotely.
Excited to make your next silent auction your nonprofit’s best fundraiser yet? Rest easy! Let’s dive into these great ideas so your team will have a variety of strategies to choose from.
1. Offer great silent auction items.
Auctions are all about what’s up for bidding! Make sure the items are exciting to attendees and inspire them to make a bid.
When it comes to silent auctions, it’s important to strategize your items to earn the highest amount you can from this event.
Anything from celebrity appearances to restaurant gift certificates is a fantastic idea for silent auctions depending on your ideal bidder and your organization..
Here are a few ideas for improving the item selection in your silent auction:
Ask for donations from local businesses. Not only does asking around your local community get other businesses involved, but it’s also a brilliant way to generate buzz for your mission. Tap into your local networks to see if any business owners are interested in providing items. Let them know how the process can benefit their business as well. Items that go quickly or start bidding wars bring attention to whoever supplied them. (Not to mention the great publicity that comes along in working with a nonprofit.)
Review high-performing items from past auctions. Take a look at your past fundraising events, auctions or otherwise, to see what was popular or trending. These items usually remain consistent with your donor base over time. If possible, use any preexisting data you might have gathered from past auctions.
Create custom auction items like t-shirts. This is an especially great idea if you’re looking to further incentivize donations in the future. Custom t-shirts showcase your organization’s brand and give the donors something to remember the event by. Use a custom t-shirt service to try and design the perfect t-shirt.
The correct items can make all the difference in your event planning. Use our suggestions to make the right moves!
2. Provide mobile bidding solutions.
Processing each bid and each successful acquisition can quickly turn into a headache for most charities. Larger auctions with a decent number of items also provide unique challenges.
Even if the event is live, implementing mobile bidding or other kinds of software can clean up your fundraising process immensely.
On their website, Double the Donation’s charity auctions guide lists a handful of great ways to streamline the auction process. But if you’re looking for another way to increase the number and interest of your potential bidders, mobile bidding functions as a fantastic strategy.
Mobile bidding is usually done through specially designed software. What kind of software you use will affect both the donors’ and your fundraising experience.
How to approach the topic of mobile bidding can easily become intimidating. So we’ve gathered some helpful info to optimize your mobile bidding solution:
What is a mobile bidding solution? Whenever auctions of any kind are organized through a digital application, this setup is typically called a mobile bidding solution. While different kinds of mobile bidding software offer different approaches, they all essentially provide your charity with a way to digitally organize the auction process.
How does it work? A lot of fundraisers believe for some reason that mobile bidding is impossible to implement into their current strategy. Most of these beliefs are misconceptions. Mobile bidding uses straightforward software to make the silent auction a smoother experience for everyone involved.
Why do donors like mobile bidding? Mobile bidding adds a level of interactivity to the silent auction. Not to mention there is the added convenience of having access to a catalog of items and bidding information on your mobile device.
Mobile bidding doesn’t need to be a complicated topic. With the right software, your team can easily plan and carry out a tech-powered silent auction experience.
3. Know your ideal auction attendees.
Not all charities are going to have similar kinds of donors. The demographic for your target donor will vary widely depending on the nature of your organization.
The amount and kind of volunteer involvement can affect what sort of donor might involve themselves in your fundraising. That’s why volunteer management is essential if you want to get the kind of donor you believe is best for your silent auction.
Although silent auctions can attract a variety of different donors and interested parties, it is best practice to understand who your organization would ideally want to attend the auction and how your charity would gain their support.
You have a number of tools at your disposal in terms of implementing research and best practices for your target donors and attendees. Here are just a few wonderful ways to get started:
Conduct prospect research to determine who to invite. Use available data or other kinds of prospect research databases to look for potential donors that fit your target demographic.
Screen attendees for matching gift opportunities. Many companies will match any donations their employees make to nonprofit organizations. 360 MatchPro's list of matching gift companies provides a sizable number of corporations who are willing to match to any of their employees’ donations, so do some research to identify employees of these companies when you’re considering who to invite.
Use auction data to help plan future asks. Collect results from previous auctions, as well as the results from your current auction, in order to improve your asks in the future. Attendees that typically place high bids are more likely to respond positively to asks.
Always keep your attendees and donors in mind. If you do it correctly, half the hard work in planning your fundraising is already done.
4. Incentivize attendees with gamification tools.
It can be easy to overlook the smaller details when setting up a fundraising event. There are a few common mistakes that can keep popping up if you don’t take the proper precautions. And depending on your donor, these mishaps can cost your organization’s efforts a great deal.
No matter what kind of donor will be attending your silent auction, though, chances are they will respond well to what are called “gamification” tools.
Gamification sets your silent auction apart from being just another fundraising event. Plus it gives your attendees a way to feel involved with and excited about your charity and its goals.
Use these key ideas on gamification to improve your silent auction results and craft a refreshing approach to the auction setup:
Use a fundraising thermometer to track auction progress. A fundraising thermometer acts as a visual indicator for the progress your auction has made so far. It can be an amazing way to make attendees feel important and included in your fundraising process.
Offer digital badges to outstanding bidders. An excellent element of gamification is offering awards for donor participation. If an attendee has shown a large amount of interest in the auction by bidding frequently and successfully, then recognizing their efforts will ensure their continued participation.
Share a leaderboard of your highest-bidding attendees. Keep track of your highest bidders to showcase them at the auction. Use a communal leaderboard to foster a sense of friendly competition. Attendees will appreciate this element, as it can only add to the fun of the event.
Gamification tools are excellent methods for taking fundraising efforts to the next level. Use them in your silent auction to achieve maximum results.
5. Enable supporters to participate remotely
Not everyone who’s interested in your fundraising activities will be able to attend the event in person. Let’s face it: donors can be busy people.
Offering a remote bidding solution to your silent auction can increase donor interest and participation by a significant amount.
Take a look at some strategies to improve remote participation from donors:
Host online auctions to broaden the reach of your event. Online auctions are an excellent addition to any live fundraising auctions you might be holding. Most successful fundraising efforts can allow for online bidding in some capacity.
Offer real-time online auctions to go along with in-person events. Having an online auction at the same time you hold a live one is a fantastic move. It creates the excitement of a live event with the convenience of an online one.
Hold online-only auctions to connect with donors. If you’re looking to create a convenient alternative to a live auction, exclusive online-only auctions are a great way to do so. Remember to use the right mobile bidding software and, if you can, add gamification tools to enhance the experience.
Fundly’s silent auctions article, which can be found on their blog dedicated to providing information for nonprofits, has some excellent references for improving your silent auction process, particularly regarding mobile bidding and remote participation.
Plenty of charities throw silent auctions as a part of their fundraising efforts. But with these tips, you’ll be sure to set yourself apart from the pack!
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or LinkedIn.