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Strategies from Nonprofit Leaders for a Successful Silent Auction

How Does a Silent Auction Work?

Hosting a silent auction is a simple way to engage virtual event attendees and increase the proceeds from your event at the same time. During a silent auction, organizations take bids on auction items and sell the item to the highest bidder. While adding a silent auction isn’t difficult, there’s an art to making an auction as successful as possible. Today, we’re sharing top tips & silent auction ideas from Network for Good customers who have hosted highly-effective online auctions as part of their fundraising strategy.  

1. Be Willing to Try Something New 

Even if you’ve never run a virtual event, you can be successful with an online auction. With an understanding of your supporters, a little creativity, and good technology to support you, you’ll find that it’s not as intimidating as you might expect.

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in southeastern Minnesota, whose mission is to empower people to become lifelong stewards of the environment, hosts an annual Banquet on the Bluff to raise money for scholarships, programs, and special projects. The event includes a silent auction, which was entirely online for the first time in 2021. Eagle Bluff raised over $50,000 with the help of our event software.

Joe Goetzke, Development and Marketing Director at Eagle Bluff, says that the auction raised more than his team anticipated, and they plan to include a virtual auction as part of each event now, even when they go back to in-person after the pandemic. “Even if you’re not used to doing a virtual event, don’t let that scare you away from embracing something like this,” Goetzke says. “Don’t be afraid of trying something new and going virtual.”

2. Start Planning Early 

While you can certainly pull together a virtual auction quickly, it’s ideal to start planning at least a couple of months in advance so you have an opportunity to ask sponsors for high-interest auction item donations. Additionally, advance planning will allow you to arrange media coverage for your event.

Each year, HealthWorks for Northern Virginia hosts a fundraising event to coincide with National Health Center Week. In 2021, the team’s event showcased the work the organization has done to provide extra programming and services related to the pandemic, with an online auction to increase their fundraising results. Because the auction depended on item donations from local businesses, advance planning was crucial. 

Lisa Knapp, Director of Development & Communications, advises, “If you’re relying on sponsorships, especially if your sponsors are donating items, you need to provide a couple of months of lead time. We’ve found that starting planning early is important.”

3. Focus on Unique, High-Interest Items

Knowing your audience is key to stimulating bidding action. Identify what types of items your attendees will find attractive, and ensure you have a range of items available for every budget. 

The Texas Botanical Gardens & Native American Interpretive Center’s annual Prairie Experience event includes a silent auction supported by sponsors. The team focuses on gathering items that they know will resonate with their audience. Savannah Early, Garden Manager, shares, “For the auction items, we make sure we have really nice, unique items. It’s important to create excitement and get people bidding.”

4. Make Sure Your Technology is Easy to Use

The entire process of hosting and running an online auction can be streamlined using good technology, such as Network for Good’s events and auctions platform. Technology allows you to focus on your sponsors and attendees, with confidence that the bidding and payment process will be seamless. 

Joe Goetzke was able to run Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center’s online auction entirely by himself using the Network for Good platform. “With the direct integration to the donor management system and the customer support that Network for Good provided, it was easy to put on our event,” Goetzke says. “We’re a relatively small nonprofit with a lean development team, so something that was easy to use was super important for me. In a lot of ways, I feel like it was made just for us.”

Raise More by Adding a Silent Auction to Your Virtual Event

A virtual auction is an excellent way to boost engagement and revenue from your fundraising event. And with good software to support you, running an online auction is simple! Contact us today for a demo of our events software to ensure your next event – virtual or in-person – goes off without a hitch.

Published: February 8, 2022

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