Encourage Bidding to Drive Auction Fundraising Success


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While your silent auction event may be a great opportunity to raise money from donations and day-of-event purchases, the auction itself is really your main event. Don’t let this part of your event hold the rest of your fundraiser back! Use these seven tips to excite your guests and encourage increased bidding. More excitement and more bidding means you can raise more during your auction!

Before the day of your auction, make sure you’ve acquired items that your attendees will want to win. You won’t see much bidding if the items don’t resonate with your guests! Check out this blog post on how to acquire auction items that work.

Make regular announcements

Encourage bidding during the silent auction portion of the event by making announcements reminding guests to check bid sheets and up their bids if needed. Say something like, “If there’s a silent auction item you have to have, now’s the time to check your bid sheet. Bidding will only be open for another five minutes!” If you’re using a silent auction tool, remind your guests to check to see if they’ve been outbid!

Let newcomers to the event know that the silent auction is open and alert guests at certain intervals about how much time they have left to bid. Create a sense of urgency when you make your announcements. This gives your guests a short timeframe to make sure they’re still winning the items they care about. If they’re not, you’ve planted the seed that they should drive up the bid to make sure they get what they want.

A highly contested auction item could lead to a flurry of bids in the final moments of the silent auction. With a web or mobile-based silent auction, your guests can bid even more quickly since they won’t have to stand in line to see the bid sheets.

Create detailed auction item listings

Guests looking over your silent auction items are going to have questions about certain items. Don’t leave them hanging! Write up your auction item listings with thoughtful descriptions of each item. You want to make sure that your bidders are certain that what they’re bidding on meets their needs.

This is especially important if auctioning off technology that may have compatibility issues with your guests’ devices. Providing technical information isn’t the only reason to provide detailed descriptions. If the item has specific colors or features that bidders can’t see when looking at the box the item came in, you’ll want to let them know.

Your auction item listings should also clearly spell out the item’s retail value and the starting bid amount. This is one area where web or mobile-based auctions prove to be more useful than traditional pen and paper silent auctions. Simply put, digital item listings give you the ability to write a long, detailed description that paper bid sheets don’t have room for.

Being able to bid confidently means your bidders won’t be nervous about buying something that may not work for them. Instead, they know it’s something they want or need (and is in a color that matches their décor). That confidence will encourage them to keep bidding if their bids are contested.

Highlight key items for bidders

You’ve probably got an idea of which items are your big-ticket items. If you want to drive bids on those items so they reach their full potential, highlight those items during the event. Direct attention to items that you expect will be good moneymakers. You can do this before the event itself to help get people excited about it, and you can certainly do it during the auction!

To do this effectively, showcase the item and describe its features for your audience. Present them with the possibilities this item creates. Is it a big high-definition TV? Target your spiel to sports fans and gamers. Ask your audience to imagine watching the Super Bowl or playing games on the big screen in crystal clear high definition. Then mention that the TV could go home with them for a great price if they win it in the auction.

Conversely, if any of your items have a buy-it-now price, highlight the item and ask if anyone is willing to buy it at that price. This could be a good way to earn top dollar on auction items.

You can also use this strategy to highlight items during the event that are lagging in bids. If there’s an item you were sure would do better than it is, take time to talk up that item.

Remind bidders how their participation helps

If you notice that the silent auction’s momentum has started to dip, that’s a great time to remind your guests that their participation in your auction will help those you serve. Prepare a short, motivating speech (or go with a full-blown presentation) about what your organization does and how their participation at your event makes it possible.

If you opt for a full-blown presentation, it could be a good way to start your auction event. Lead with a presentation of your organization and its fundraising priorities. Share how the money raised at the event will help. Pump up your audience about making a difference. Then, unleash them on your auction items!

If you want to make a series of short, motivating announcements throughout the evening to encourage continued bidding for the sake of helping others, this can also be an effective strategy to keep people bidding.

Encourage (friendly) bidding competitions

Pit bidders against each other when there’s a heavily contested item! Announce who is in the lead and mention the other bidders by name or number. Let them know they’re losing, but their luck could change by upping their bid. Just make sure to keep the tone friendly and civil. This strategy can backfire if two guests come to blows over an awesome auction item!

If your auction software has an app (like ours does), make use of push notifications to encourage bidding. Push notifications are great for alerting bidders that they’ve been outbid. This encourages them to get back to the items they’re trying to win so they can instantly increase their bid.

Consider only using bid numbers

Identifying bidders by their bidder number, rather than name, can also encourage bidding. If you see your friend is bidding on the same item as you, you may feel guilty beating them, so you let them have it. The trouble is, that doesn’t help the organization raise more money! If guests don’t know their friend is bidder #7, it makes it easier to continuously go for the item they want.

Empower guests to increase bidding

Many guests at your auction will feel lost when it comes to bidding. Before bidding begins, make an announcement that you’ll be sharing tips and tricks to help inexperienced bidders get the most of their auction experience. Encourage your guests to ask questions and demonstrate how bidding works (especially for web-based or mobile auctions tools). Make good on your word to share tips and tricks that will make them more successful at winning items they bid on.

Encourage them to think about the maximum amount they’d be willing to bid on an item. If the auction tools you’re using make it possible to set a max bid right off the bat (Qgiv’s tools, for instance, allow this) encourage them to set that max bid amount on items they want to win. They’ll have peace of mind that others won’t outbid them until the item exceeds the value they’ve placed on it.

If you’ve assigned staff members to make bids for guests, let your guests know this. Empower them by encouraging them to take advantage of your staff’s ability to place bids on their behalf. They won’t have to struggle to make bids on their own. Instead, your team can help bidders develop and execute winning strategies that drive bidding on certain items.


Your auction event is unlikely to be successful if your guests aren’t bidding on your auction items. However, armed with the right items and a strategy to encourage bidding, your auction event can be a huge success.

Make your auction an effective fundraising event by making regular auctions announcements, providing all the relevant item details, and encouraging friendly competition between your bidders. Empower your attendees by giving them the knowledge they need to bid confidently. Arming your bidders with a strategy and allowing them to set max bids will see the final auction price of your items climb closer to their retail value.

Want to learn more silent auction best practices? Our best practice email series delivers. Sign up here for free emails on best practices and strategies you can use to make your auction a success. You can also download our free auction planner to help you plan your best event ever!

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