Silent Auction Secret Sauce: Mix and Match Off-Site & In-Person Activities to Raise More Money


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Have you ever tried to make plans with a group of friends? Balancing everyone’s schedule is exhausting, and it’s near impossible to choose a date and time that works for everyone. That problem compounds with every new individual you add to a group.

It’s true with nonprofit events, too!

If you tried to choose a date and time for your silent auction that ensured every one of your donors could attend, you’d probably have to choose a date sometime in the 2040s. Unless you’re a fan of scheduling events way (way way way) in advance, you might want to explore another option: incorporating silent auction elements that let people participate at your event or online.

Psst: looking to learn about running silent auctions? You might like our ultimate guide — check it out!

Here’s what that looks like!

Off-Site and In-Person Silent Auctions

If you’ve ever attended a silent auction, you’re familiar with rows of auction items displayed tastefully on long tables. On one hand, it’s a great way to get items in front of donors—event attendees can see all available items at a glance. On the other hand, this kind of display is only good for bidders who are physically at your event.

What if you could do both?

You can! First, you’ll want to add your auction items to the auction you’ve built on your silent auction platform (you can learn more about digital auctions here). Then, you can set up processes for both in-person and online bidders.

For in-person bidders

Go ahead and set up your auction item tables as usual. Replace those awkward paper bid sheets with a page containing an item description and a QR code that will take them directly to the item in the event you’ve created. From there, they can make a bid online or through the Givi app, add the item to their favorites, or learn more about it. Alternatively, they can look over all your auction items while they’re at their table, in the drink line, or talking with friends.

The upside of giving your in-person attendees different ways to bid is that it frees them up to mingle and have fun at your event. If you’ve ever hovered over a bid sheet until the end of an event, you know how important this is! Instead of lurking around the item table, bidders who use the Givi app can opt into notifications when someone’s outbid them. They can update their bid with a swipe of the thumb; they don’t even have to put down their drink.

For off-site bidders

If someone can’t attend your auction event but wants to bid on items, having a list of items available online is a godsend. They can register and check into your auction just like attendees. Instead of walking up and down the lines of auction items, they can scroll through the items you’ve already built. Placing and updating bids is just as easy for remote bidders as it is for in-person bidders, and app bidders receive the same in-app notifications as their friends at the event.

This is an exceptional option for out-of-state donors, donors who come down with a cold or injury, donors on vacation… anyone who has their eye on an auction item but can’t attend the event.

Ready to plan your auction? Download the Qgiv Auction Planner to make auction  planning a breeze!

Off-Site and In-Person Fund-a-Need Items

Not everyone who attends your auction will take an item home with them. That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to your cause!

Offering some fund-a-need items alongside your auction items gives event attendees a way to get involved even if they never place a bid. Great options for fund-a-need items include things like:

  • Scholarships (example: $100 sends a kid to our summer day-camp!)
  • Much-needed items (example: $75 provides a backpack full of supplies!)
  • Meals (example: $45 buys a family a Thanksgiving dinner!)
  • Legacy items (example: $50 plants an oak tree)
  • Bricks (example: $30 buys a brick for our new facility)

The possibilities are endless! Come up with a couple fund-a-need items and add them to your auction event.

For in-person event attendees

Make periodic announcements throughout the night reminding them about your fund-a-need items. Since you have a captive audience, this is a great time to remind them of the value they’re adding to peoples’ lives by buying those items!

You can direct them to the fund-a-need items on your event website, or you can offer to take payment in person (Qgiv hint: this is a great time to break out the Virtual Terminal).

For off-site event attendees

Since your fund-a-need items are already built in your auction platform, off-site participants can buy them just as easily as your on-site audience. Reminding remote participants about the fund-a-need items is a little trickier here; they’re not listening to your emcee or auctioneer!

Try setting up one or two text reminders or emails targeted at remote event participants. Those text reminders are useful for all your event attendees, especially since they’re already on their phones. But they’re especially effective for off-site participants!

Bonus Round: Live Streaming Activities

Technology is wild! Live streaming lets you broadcast your event in real time all over the world. Setting up and running a live stream takes a little planning, but there are tons of ways you can use streaming to make your event accessible to people off-site.

Try using live streams for interactive event elements like:

  • Raffles and drawings (offline event attendees can participate! If they buy raffle tickets, on-site staff can write their names on the tickets)
  • Live auctions (if off-site bidders are interested in items, connect them with a staff member who can stay on the phone with them and be their proxy bidder)
  • Keynote speakers (this is a powerful way to share your story with people, even if they’re not participating as a bidder)
  • Live entertainment (live music from the comfort of their homes!)

You could also consider doing a live-streamed tour of your event, setting up a camera on stage for high-quality viewing of entertainment and speakers, or posting periodic video updates. The possibilities are endless!


New advancements in auctions platforms are making it easier than ever for off-site supporters to participate in silent auctions. These days, when placing a bid or buying a fund-a-need item is as simple as a swipe of the finger or the click of a mouse, nonprofits can explore new ways to broaden their audiences and raise more money at their events. We can’t wait to see how these strategies continue to evolve and expand!

Are you ready to create a better auction experience for your donors? Request a demo of our online auctions software, which includes both mobile-based and web-based bidding options!

Increase online fundraising with Qgiv! Request a Demo

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