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Get to Know the Basics

What is an Online Silent Auction? 

Much like a traditional silent auction, online silent auctions allow donors to bid on a collection of curated items over a set period of time. Bids are recorded anonymously and donors can bid on multiple items at once. 

The key difference? Online silent auctions take place virtually using designated auction software such as a website platform or mobile app. 

Participants browse lot photos, read descriptions, and place bids entirely online. At the end of the event, the highest bidder on each item takes home the prize. 

Why Host a Silent Auction Online?

💸 Save Money

Affordability is key when planning a fundraising event. With no need for a physical venue, auctioneer, or on-site staff, hosting a silent auction online saves your nonprofit significant costs. 

🚀 Drive More Funds

With no venue limitations, online silent auctions can stay open for longer than their traditional counterparts. That means you have more time to drive up bids on hot items or draw attention to prizes that aren't performing as well.

🌎 Expand Your Reach

By hosting your silent auction online, you open bidding up to donors across the world. Not only does this increase your fundraising potential, but it also broadens the global reach of your organization. 

📈 Track Your Data

Auction software data is crucial to understanding your audience. With bidder profiles and data, you can pinpoint your demographics, hone your outreach campaigns, improve future fundraisers, and even connect with new donors. 

1. Choose Your Online Silent Auction Site

Your online silent auction platform is key to pulling off the entire fundraising event, so choosing the right one is a crucial first step.  

Remember, the platform you use will determine what your auction is capable of and should correspond with your event's unique needs.

Consider Your Event Needs 

Use our checklist to determine what’s important to your charity fundraiser, then choose a platform that provides those features:

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Best Online Silent Auction Sites

To get your search started, here are some popular online silent auction software options: 

  • GivSum - An all-in-one fundraising platform featuring fully customizable online charity auctions
  • Maestrosoft - A total online auction management software, from virtual events and text bidding to personalized auction websites
  • Goodbids - A groundbreaking online bidding platform where every bid is a donation to your cause
  • Givebutter - A free all-in-one online fundraising platform that has powered over $500 million for nonprofits

2. Procure Online Silent Auction Items


When it comes to item procurement, most nonprofits turn to donations first. Consider which of your contacts might have auction-worthy items to donate, such as board members, longstanding donors, local businesses, or even volunteers.


  • Free to place at auction
  • 100% of proceeds go to your cause


More and more nonprofits are tapping into the power of auction consignment. This tool allows you to place exclusive, high-value items at no risk. Think luxury travel experiences, exclusive events, or celebrity meet and greets.


  • Generates buzz and attracts a wider audience
  • Drives higher bids at auction
  • Sells unlimited multiples
  • Easy to procure (no donation request letter required)
  • Risk-free to place (you only pay for what sells)

Best Silent Auction Item Ideas

luxgive auction packages
vineyard tour and wine tasting package
luxury travel packages for auction African safari

Drive more funds on the big day with a selection of unique and exclusive items that will get donors excited to bid: 

3. Determine Your Pricing

Starting Bid Amount

As a rule of thumb, experts recommend setting your starting bid at 30-40% of an item’s fair market value. Increase this amount to 50% for high-ticket items like auction travel packages

Bid Increments

Most online silent auctions require a 10%-15% increase per bid to ensure bidding stays competitive and proceeds don’t stagnate.

4. Present Your Prizes

Because bidders can’t see your items first-hand, a good presentation is crucial to promote trust and encourage bidding. Use the following checklist to make sure your items are well-represented.

✅  Item Descriptions

  • Clear and concise blurb
  • Proper grammar/spelling
  • No questions remain after reading

✅  High-Quality Photos

  • Clear with no pixelation
  • Good lighting
  • Avoid busy backgrounds
  • Multiple photos

✅  Important Information

  • Opening bid amount
  • Bidding increment amount
  • Additional details (e.g. travel blackout dates)
  • Terms and conditions
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5. Promote Your Auction

With your items lined up, it's time to start advertising your event! Social media and email are powerful tools to spread the word about your charity fundraiser. Be sure to include teasers of high-ticket items up for grabs. 

Attractive visuals go a long way in promoting your prizes and amplifying bids. Look for consignment companies that offer professional fundraising marketing materials for all their items. 

luxgive fundraising marketing materials passport to paradise

6. Open Registration

Take advantage of excitement around your charity auction to open registration early. This allows you to streamline the onboarding process before you launch (and catch any issues before event day!)

With early onboarding, donors can set up their bidder profiles and pre-register their credit cards. Some auction softwares even allows you to pre-assign bid numbers to your donors or open pre-bidding on select prizes! 

7. Host Your Silent Auction Online

Congratulations, the big day is finally here! It's time to officially open bidding on your online silent auction. 

Drive More Engagement

Want to drive more engagement? Use these strategies to keep donors bidding until your auction closes: 

  • Automated Notifications: alert users when they've been outbid, sparking better bidding wars
  • Gamify Options: utilize leaderboards, countdown timers, and thermometers to drive friendly competition
  • Item Spotlights: showcase hot deal items on the platform or highlight items that need a boost
  • Buy-Now Offers: sell multiples by offering a click-to-buy option on popular consignment items
  • Social Media: live stream parts of the event online or keep up the momentum with announcements, shoutouts, and frequent updates
online silent auction software outbid notification

Remember: these functions will depend on your choice of auction software. Use the checklist in step 1 to determine your event needs.

Checking Out

No need to collect and sort through hundreds of bid sheets. Checking out is simple and quick for admins and donors alike. Winners are provided with payment links and those who pre-registered their credit cards will be charged automatically. 

8. Deliver Your Prizes

Unlike traditional auctions, online silent auctions can last for days, or even weeks! Once a lot is closed and payment is received, the best practice is to ship the item out as soon as possible. 

Experience winners will typically redeem their prizes directly with the vendor. Be sure to provide consignment companies with your winner's contact info as soon as possible so they can take over fulfillment. 

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9. Thank Donors

It might be the last step in your online silent auction, but it's one of the most important! Be sure to thank your donors for their participation and generosity. Your show of gratitude will go far in building donor relations and trust. 

Best Thank You Practices

  • Personalize your thank you messages 
  • Tell donors how the funds will support your mission
  • Automate thank you notes via your auction platform
  • Send a hand-written note to top supporters

Take Action

Planning a fundraiser for your nonprofit? LuxGive offers a wealth of resources to help you plan and execute a successful benefit event.

At LuxGive, we believe in the transformative power of travel. Our mission is to help nonprofits raise more funds at auction through once-in-a-lifetime home and villa experiences.

Our travel experiences feature Premium Guest Services for trip planning and access to an exceptional portfolio of over 1,500 stunning private properties across the world. 

Whether it’s a luxury Caribbean villa, an enchanting Tuscan apartment, or an alpine lodge steps from the powder, we have something for all your clients' needs.

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