9 Simple Steps to Run a Successful Silent Auction Online | LuxGive

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Get to Know the Basics

What is an Online Silent Auction? 

Just like a traditional silent auction, an online silent auction is a fundraising strategy that lets donors bid on a collection of curated items over a set period. Bids are recorded anonymously on bid sheets and donors can bid on multiple items at once. 

The key difference? Online silent auctions take place entirely online using a designated auction website, platform, or mobile app. 

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

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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 up bidding to donors across the world. Not only does this increase your fundraising potential exponentially, but it also broadens the reach of your organization further than ever before. 

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: 

  • Givebutter - The only free all-in-one online fundraising platform that has powered over $500 million for nonprofits
  • Givergy - An award-winning mobile fundraising solution proven to raise 50% more for nonprofits
  • ClickBid  - An all-in-one fundraising event platform that has raised over $300 million for nonprofits
  • Maestrosoft - A total online auction management software, from virtual events and text bidding to personalized auction websites
  • GivSum - An all-in-one fundraising platform featuring fully customizable online charity auctions
best online silent auction site

2. Procure Online Silent Auction Items

Donations

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

Benefits:

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

Consignment

Many nonprofits are just beginning to learn the powerful fundraising potential of auction consignment. This tool allows your organization to procure exclusive, high-value items that donors can't provide. Think limitless luxury travel experiences, exclusive events, or celebrity meet and greets.

Benefits:

  • Drives higher funds at auction
  • Desirable, one-of-a-kind items
  • Generates buzz for your event 
  • Ability to sell multiples
  • Easy to procure (no donation request letter required)
  • Risk-free to place (only pay for what sells)
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Best Silent Auction Item Ideas

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

For more ideas, check out our list of the top 10 silent auction ideas or browse our 35 best raffle ideas for auction.

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 such as vacation 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 auction item checklist to make sure your items are well-represented.

Item Descriptions

  • Clear and concise blurb
  • Grammatically correct
  • 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 lot details (e.g. travel blackout dates)
  • Conditions and regulations 
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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 such as LuxGive that offer professional fundraising marketing materials for all their packages. 

luxgive marketing materials for auction

6. Open Registration

Take advantage of the 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. 

Using your online silent auction site or platform, donors can set up their bidder profiles and pre-register their credit cards. Some auction software even allows you to pre-assign bid numbers to your donors or open pre-bidding on select items! 

7. Host Your Silent Auction Online

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

During the Auction

There are plenty of ways to help drive more engagement and keep donors bidding until the 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

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

online silent auction software outbid notification

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 are 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 received, the best practice is to ship the item out as soon as possible. 

For experience-based items such as auction travel packages or chef service, be sure to connect vendors with lot winners so they can redeem their prize and arrange any further details. 

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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! Make 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

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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