Should you host a Silent or Live Auction?

You’ve decided to host a benefit auction at your next big non-profit fundraising event — that’s great! You’ve taken an important step toward successful fundraising. Now you are faced with a few important decisions while planning the event, which can be overwhelming.
One of the first things you’ll have to decide is whether to have a live or silent benefit auction. How do you know which is better for your organisation’s big night? Well, before we get ahead of ourselves, first let’s talk about the difference between the two.
Live auctions require an auctioneer who will engage attendees and encourage guests to call out bids. When it comes to silent auctions, attendees will put in their bid electronically and will find out if they won by the time the silent auction closes.
In most cases, a live auction is going to yield a high return on your items – simply because you have a persuasive individual encouraging more bids from your attendees. This is the main reason to incorporate a both a live and a silent auction into your fundraising event as this will result in the highest possible funds raised.
During a live auction, attendees are going head-to-head in a bidding war. They often get so caught up in the excitement that they call out higher bids without a second thought. When rationality goes out the window, who knows how much money you could raise? In fact, 50% of all sales come from live auctions!
Silent auctions are the way to go if you have a lot of items to auction off, but you can always incorporate a live component to sell some of more expensive or unique items. A good auctioneer will almost always generate high bids, which means more money raised per item – and more money raised altogether.
If you decide to host a silent auction, maybe because you’re using the auction as a complement to your main event, there are some ways that you can work to make it very effective. If you’re hosting a silent auction with a live auction, leave the big-ticket items for the live auction and place the items of less value on the bidding tables. Make sure to set up the tables so that attendees can easily go back and forth throughout the night, and remind the audience to check on their bids periodically. If you allow time for breaks during a dance or a golf tournament, guests can also use that time to head over to the bidding table.
Before you plan your next event, think about the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. If you’re trying to raise as much money as possible, which is the goal of most non-profits hosting a fundraising event, consider doing a combination of both a live and silent auction to get the results you want.