Community & Current Events

How to host a silent auction

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

How to host a silent auction

That charitable cause is very near and dear to your heart. But asking friends to donate for the fourth time in a row, well, is making you feel awkward.

How do you rally your friends to raise funds with you one more time? It's simple: host a silent auction in your home! Hosting this type of party inclusive of entertainment, food and drinks will tempt everyone to have a good time -- including the hostess.

Silent auctions are a wonderful alternative to fundraising. Many large-scale charity events use them and as a result most people are familiar with them. On most occasions, guests will come to your home knowing how a silent auction works and what to expect.

Canadian Living's very own Editor-in-Chief, Susan Antonacci, has hosted many private silent auctions in her own home. "Silent auctions are feasible to do and they don't have to be extravagant," she says.

What is a silent auction?
Silent auctions are used at charity events to make money in a fun, marginally competitive way. Items, such as gift certificates, electronics or beauty packages are displayed on a table. Guests walk around and write their bids on a sheet of paper resting beside the item they want. The highest bidder will win the item and pay their bidding price, which in turn will be donated to the charity of the hostess's choice.

Though they may seem daunting to organize, silent auctions can be simple to put together and are one of Susan's fundraising favourites: "They can be a lot of fun and are a great way to make money," she says. Follow these three steps and you will be on your way to hosting a fun-filled silent auction.

1. Remember that it can still be a party
A lot of charity events can be stiff and heavy. When you invite guests to support your cause, it's important to make the event fun and worthwhile for their enjoyment. Susan strongly recommends having food and drink available, and, of course, some music.

Another way to have an original party is to pick a theme. "We once hosted a silent auction with a tikki party," she says.

If you are on a budget, she adds it never hurts to ask some of your friends to bring a dish or bottle of wine. Being low-key is perfectly fine: a simple backyard barbeque on a summer's evening would be simple, fun and easy to prepare.

Tip: You can also ask that each of your guests bring a friend that you do not know. By doing so you have broadened the pool of people you fundraise from, ensuring you're not repeatedly ask the same group of people to participate in charitable events.


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2. The goods.
Items need to be desirable and useful in order to get people to bid on them. Susan suggests the following items for raising top dollars at your event:

• Electronics (iPod, DVD player, etc)
Tools (power drill, gardening tools, etc.)
Home décor (vase, end tables, area rug, etc.)
• Beauty baskets (cosmetics, bath, aromatherapy, etc.)
• Gift certificates (restaurants, home décor stores, hot air balloon rides, etc.)

In order to get businesses or companies to donate items, a little footwork is needed. "Send the business letter and tell them exactly what it is you are looking for and why you are looking for it," Susan says. Keep the letter personal, short, and don't forget to include a deadline. It's also courteous to send thank-you notes to those who donated, so keep track of who donated what.

You can also personally visit smaller businesses and ask to speak with the manager or owner so you can ask for a donation in person. Get started on this early to ensure you have enough items to display at your auction.

Remember you need to display the items that are up for bidding in a way that makes them more attractive and appealing. Donations such as beauty items usually don't come packaged together, so be prepared to wrap a few items together in a basket or to request that items come pre-packaged.

Tip: Susan also recommends that you sell raffle tickets for a door prize at your silent auction. "Not everyone is in a financial situation to bid on more expensive items," she says.

3. Pricing.
Susan advises to start bidding at 50 per cent of the value of the item and always remember to display the retail value. Few can resist a good deal -- and it will always get someone to start the bidding process.

Tip: Collect payment immediately so you don't have to worry about chasing people down once the event is over.



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