Silent auctions are a proven element of many successful fundraisers, and with donated goods can provide almost pure profit. But often you do not have a lot of control over the goods donated, and you may end up with some unusual or unpopular prizes on offer.
It can be embarrassing if no or low bids are received on certain items, especially if the donor is present at the event, but how can you encourage bidding on these less popular items?
One option is to highlight a bid for each item (it may be a certain dollar amount, or just the 4th or 6th bid) and the person who bids in that space, goes into the draw for a special prize.
One version of this I have seen comes from friendsofswcharter.com who encouraged their guests to ‘bid on green’ and highlighted a certain dollar amount for each of the auction prizes. For example, with the special prize being a band and keg, valued at $310, the amount highlighted for one of the items to go into the special draw was $230.
It can be very effective if this special prize is offered across the entire range of silent auction items, and you can alter the ‘winning’ square for each item, based on how popular it is and how high the bidding might go. For example, for an item which will clearly be very popular, the ‘winning’ bid might be close to the RRP of the prize, but for an unpopular item, you may choose to make it the second or third bid.
Offering a winning bid won’t prevent others from out-bidding the lucky person who goes into the draw for the extra prize, because other bidders will not want that person to win the auction item as well as the special prize. For extremely popular items, you may choose to add multiple ‘winning’ bids to encourage even more activity.
While this system does require an extra prize for which no direct money will be raised, it will assist in increasing the bidding on all other items. The prize does not even need to be valuable. You could wrap it up as a ‘mystery prize’ which will pique people’s interest and encourage bidding.