One of the conundrums of a fundraising event is the sequencing of fundraising elements to maximize
success. We have often consulted to avoid competing fundraising, as it can inhibit donations and bids
unintentionally. For example, many fundraisers have a silent auction, and want to keep it open all night
to give your donors as much time as possible to give to their cause. In some cases, the silent auction will
go to the next day even!
We have seen this strategy backfire, as bidders who are “locked in” to their current bid status on several
silent auction items may be hesitant to give as much during the paddle raise moment or bid as often on
the live auction. They likely have a budget in mind for the night, and do not want to overcommit. Yet,
what happens if the live auction and paddle raise is over, and the silent auction bidders end up NOT
winning those items they intended? They have missed out on their maximum giving potential to your
cause, only by design, not by intention.
There are tremendous benefits to closing the silent auction early. For one, your staff who processes
winners at the end of the night have more time to process and settle on each item and get the donors
their items in a more efficient manner, so they can go on their way when they want to leave. Studies
have also shown that the most active bidding frenzy occurs the last 20 minutes for close of the silent
auction, whether that last 20 minutes is at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, or whatever! In reality, a bidding process is
nurtured by the “deadline” to bid, and it really doesn’t impact overall fundraising when that “deadline”
To support an earlier closing of the silent auction, communication is key. You will want to inform the
guests frequently of the closing time, and bidding platforms can support those communications with
reminder texts. You can put on presentation screens reminders about closing time as well. Heck, ring a
bell 10 minutes before it closes, that will make sure everyone is aware of the “deadline.”
Still, we have heard some guests say that they wish they had some things to bid on AFTER the live
auction and paddle raise. So here is how we accommodate those guests….thru what we call the “Fire
Sale.” This is where you can take any items that received no bids and reopen them during the “Fire
Sale.” Your emcee or auctioneer can surprise the audience that they have ONE MORE opportunity to
support you with some discounted opening bid rates, as well as some “buy it now” options.
In addition, we like to also introduce a few NEW items to your audience. This could be trips that are
offered as a Buy it Now option, since you will have some bidders who lost out on that trip in the live
auction. If you have extra tickets for a game, maybe you surprise the audience with that 2 nd set as a last
minute add to your “Fire Sale.” The strategy here is to give some new energy to the silent auction and
also remove the barriers to winning an item. Buy it Now gives instant ownership and reduced opening
bids will break the ice on bidding that was not created at the beginning of the night.
The point of this strategy is to find ways to avoid letting dollars walk out of the room that could and
should be going to their cause. Your donors were ready to spend it in the live auction, or was
unfortunate in their silent auction bidding, but without providing them a vehicle to re-engage, this is a
Feel free to contact us to discuss this and other strategies as part of our consulting.