Fundraising Blog

When should I open and close my fundraising event's silent auction?

Dee Brannick
Fundraising specialist, Co-Founder of GalaBid

When should I open my silent auction?

Choosing the ideal opening and closing times for your silent auction can be a success fact that affects bidder engagement, competitiveness, and ultimately, fundraising outcomes.

Join us as we explore the factors to consider when determining the ideal start and end times for your silent auction event.

1. Before the event

The most common duration for an online silent auction is approximately one week. If the event itself takes place on a weekend evening many fundraisers will open the auction the Monday or Tuesday before.

It’s difficult to hold bidders’ attention for much longer, however some auctions run very successfully for weeks before the event itself. 

The question to ask is how long do you think you can hold your audience’s attention? If you keep your auction open for longer prior to the event, you can announce the addition of a new exciting prize(s) over the course of the campaign.

Auction Launch Email
Low Starting Bids to build pre-event excitement

One strategy to build excitement pre-event is to start the bidding low on a few items. The prospect of bagging a bargain can drive a flurry of bids and lots of engaged bidders.

Consider your audience and your goals however, as this could be a risky strategy that may or may not pay off. There are a number of strategies to consider when selecting starting bids and increments

2. At the Event Itself

A very small percentage of auctions open at the event itself. This is typically for exclusive events where one of the benefits of attending is exclusive access to the auction items. The majority of event fundraisers prefer to tap into an online silent auction’s capacity to also attract bids from supporters who are not in attendance.

When Should I Close my Silent Auction?

1. At the Event

As a general rule of thumb the longer the silent auction stays open at an event the better the results will be.

Consider the following points when choosing the close time at your event.

The likely time people will want to start leaving and, or, dancing. 

Ensuring guests have time to check out before they want to leave or hit the dance floor will make guests happy and more amenable to attending the next event.

The time you expect remote bidders will be switching off to go to bed.  

If you expect a lot of bids to come from outside the room consider when your remote bidders are likely to switch off.

The number of physical items that need to be distributed.

Most fundraisers prefer to distribute items at the event itself, where possible, instead of organizing pick up or delivery at a later date.

The number of people available to man the check out or item dispatch desk.

Plan how many staff you need to avoid queues. The last thing you want is frustrated guests, waiting to pick up items. 

Staffing an Event Checkout Desk
Pre-authorization to save time

Closing the silent auction earlier in the evening allows winners more time to pay themselves or for event staff to assist guests with checkout.

On many auctions, card pre-authorization is enabled and the administrator charges winners’ cards once the auction closes so very little time is needed for checkout. However, if there are a lot of items to be physically picked up the extra time can be invaluable.

A note on the advertised silent auction closing time

If your silent auction audience includes bidders not in attendance at your event, be sure to close the silent auction at the advertised time. For auctions where only event guests have been invited to bid, the auction close time can be flexible. If dessert is late, or the live auction overruns and the auction time needs to pushed back, in room bidders usually are happy to accept the new close time

Before or After the Live Auction

Many fundraisers find themselves debating whether to close their silent auction either before, or, after the live auction.

The case for closing the silent auction after the live auction

Closing the silent auction after the live auction is the most popular strategy.

If the silent closes after the live, the auctioneer can announce the time remaining on the silent auction and encourage all who were unsuccessful in the live auction to bid in the silent.

Silent Auction Leaderboard

It’s important to ensure the silent auction leaderboard is back on the big screen at this point, ideally with a countdown timer and bid pop ups to keep the competition going right up to the end. 

A countdown of between 5 to 15 minutes after the live auction is sufficient to drive last minute bidding activity.

However, as mentioned above if the next segment in the evening is dancing, the benefits are often negated as most of the room hits the dance floor and the bidding on the silent auction disappears off their radar.

The case for closing the silent before the live auction begins
Live Auction

Fundraisers choose this strategy in an effort to boost engagement in the live auction. If the silent auction has closed, guests who were unsuccessful may be more likely to bid in the live auction or donate in a paddle raise.

In all auctions more bids and bidders will drive the prices up, and given the live items are typically of higher value than the silent, the increase in the total raised can be significant. 

2. After the Event

Is there a case for closing the silent auction after a live event?

It’s rare that a silent auction will close after an event. Fundraisers typically like to maximize the captive audience only an event can provide. Also it’s difficult to keep the momentum going post event. That said, some silent auctions do close successfully after a live event. In an ideal world, auctions close after pay day so if the event falls before the date most people get paid, keeping it open afterwards can boost results. 

Also, if there are a lot of other fundraising activities happening in-person live at the event, or lots of event entertainment that makes focus on the silent auction more unlikely, promoting the online silent auction to guests post event can make sense and boost results. Guests who have had an amazing evening at your event are likely to be receptive to post event communications about the silent auction. 

3. Before the Event

Is there a case for closing the auction online before the fundraising event?

Closing an auction before the live event is very rare. If fundraisers choose this strategy the reason is typically to use the pre-event period to get the bidding underway on a few high value live auction items that will be sold by an auctioneer in person at the event. Fundraisers choosing this strategy do so to boost the exclusivity and value of attending the event as only those in attendance can win the auction items. 

In Summary

As you can see there are multiple factors that determine the opitmal open and close times. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your event, feel free to reach out to our chat support team or book a call with me. I have been supporting fundraisers with silent auctions since 2005 and I am delighted to provide any advice and guidance I can.

About GalaBid

Ideal for donations. Perfect for Raffles. Awesome for Live and Silent Auctions! GalaBid’s online fundraising platform is designed for fundraisers of all types and sizes. For over 10 years we’ve been helping non-profits, charities, community clubs, churches, schools, and individuals to raise more and make a difference.

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