Fundraising Blog

What is an Online Silent Auction?

Peter Hair
Fundraising technology expert, Co-Founder of GalaBid

A silent auction is a great way to raise funds for a charity, non-profit, community club, church, or individual in need of support.

However, if you’re wondering why silent auctions are different to a standard auction and how silent auctions work – we’ve got all the info you need!

1. What is a Silent Auction?

A silent auction is a fundraising event where items or experiences are put up for bidding, but unlike a traditional auction (where hands or paddle boards are raised to place a bid), bids are submitted anonymously.

Before we all had smartphones, these bids were written on sheets of paper and placed in a box or handed to an auctioneer.  At the end of the auction the bids were reviewed and whoever made the highest bid was the winner.

In the digital age, silent auctions are often managed entirely online via smartphones or desktop devices.

While online silent auction platforms can differ, GalaBid’s fundraising software enables participants to bid for an auction item in real-time. The organizers may set bidding increments to make sure bidding moves along swiftly! For example, a picnic hamper may have bidding increments of $5. This means a $40 bid will have to be followed by a $45 bid, then $50 and so on.

The silent may take place at an event or wholly online. Whichever option the organizers choose, the auction will run for a specified amount of time. Once the silent auction closes, the highest bidders for any given prize are the winners!

Once the winners are announced, GalaBid’s online auction platform manages the invoicing and payment.

Silent auctions are popular at charity events, galas, fundraisers, and other events where people can bid on items and support a cause or organization. They’re also a great option for online-only fundraiser where people can take part in the fundraising auction wherever they are in the world!

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2. Paper or Digital? What’s the Best Option for a Silent Auction?

With free silent auction platforms readily available (including GalaBid), it’s hard to make a case for paper-based silent auctions.

Digital silent auctions deliver so many benefits compared to paper-based auctions . Let’s take a look:

Save Time

An online fundraising platform like GalaBid is created to make setting-up and running your silent auction super easy.

Our simple to use software system requires no special skills, only the ability to use a mobile or desktop device and follow a short set of clear instructions.

This means your silent auction can be up and running in minutes. Add in your auction items to the online catalog, share the auction link via SMS or social media and you’re away!

Make Choices

Using a digital silent auction platform means you can choose between running a live event or an online only fundraiser – or even both!

Paper-based silent auctions can only really work at a live event.

Avoid Errors

A paper-based silent auction relies on fundraising organisers distributing bidding slips, collecting the slips, and working out highest bids. It’s a process that can take a lot of time, and if slips are missed or misplaced errors can creep in. Also, what if someone’s handwriting makes the bid hard to figure out? Or if a bidding slip is damaged?

An online silent auction delivers an accurate and error free fundraising process.

From managing bidding to issuing payment invoices, GalaBid’s silent auction software makes the fundraising process quick, easy and reliable.

Make it Transparent

With an auction online website everything is clear and up-front.  Every participant can see the bid progress on screen, as it happens in real time.

GalaBid’s fundraising platform issues automatic outbid and highest current notifications via email and SMS. This means supporters always have the opportunity to bid for prizes and know when they’re in the winning position or if someone has outbid them.

A reminder about when the auction is closing makes sure people have time to place final bids before the fundraiser finishes.

Generate (Lots More) Bids

Whether at an event or online-only, a digital silent action can generate many more bids than a paper-based silent auction.

At an Event

Paper-based silent auction bids are limited by their inherent mystery.  Bidders need to try and work out what an item might be worth and how much other people are likely to bid. The theory is that this dynamic pushes people to make high bids for much wanted items,

But it can be hit or miss.

Online auctions can still offer bidders anonymity, but bidding activity is much more transparent. Everyone can see the current highest bid which creates exciting competition between bidders to claim the winning spot.

Online Only

Because you can launch your auction when you like and for as long as you like, you’re not limited to running it on a single night over a few hours.

More time gives more people the opportunity to participate.  A physical event means people have to commit to turning up. That might mean an element of organisation, such as booking babysitters or taking time from work. While people may be keen to support your fundraiser, they may not be able to participate because they can’t attend the physical event.

An online fundraiser means people can get involved whenever it suits them, whether that’s early in the morning or late at night. They can bid from the comfort of their own home, and  it only takes a few moments to bid.

The auction is accessible via a website link. This means you can send the fundraiser out across email, social media or via SMS.   And because the link is shareable there’s a good chance you’ll boost bids from people beyond your expected group of supporters.

Make Participation Easy

An online silent auction is an easy and flexible option for supporters. All they need is a mobile or smartphone device and internet access!

GalaBid’s secure registration process means people can sign-up before the auction starts , browse your awesome auction items, and be ready to bid once your fundraising campaign launches.

3. How to Set-up and Run Your Online Silent Auction

We’ve made running a silent auction an exciting and effective way to raise funds for your organization or event.

Here’s an overview to help you successfully run a silent auction on GalaBid:

Getting Started:

Set-up your GalaBid account in a few short steps (it only takes a few minutes). Connect to your Stripe payment gateway account  (if you don’t already have a Stripe account you can register online).

Upload the prize details and images to fundraising page, launch the campaign then send the link to as many supporters as possible. Prize bidding, auction close notifications, winner confirmations and payment is all managed either automatically or at the touch of a button.

Post-Auction Follow-up:

Once the silent auction finishes, GalaBid makes the payment and checkout process easy.

Invoices are automatically sent to winning bidders with the payment link. If you opt for pre-authorization on participants’ credit cards, we’ll automatically process the winning payments once the auction closes.

Don’t forget to show appreciation to all participants, both winners and non-winners, for their support and encourage future engagement with your organization or event!

In Summary

1. Silent auctions are a popular fundraising option. Auction participants bid for auction items (often anonymously) via paper-based bidding slips or digital platforms.

2. Online auction platforms like GalaBid provide a more efficient, transparent, effective, and streamlined process to paper based auctions.

3. Digital silent auctions can be used at live events (such as a fundraising gala dinner), online only campaigns, or a mix of the two!

4. Online platforms provide real-time updates and notifications, allowing participants to stay informed about the status of their bids.

5. Digital auctions eliminate the hassle of manually tracking bids and managing paper bid sheets, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring a smoother process for organizers.

Overall, online silent auctions provide a more efficient, engaging, and convenient experience for both organizers and participants, leading to increased fundraising success and improved donor engagement.

Want to create your online silent auction? Let’s Go!

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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