A question we're frequently asked is whether fundraisers should have a different approach to prizes for silent and live auctions. In short, yes. The format of both auctions differs as will the type of bidders.
Silent: Your silent auction isn't restricted by space and time, so you can have plenty of items. Be careful not to go overboard. You don't want your bidders to have to wade through tens of pages on your auction site. Have enough items to offer choice and variety but not so many that bidders are overwhelmed and discouraged. Live: Your live auction will have a time limit and space restrictions regarding displayed items. Around 8 prizes per live auction is a good ball-park to work to. Work to a time allocation for each item. 3-5 minutes per item should be your target. Guests can get bored and drift away if the live auction lasts for too long so make sure your auctioneer is diligent around time keeping.
Silent: Variety of items and price points is key. Make sure you have a good selection of prizes that offer an entry point for all budgets. Fundraisers will tend to leave their top items to the live auction, but don't be afraid to have one or two key prizes in the silent auction too. Promote these items at the top of your auction site. It's a great way to generate excitement around the silent auction as a whole. Live: Unlike the silent auction you don't need to worry too much about price point variation. The live auction is where you have your marquee prizes up for grabs. Holidays, exclusive experiences and luxury items have a natural home in the live auction. Tip: including a 'donation only' bid in your live auction is great fun. Bidders literally try and out-bid each other to see who can donate the most. It can get highly competitive (in good spirit) and generate fantastic returns for the cause.
Silent: The key difference between live and silent auction bidders is that silent auction bidders can be found outside your event. In fact they can be found literally all over the world. If your event auction is online and open to the public, anyone can submit a bid from anywhere. That said, it's unlikely that your auctions will attract global attention en masse, but it's worth remembering that in general your silent auction bidders will be drawn from a wider pool than your live auction bidders. Live: Your live auction bidders on the other hand are more likely to fit a certain criteria i.e. willing to bid for marquee prize items. Naturally they will be smaller in number than your silent auction bidders. Treat your live auction bidders with extra consideration on the night. A little recognition of their generosity and support will go a long way to ensure good will and generous bidding.