Auction Planning

50+ Top Silent Auction Items & Ideas for Your Next Event

Are you looking for ideas for your nonprofit’s next silent auction? Check out this list of 40+ silent auction items to start brainstorming for your next event.
Are you looking for ideas for your nonprofit’s next silent auction? Check out this list of 40+ silent auction items to start brainstorming for your next event.

You might be tempted to include every item you acquire in your silent auction. However, the handmade quilt knitted a half-century ago with a lingering aroma may not be the best fit.

Your silent auction items need to not only align with your audience’s interests—they should also be things that will get guests excited and that they can’t easily buy anywhere else. In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics to help your nonprofit narrow its search:

  • 50+ Top Silent Auction Items & Ideas for Your Next Event
  • How To Get Items For Your Silent Auction

From adventurous guided tours to signed sports memorabilia, the options are endless! Let’s dive in.

When procuring items for your auction, keep your audience in mind! Think about what types of items cater to their interests, and strive to provide a wide variety. To spark some inspiration, let’s explore our top silent auction item ideas, categorized by different types of supporters and situations.

Our Favorite Silent Auction Item Ideas

Before we go into a deep dive to our extensive list of auction item ideas, here's our shortlist of our favorite items:

  • Museum tickets
  • Concert Tickets
  • Theme Park Tickets
  • Artwork
  • Airbnb or Hotel stays
  • Travel Vouchers
  • Movie Theatre Rental
  • Fine dining experience
  • De-Stressing Baskets
  • Streaming Service Baskets

Silent Auction Item Ideas for Sports Fans

No matter where you are, you’ll likely encounter sports fans. Here are several auction item ideas that you can cater to any fanbase, whether your supporters are fans of football, baseball, soccer, tennis, or any other sport!

A stock image of a red helmet, red foam finger, and football, signifying a sports-related silent auction ideas.

Hard-to-Get Game Tickets

Standard game tickets located in an okay, but not outstanding, area of the stadium aren’t likely to pull many bids. However, the best seats in the house (perhaps seats that are always sold out) paired with a parking pass and stadium meals are likely to be a bigger draw.

Your organization could also secure tickets to “once-in-a-lifetime” sporting events— such as the Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs, The Masters, or popular events like The 16th Hole at the Phoenix Open. Again, you’ll want to pair these with airfare and hotel accommodations to ramp up the value even further.

Leveraging connections is key here. For example, if you might have a connection with someone who has season tickets, you could ask them to donate their tickets to one of the more popular games for a good cause.

Meet & Greet

As a sports fan, how often do you get to meet with one of your idols and discuss the game you both love? For most people, the answer is never!

This is somewhat contingent on your charity having an already-exisiting connection with a local athlete. So, turn to your team— do any of your board members, staff members, or volunteers know an athlete personally? Ask that team member to make the ask!

Ride on the Zamboni

When you’re watching a hockey game at home, the time between periods is generally low-excitement— sports commentators will discuss the game and you’ll watch too many commercials. In the arena, however? That’s when the Zamboni takes center stage.

Group of shirtless white men riding a purple zamboni in an ice rink. In the background, there are sports fans in red.

Hockey fans know that the Zamboni is a large vehicle that smooths any impurities on the ice between periods. It’s a (fairly) slow-moving process, making it safe enough for spectators to join in on the fun. If you have a connection to a local AHL (or NHL!) team, ask them if you can auction off a ride on the Zamboni at their next home game.

Signed Memorabilia

If you can’t secure a meet and greet with a top player, signed memorabilia is a great alternative!

While you can go to a sports team and ask them to donate signed items, you likely won’t be able to choose the items you get and you’re unlikely to get particularly eye-catching items. These teams simply get too many requests to give every charity an Elway jersey or Manning helmet!

Consider going to an online sports memorabilia auction house like Pristine Auction and finding a desirable item that your nonprofit can purchase for a reasonable price to auction off. This idea only works if you would expect to make at least double what you pay for it!

You’ll only want to auction off items that have a certificate of authenticity from either the sports team itself or a reputable source, such as Beckett, PSA, or JSA. If you purchase the item from a reputable provider like Pristine Auction, items will come with this certificate.

Private Membership

With this auction item idea, your attendees can win the sports experiences they’ve always dreamed of with club memberships. And this isn’t your local YMCA, either—some of these high-end memberships retail for tens of thousands of dollars! 

If you want to add this membership to your auction without breaking the bank, you’re in luck. Organizations like the Dormie Network Foundation donate in-kind memberships for nonprofits to auction off. All your organization needs to do is find a sports club that would consider contributing an in-kind gift of a club membership or other exclusive sports experience to your auction. Then, effectively market it to your most passionate sports fans ahead of your auction, and you could be looking at thousands of dollars towards your fundraising goal!

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to use social media and other platforms to promote your auction items. Tag or set a post to collaborate with the team, organization, or person that you’re working with to expand your reach!

Silent Auction Item Ideas for Music & Arts Fans

Do you have any virtuosos or avid arts fans in your midst? Make sure you’re prepared with the right auction items. From tickets for local art shows to signed instruments, we have all the ideas you need to get started!

Rear view of a lightskinned person playing an acoustic guitar, symbolizing music-related silent auction item ideas.

Museum Tickets

For this item, turn to your local arts or history museum to see if they’d be interested in donating a few tickets to an upcoming exhibit.

This item is especially impactful when it comes to traveling exhibits that frequently sell out when they come to town— for example, “Van Gogh Exhibition: The Immersive Experience” or the traveling presidential portraits. If the exhibit is sold out in your area, but you have the final two tickets up for auction, it’s sure to draw in the bids.

Concert or Comedy Show Tickets

If you have any upcoming concerts, traveling broadway performances, or comedy shows rolling through town, tickets for those events make great auction items.

Similar to the game tickets, find a creative way to make this auction item stand out from the standard tickets that guests could purchase elsewhere. For example, maybe you auction off suite tickets in the venue or include a meet-and-greet event with the performer before or after the show. The meet and greet aspect will likely either require purchasing some sort of VIP package to auction off or leveraging any existing connections you have (if any) with the artist or promoter.

Signed Instruments

Think of your favorite musicians. Perhaps you’re a Guns N’ Roses fan, a Yo-Yo Ma fan, or a Fleetwood Mac fan. Wouldn’t it be cool to win a signed guitar from Slash, cello from Yo-Yo Ma, or tambourine from Stevie Nicks?

Yes! If a musician is known to sign instruments, there’s a good chance you can find it online (similar to the sports memorabilia auction mentioned in a previous section). However, you’ll want to be especially careful to ensure you’re auctioning off an item that is real and certified as authentic by a reputable source.


Oftentimes, cities or regions will have locally famous artists who are known for creating art that features the area itself. For example, maybe for your area, this is a local street artist (a la Banksy) or a local landscape painter who has depicted your town’s skyline beautifully.

Consider asking them to create a one-of-a-kind art piece that celebrates your area (or your cause more generally, if you’re not located in a single area) and donating it to be auctioned off. Or, even if you have to purchase the art from the artist, it could be worth it for bidders to purchase the piece made just for your event!

Collaboration Art

This idea involves coordinating a collaboration project between a local artist and someone who is helped by your cause— for example, a child who has cancer creating art for a nonprofit that benefits cancer research.

The two people work together to make an art piece before the event and the art is auctioned off during the event. You’d be surprised; these pieces often go for really high bidding prices when guests are passionate about your mission!

Bonus Tip: Wondering how to source new and exciting items for your next auction? Check out this episode of Elevate Your Event where we discuss auction consignment as a way to add value to your offerings.

Silent Auction Items for School Auctions

Education-related silent auction items are ideal for school auctions ranging from Pre-K to universities. These auctions are most often scheduled by PTO/PTA or alumni organizations, and you’ll want to feature items that appeal to students or parents of students, depending on who will be attending.

These silent auction items can be best grouped into two categories: class baskets and in-school experiences.

Group of 6 Black kids in a story time circle. Some have their hands raised. This is meant to represent the potential audience of educators and some silent auction ideas to target them.

Class Baskets

Class baskets are usually assembled by the different classes in a school. Generally, each class picks a theme, students contribute some money (for example $10 to $20), and the teacher does the shopping and assembles the themed basket.

Here are a few popular ideas:

School Spirit Gear Basket

Stuff a basket full of school spirit gear, including jerseys, hats, bumper stickers, t-shirts, pom-poms, coffee mugs, and more.

College Rivals Basket

Pit two classrooms against one another, with each class creating a basket that is themed for one half of a popular college rivalry (i.e. Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, University of Michigan vs. Michigan State, etc.). Then, the two classes can battle it out to see which team “wins” by getting the most bids!

Book Lovers Basket

This basket would contain books as well as memorabilia that book lovers would appreciate (think bookmarks, reading lights, etc.).

Consider giving this basket a theme, such as children’s classics, mystery novels, or even cookbooks. You could focus all of your class baskets around books, and give each classroom a specific genre to feature!

Test Prep Basket

This is a valuable basket for college-bound students who are facing the ACT and SAT. This basket could include helpful study materials, such as noise-canceling headphones and study prep books.

Silent Auction Item Idea: Bar exam survive kit text prep basket.

One way to truly make this basket stand out is to partner with a local test prep company and include a spot in their next test prep classes. Because the most widely sought out test and college prep consultants often are booked well in advance, this could be a hot-ticket item for parents who want to set their child up for success.

Off-Campus Field Trip

If you have a teacher willing to donate their weekend, consider putting an outside-the-classroom trip up for bidding. This can be an educational experience, such as visiting a museum, or just pure fun, like bowling or playing mini golf.

Teacher Masterclasses

Teachers do have lives outside of the classroom. Empower those teachers to host a masterclass showing off their multi-dimensional personalities!

School Experiences

School experiences generally involve giving a student (or parent) special privileges for one day or an extended period. These privileges improve their school experience. This includes ideas such as:

Principal for a Day

This gives one lucky student the opportunity to be the principal of your school for a day.

Give them a lanyard and name tag and allow them to trail the principal, experiencing everything from morning announcements to leading assemblies to eating lunch with the esteemed authority figure themself.

Pull the Fire Alarm

This auction item is the only chance that students will have to pull the fire alarm at school (legally, at least). Essentially, you’ll auction off the opportunity for a student to pull the alarm as part of the school’s next fire drill practice. It’s harmless fun!

Graduation Seats

School graduations— specifically Kindergarten and 6th grade— are hot-ticket events. Consider auctioning off front-row seats to the event for parents who want to be in the perfect position to capture pictures of the big event.

Class Pizza Party

While pizza in the break room may not be exciting for us adults, this definitely gives kids a reason to go to school in the morning! Kids will be excited to skip some classes and enjoy a simple pizza party!

First in Line at Carpool Pickup

If you have small children, have you spent thirty minutes to an hour waiting in the after-school car pickup line? Or, rushed to get there thirty minutes before dismissal so you didn’t have to wait too long? If so, you understand the horror that is the after-school pickup line.

This item gives parents a special spot in the carpool pickup line, like a reserved parking space right by the entrance of the school. It’s basically the golden ticket for parents who want to eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

Designated Parking Spot

If your school has designated spots, appeal to administration to offer them up for bidding so that one special winner can have a special spot for the year.

Bonus Tip: Implement a fundraising thermometer as you collect donations to gamify your school fundraiser. You'll be surprised to see how effective this is to get more to donate or place bids!

Silent Auction Items for Families with Younger Children

If several of your attendees have young children, you’ll likely want a few auction items that families can use or experience together. Let’s take a look at some top family-oriented items that are sure to pique their interest.

Theme Park Tickets

This could be tickets to a local theme park or water park, along the lines of Six Flags/Schlitterbahn/Cedar Point, or you could go all-out and get tickets to one of the Disney or Universal parks.

Remember that theme park tickets, alone, can be easily purchased outside of your auction. Aim to get at least 4 tickets and bundle in a hotel room, flights, some restaurant coupons, or access to in-demand and often sold-out experiences (such as brunches with the princesses at Disney) to make it a full vacation.

Movie Theatre Rental

This item works best when there’s a blockbuster movie on the horizon— such as an upcoming Marvel flick or the next Frozen.

Essentially, the winner of this item gets to rent out a screen in a movie theatre for a private showing of an upcoming release. They can invite their friends and family to join in on the fun and perhaps even access unlimited popcorn and drinks as well.

A family of 4 sitting in red recliners in a movie theatre representing a movie theatre rental as a silent auction item.

Movie Night Baskets

A movie night basket is perfect for families who want to bond together but not have to interact with the general public while doing so.

This basket can include things like movie theatre snacks (popcorn, candy, soda), Blu-ray copies of popular family movies, a year-long streaming service subscription like Disney+, and comfy items (blankets, slippers, etc.) Tailor the items to the age group you’re targeting— the movies that elementary school students will enjoy will differ from those of high school students or young adults.

Commissioned Painting

If you have children, have you ever wished that you could stop time, even for just a moment? Unfortunately, you can’t auction off a time machine that freezes kids in their adorable younger years… but you can auction off a family portrait painting session with a local esteemed artist.

This item is a slightly more precious keepsake than a straightforward photoshoot, and many families may not think to sit for a painted portrait otherwise.

Children’s Museum Tickets

If your community has a children’s museum of some sort, consider putting together a package where you auction off a family set of tickets, parking, and a meal at a local restaurant! Or, considering these types of museums are generally hands-on and packed with kids all trying to experience the exhibits at once, you could auction off an hour or two in the museum before it opens to the public— giving exclusive access to everything before the spot gets busy for the day.

With this item, parents access a full day of entertainment and learning for their family, without having to coordinate any of the pesky details themselves.

Backyard Play Sets

If space permits, you can display these play sets for all to see. They can become a great conversation starter that gets people excited to bid on them for their own backyards!

Babysitting Services

Everyone deserves a night off, right? Parents will LOVE this one as it can open up their lives, even if just for the night!

Bonus Tip: Make sure to emphasize the family-friendly aspect of these items when you advertise them to excite parents to place bids!

A white basket with a peach ribbon,  a yellow rubber duck, and a white blanket sit on an ivory fabric chair. This is mean to represent silent auction basket ideas.

Silent Auction Basket Ideas

Gift baskets are a staple auction item idea! Let your creativity fly by creating themed baskets catered to your supporters’ interests. From curating local goods to promoting a fun activity like a movie night, here are several ideas to get you started.

Game Night Basket

This basket is perfect for the competitive guests in your midst— those who break into a full interpretive dance for Charades and contemplate getting a finance degree to win in Monopoly.

For this basket, include a wide range of board games that would work for various group sizes. For example, Sequence and Cribbage are great for two-person game nights, while Twister, Pictionary, and Codenames are fun for larger groups. You can also include snacks, notepads for keeping track of the game night winners, and other fun enhancements. Remember to align the games with your audience. You probably wouldn’t want to include a game like Cards Against Humanity for an elementary school auction, for example.

“Strike It Rich” Basket

This basket is perfect for auction guests who want to test their luck and see if they can leave your auction with more money than they walked into it with.

Include lottery tickets and a range of scratch-off tickets. The main value in this basket is in the unknown— the guest who purchases this basket could win big or they could win nothing at all. With that in mind, include a few additional items such as chocolate “gold” coins and a poker set with cards.

Grillmaster Basket

A grillmaster basket is perfect for guests at your auction who know how to operate a grill or smoker… without catching the house on fire.

In this basket, include charcoal and matches, basic meat seasonings and more specialized rubs/marinades, barbeque sauce, and basic tools (tongs, meat thermometer, heat-safe gloves, knives, cutting board, grill scrubber, skewers, etc.). Winners should be able to “just add meat” to the basket and be able to bring their summer cooking dreams to life.

Mixology Basket

Have you ever watched a bartender create a specialized drink, thought “It can’t be that hard,” and then tried to recreate it at home? Did your personal creation turn out well, or did it turn into a totally non-drinkable, potentially toxic combination of alcohol and juice? Turns out, it is that hard.

Wine basket idea as a silent auction item idea

Mixology is a skill just like any other, and your mixology basket should give winners all of the tools they need to learn it. A book of cocktail recipes, mixer drinks, a mixology set (a shaker, muddler, strainer, etc.), and cocktail glasses are a great start for this basket.

Local Sampler Basket

How long have you lived in your area? If you’ve lived there for a while, have you visited all of the local restaurants and shops? If you’re like many people, you might have a hometown bucket list that you swear you’ll get to, but then rarely actually work on.

With a local sampler basket, you can include items that empower the winner to be a tourist in their own town. For example, gift cards to restaurants, baked goods from bakeries, coffee beans from local roasters, and so forth— each an item pulled from the best local spots in your area.

Pride Survival Kit Basket

If it's your area's pride season, you can build a basket with items needed for a successful pride, including flags, facial stickers, ribbons, dog outfits, etc. This will make any queer person or ally's pride experience! 

Tailgating / SuperFan Basket

A tailgating basket is perfect for auction guests who never miss a game and willingly show up hours in advance to get the same tailgating spot that they’ve been parked in year after year. You could create a general tailgating basket, or take it a step further to make a SuperFan basket that includes merch for a specific sports team.

This basket can include items such as a crockpot, folding chairs (or even chair pads for uncomfortable stadium seating), team merch (hats, jerseys, bumper stickers, car flags, etc.), snacks, activities (horseshoes, footballs, cornhole, etc.), bug spray, first aid supplies, and more.

Bonus Tip: The Handbid team put together a list of creative ideas for auction baskets (and a ton of creative names to go along with them). Check out our list of silent auction basket names if you’re ready to get more creative than the standard wine-and-dine date night.

Seasonal Silent Auction Items

Consider whether your event is scheduled near a holiday. Then, come up with related auction items that fit that time of year. Whether you’re leaning into year-end giving or celebrating July Fourth, here are some ideas to inspire you.

Ski Lift Passes

For people who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, or even some particularly exciting sledding, ski lift tickets are an essential part of a successful winter vacation. However, not only are lift tickets expensive, but they can often sell out during peak season. So, you might end up traveling to a mountain resort for three days only to spend the entire time enjoying apres-ski activities without the skiing.

Take this item to the next level by making it a bundle. For example, pair lift tickets with a 3 day stay at a local ski resort or even a one-on-one lesson with one of the resort’s resident ski/snowboard instructors.

Reserved Seating at a Community Event

Whether they’re for Fourth of July fireworks, a New Year’s Eve countdown, or even a holiday tree lighting, the events hosted in your community are probably hot ticket experiences. And, if you’ve ever shown up to July Fourth fireworks two hours early to get the “best” seats— only to walk away with too many mosquito bites to count— you can understand the appeal of reserved seating at these events.

Auction off a roped-off seating area at your town’s top events. Consider bundling this with reserved parking to provide a truly premium experience.

Holiday Decorating Services

There are two types of people in this world: those who take down their holiday decorations on December 26th, and those who receive a “friendly” reminder from their homeowners’ association about mid-way through January, ensuring those external lights are taken down in a timely manner.

Regardless of which type you or your guests relate to (no judgment here!), there’s no denying that putting up and taking down winter holiday decorations can be a drag. Auction off exterior holiday decorating services and the lucky winner can leave the balancing precariously on ladders and handling of glass bulbs to the professionals. Another twist on this is Christmas tree-related services— delivering the tree before the season and picking it up and recycling it after the fact.

Muscle for Hire Packages

Similar to holiday decorating in the winter, many people are completing home projects in the spring as part of spring cleaning. Consider auctioning off muscle-for-hire services— this could cover lawn mowing and weeding, moving large furniture, or even hauling items out of an attic.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to be aware of your audience when selecting these seasonal silent auction items. While some items can be more universal, some may be really niche and not appeal to everyone.
A cardbord box of random items: a wooden block, purple rock, black helmet, and wooden stick. This is meant to represent unique silent auction items.

Unique Silent Auction Items

Being as original as possible with your silent auction items is sure to garner some attention! Guests will enjoy bidding for the chance to win a one-of-a-kind experience. If this sounds right up your alley, let’s explore several unique item ideas.

Fly the Flag

Most public buildings and schools have a few flag poles, often flying the U.S. flag and the relevant state flag. With this item, the winner gets to choose a flag to fly alongside those two— for example, the flag for their alma mater.

Local Tour Tickets

This item is similar to the “Local Sampler Basket” mentioned in an earlier section. However, instead of giving winning bidders a basket of items, they get tickets to all of the hottest attractions in town.

A boat of tourists in watching a whale surface in the ocean, with seagulls nearby. This is meant to represent a local tourist attraction as a silent auction item idea.

It’s fairly easy to go online and purchase tickets to your local museum, aquarium, or zoo and make a reservation at a local restaurant. However, there are often special experiences (think: petting dolphins, viewing traveling exhibits, etc.) that have timed visitation and sell out fairly quickly. For this auction item, you’ll want to plot out an entire day of local tour activities down to the hour, and specifically focus on those hard-to-get experiences. The biggest benefit of winning this is that all of the planning is handled!

Travel Voucher

This can be a general ticket to a specific airline and set cost, or a pre-designated round-trip flight ticket to a specific place, such as Mexico City, Cabo, Paris, London, etc. Any world traveler would be happy to win this!

Airbnb or Hotel Stay

Some folks in your community may own rental properties or work for hotels, and can donate their space for the sake of fundraising. Make sure to offer this as an option when asking for donations for your silent auction!

De-stressing Basket

Many of us live very busy and stressful lives, and could very much use a break! You can include gift cards to a local or chain massage service, meditation subscriptions, items for relaxing bath, etc. Bring someone's cortisol level's down with this basket!

Streaming Services Basket

At this point, many people have “cut the cord” and rely on streaming services for TV access. Consider creating a streaming basket that includes a one-year subscription to multiple streaming services.

The main benefit of this basket is that winners won’t need to coordinate and subscribe to all of the streaming services themselves!

Rare Wine or Bourbon

For many people, their knowledge of wine or bourbon ends with “pairs well with steak/seafood/Italian/etc.“ That’s not necessarily who you’re targeting with this auction item.

Do your research to hunt down rare (i.e. hard for even the most skilled shoppers) wine or bourbon and auction it off at your event. Chances are that true collectors will pay well over the market rate to add the bottles to their collections!

Fine Dining Experience

We’ve mentioned that it’s generally easy to book a restaurant reservation. So, rather than simply auctioning off a booked reservation and paid meal at a fine dining establishment, go the whole nine yards by auctioning off a full experience.

Ask the restaurant’s executive chef to host a one-of-a-kind dining experience during which they present each meal and walk the guests through how each course came to life.

Personal Assistant for a Day

Let’s face it— when was the last time that you actually made it to the end of your “to-do” list for the day? If you’re like many people, you might carry a few items into tomorrow, and then the next day, and beyond.

What if you could hire someone for one day to take your “to-dos” down to zero? It would be well worth the price, right? Auction off this experience and allow someone to purchase the services of a personal assistant for one day.

Bonus Tip: For these out of the box ideas that may not be tangible, try to still provide physical representations of the items, such as printed out certificates or tickets. This way people feel like they get to walk away with something!

How To Get Items for Your Silent Auction

You have a list of ideas, now it’s time to go out into the world and procure them!

To help your nonprofit strategically locate and request items for its silent auction, we’ve created this list of tips for item procurement. Use this framework as you go out to find items for your event.

1. Ask The Right Partners

First and foremost, plan how you’ll find these auction items. Ask donors and local businesses to give individual items, or find a corporate sponsor who will be open to giving to your event in multiple ways. 

This may sound challenging. However, the numbers are on your side with 94% of major United States-based corporations planning to maintain or increase their corporate giving levels.

Person in a black suit with hands extended and a golden gift box in hand. In the background you can see 4 light skinned people in professional attire. This is meant to represent corporate sponsorship for auction item procurement.

Finding a corporate sponsor for your silent auction can be highly beneficial since they might also offer:

  • Event supplies: Think about all the things you’ll need for your event outside of the auction items. A corporate sponsor could offer anything from tablecloths to an entire venue in exchange for brand exposure.
  • A matching gift program: Aside from donating items to your auction, a corporation might also donate monetarily through matching gifts. When the company matches its employees’ donations to your nonprofit, it’ll provide a greater incentive for employees to give and the whole staff will get involved with your organization.
  • Volunteer grants: You’ll need extra help to run the event, and that’s where volunteers come in! Corporate sponsors can take volunteerism a step further by matching volunteer hours with monetary contributions to your nonprofit.

Prepare several corporate sponsorship packages to present to potential sponsors before approaching businesses for auction items.

Additionally, make sure you have the software in place to take advantage of incoming corporate partnerships. Your auction software should help you track new items acquired and relationships with potential donors, and your matching gift software can make it easy to accept matching gifts and volunteer grants. 

Depending on the businesses your donors work for, your matching gift software may have the potential to make the process extra easy for your nonprofit and your supporters. Specifically, matching gift software with auto-submission functionality enables donors to have their matching gift applications filled out and submitted automatically for them.

On top of collecting auction items, you’ll forge lasting relationships with corporations and bring in a variety of revenue sources.

2. Acquire Items Across A Broad Price Range

Let’s face it, at auctions for your average supporter, not every bidder can afford the $1,000 necklace. Make sure that when you’re acquiring donations, you accumulate items with a wide price range. If any of your attendees don’t see any items within their interests or price range, they won't be interested in bidding.

Consider categorizing your items by price range and ensuring you have enough items in each category, such as:

  • Low-cost: Gift certificates and food items
  • Average: Classes and workshops, day trip experiences, and gift baskets 
  • High-end: Jewelry, luxury vacations, and custom artwork

Beyond acquiring items across a broad price range, you also need to know your audience and what they’d be interested in. 

For example, if most of your guests are older and have grown children, Disney and children’s museum excursions are going to be less popular than rare wines and river cruises in Germany.

3. Make Item Procurement A Team Effort!

Work with your event planning committee to identify possible donation sources. Make each member of your procurement team responsible for exploring their networks to find item donors and solicit prizes. If you have a particular business in mind for a donation, assign the team members you think will be most successful at making the donation request to it. 

Group of Black teammates sitting along a table smiling and talking to each other with their laptops open.

Keep in mind that business owners get contacted for donations pretty regularly. So, while your cause may be meaningful to you, it may not be to them. You can circumvent that problem by having someone the business owner knows (even a loyal customer) ask on your behalf.

4. Communicate The Impact Of Your Event To Donors

When you request a donation, convey your event’s purpose. While not every donor needs to be head over heels for your cause, they will be more likely to donate an item if they feel their donation is making a measurable impact. 

Briefly explain or show them what your nonprofit does by sharing:

  • Pictures and stories of beneficiaries (with their permission)
  • Before-and-after reports from previous projects that demonstrate your impact
  • Volunteers’ perspectives on working with your nonprofit

With increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility from employees and customers, businesses want their audiences to see them supporting meaningful causes. In your donation request pitch, be sure to communicate how the event can generate positive publicity for the donating business.

5. Don’t be stingy with your gratitude

Whether a donation is “big” or “small” by your organization’s standards, recognize that every donation is a meaningful gift from the donor who gave it and express your gratitude accordingly. 

There are a number of ways to thank these donors for their gifts, such as:

  • Handwritten letters
  • Digital cards
  • Social media shoutouts
  • Phone calls
  • Face-to-face conversations
  • eCards

While you may be familiar with most of these appreciation methods, let’s take a closer look at eCards. eCards are electronic greeting cards that your nonprofit can send via email, SMS, or social media.

Thank you card with pencil-drawn light pink and purple flowers. At the bottom, in cursive text reads "Thank You."

At the end of the day, as long as your thank-you is personal and authentic, it will make your donors feel appreciated!

Additionally, consider inviting donors to the event itself. This will strengthen the relationship between the donor and your organization, allow them to see the impact of their gift, and give them the opportunity to connect with guests even further.

6. Set your items up for success

After acquiring top-notch auction items, decide how to display them strategically to ensure they get the attention (and bids) they deserve!

It’s up to you to position your carefully curated items for success. We, of course, recommend Handbid’s mobile bidding software for both virtual and in-person events. With our tools, you can:

  • Empower guests to interact with your auction, view items’ full descriptions and photos, and place bids using their mobile phones from anywhere.
  • Go paperless so your attendees don’t have to crowd around bid sheets and your volunteers don’t have to decipher bad handwriting.
  • Send push notifications and text alerts to let guests know when they’ve been outbid, giving them the chance to counterbid. This is extra helpful for keeping guests engaged during virtual auctions that might last for several days. 

The result? Guests can conveniently peruse your silent auction items and bid competitively. They’ll have a better experience overall and you’ll see revenue rise as a result.

7. Create A Wish List

Rather than just passively accepting the donations that come your way, develop a list of items or experiences you'd like to feature in your silent auction. Be specific about the types of items that would appeal to your audience. Then, encourage donors to take a look and give what they can.

Remember, you can always reach out to local businesses to donate, too. Encourage them to donate auction items or encourage their employees to give.

Whoever you approach, here’s how you can leverage a wish list for your event:

  • Define your auction’s theme. Make sure your wish list aligns with your event’s theme if there is one! For example, if you’re going with an autumn holiday theme, you might request special items that will help people enjoy the season.
  • Categorize items. Group the items on your wish list into different categories, like tangible goods, experiences, services, and one-of-a-kind items. This will make it easier for people to browse and contribute what they can.
  • Research potential contributors. Learn what you can about the individuals, businesses, and organizations that might donate auction items. Then, create a wish list centered around those potential donors.

A well-crafted wish list will serve as a roadmap for your silent auction item procurement process. Of course, no matter how donors help out, remember to show your thanks to continue building that relationship!

Wrapping Up

The items you choose for your auction can make or break the event. Focus on choosing items that are both interesting for your audience and hard for them to get otherwise. That’s the formula for securing high-demand, bid-generating silent auction items.

To continue exploring the world of nonprofit silent auctions, check out the following additional resources:

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Testing image caption text
  1. Numbered list
  2. Numbered list 2
  3. Numbered list 3

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.