How Silent Auctions Work
Silent auctions work much like regular auctions, but, rather than bidding on items one at a time by speaking or raising hands, many items are displayed at once, and people try to win them by writing their bids on bid cards or sheets. After a set time period has elapsed, the silent bidder with the highest bid wins the prize! This form of fundraising works extremely well in conjunction with other events because it requires little public performance on your part. Still, as with all fundraisers, planning is quite important.
In order to gather prizes for your auction, you can approach local businesses and shops who might be willing to donate prizes to your endeavor. In return, be sure to offer to publicize their generosity on the night of your fundraiser. This is a win-win for both parties, and many businesses are happy to engage in this sort of trade. If you come by expensive prizes, consider renting a credit card machine for the night of your gathering, so that people will able to pay and take away that night.
Displaying Your Auction Items
Once you've got your prizes all lined up, you'll need a place to display them. If someone in your congregation works in a retail shop, chances are they have some experience creating window displays. These are excellent people to enlist as volunteers, because you want the table on which you display the items upon which your guests will bid to be eye-catching and beautiful. Consider using cloths, skirts, boxes, and tiers on your table, all of which will help to draw people to your display. Additionally, you might consider strings of Christmas lights, flower petals, and ribbons to help spice up your presentation.
Try to make sure your prize table is in a well-lit area, possibly in a side alcove or separate room. If you do put the prizes in another room, make sure you have signs advertising your display, so people won't pass by on their way to the main event. Place bid cards next to each item on the table, and a small slotted box next to each item for completed bids. If you'd like, you can monitor bids as they come in and set up a board which shows the current highest offer -- this can help foster friendly competition between different bidders.
Also, you might find that you don't have room to display all the prizes you've gathered -- not to worry! With a silent auction, you can run multiple rounds of bidding throughout the course of the night, clearing prizes as they're won by your guests and setting up new ones in their place. This helps to keep your bidders interested, as well, as new items are constantly coming up for them to consider.
With some careful planning and the right volunteers, a silent auction is a wonderful way to supplement the income of another fundraising event, and can add a lot of fun to your guests' evenings. When advertising your primary event, be sure to mention the silent auction as an added lure to bring people to your church's fundraiser.