A silent auction is a type of fundraising and charity auction event where organizations and charities raise money by taking bids on the items put up for auction and selling them to the highest bidder. Unlike traditional auctions, the bids are conducted through paper bid sheets or any software for Internet-enabled devices like smartphones and tablets.
If you walk into a silent auction venue you will see that the items for bidding are laid out on various tables or racks so that they can be examined at leisure by the potential participants. The bid of one person for an item is displayed on paper in front of it until another bidder comes, inspects the item and bids again over the last one, thereby increasing the chances of winning it.
Unlike the usual auctions that are compressed into three to four hours, a successful silent auctionis more spaced out and can be anything from an hour to a day. If there are lots of items on sale and the process is carried out online over silent auctionwebsites, fundraisers have the option to extend it for a few days or weeks. There is no hectic bidding activity here, rather the experience is more like shopping at a retail store. Once the time is up at a silent auction,the auctioneer inspects the last bids and announces the winners, helping later in checkout and delivery.
Bidding in silent auctions
There are two ways that bidding takes place in silent auctions.One is through bidding sheets and the other mobile software.
- Bidding sheets: The first thing that comes to mind about silent auctionsis the bidding sheets. These pieces of paper have 10 to 15 rows and are placed in front of each item on display. To place a bid, participants in the auction have to write a bid in the first available row. At the end of the auction time, the bid sheets are checked and the winners declared.
On the downside, this type of bidding process requires more involvement from the participants and hence the money raised is often not as much as that of mobile auctions. The checkout and delivery are also more complicated.
- Mobile bidding: Mobile bidding has given a fresh twist to silent auctions. Auction attendees can browse the items on display and place bids from any Internet-enabled device. They can either bid manually or set a target maximum bid in which case the software bids for them till the set price is reached.
Mobile bidding simplifies the bidding process to a great extent and leads to higher bids. It is seen that silent auctionsconducted through mobile bidding raise three times more than bidding sheets, primarily because the bidding is so convenient. Further, participants can pre-register their credit cards and eliminate a complex and involved checkout process.
Both these methods work well in silent auctions.
Advantages of online silent auctions
There are several benefits of holding online silent auctionsover traditional in-premises physical auctions.
- Wide reach and large audience: Since online silent auctionsare held over the Internet, the scope of the auction will not be limited to a small captive audience in a specific geographic area. Bidders can log into the auction sites from anywhere in the world via their smartphones and computers to place bids. This, in turn, drives up participation, encourages competition, and increases selling prices.
- No time restrictions: There are no time restrictions for online silent auctions. In theory, it can carry on indefinitely but 7-10 days is ideal. Further, participants can place their bids round the clock as per their convenience It is up to the organizers of the silent auctionsto decide for how long the buyers can place their bids. By setting deadlines for bid submission, a sense of urgency is created that helps to drive up volumes, and most likely, the bid amounts.
- More exposure for donors and sponsors: It is to be expected that the donors and sponsors who back you in silent auctionswould prefer some promotion for their products and services. An online silent auctionis an excellent platform to take their products to the masses without any marketing costs. It is a sort of free advertising on a global scale for the merchants.
- Lower auction expenses: The cost of holding an online silent auctionis typically lower than an on-premises auction. You will save the expenses of hiring a venue, payment for hiring manpower, and other infrastructure costs. Most silent auction sitesare free and you have to pay third-party service providers only such as fees charged by payment gateways. Other costs like displaying items are not charged for.
Silent auctionsites go a long way to increase the efficiencies of the auction process. You can manage every aspect through the specialized silent auctionsoftware, right from displaying items on the site via photographs, bidding, identifying the winners, and managing receipt of money for the winning bids. Most tasks like keeping records, gathering attendee information, and tracking the proceedings of the auction are automated and managed by the silent auctionsoftware.
The checkout process is much simpler as there is no physical movement of items from the merchants to the auction venue. Once the payment is received, dispatch and shipping of items are direct from the merchants and the sponsors to the winning bidders. However, because of the borderless nature of the auctions, you might have to ship items internationally which can often be a bit tricky,
Silent auctionsare a win-win situation for all.