When should the Silent Auction close and how do we close it?

18 Feb

This is a question which we get asked 100’s of times and to be perfectly honest, the answer is very distinct.  Understanding that we, BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising, is either a part of or helps over 1,400 charities each year, our experience level in regard to event timelines is vast.   With over 40 years of combined Charity Fundraising experience, this is all we do – Fundraise for Charities.  Unlike many fundraisers (employee & volunteer) who host an event once a year, we spend each either consulting, planning or assisting charities all across North America.  Over the years we have been involved in fundraising, we have tried every single way there is over and over and over again determining what is the most successful way to set up, manage and eventually, close a Silent Auction.

The main issue that I want to convey to our charity clients is – Time Management is the absolute key to your ultimate success.  Time can be good to you or bad, it’s totally up to you.  Use a an event time line along with an overall plan, your guests will appreciate and definitely noticed your professionalism.  As part of our Event Services assistance, here is what we have learned:

Lesson #1 – A Silent Auction must be diverse in the items that are present there.  However, it cannot appear “Junky” with items that have little to no value.

Lesson #2 – Silent Auction items must be intermingled with high quality items in order to support higher bidding on the lesser items.

Lesson #3 – Sectioning off the Silent Auction (i.e. Sports items in one section, jewelry in a section, trips in a section etc.) hurts the bidding of individual items in those sections.  All items should be intermingled in order to force your guests to review every single item there instead of splitting the crowd (ie. Sports fans go here, jewelry lovers go there, those interested in travel go there etc.)

Lesson #4 – When the event opens, the Silent Auction should be open.

Lesson #5 – The starting bids should not be high even if the items are of “No Risk” to your charity, here is the rule of thumb:

  1. Donated Items – the starting bid should be high enough to be worth it, but low enough to get the bidding started (BW Items should be started at 20% above the cost to non profit, Donated items should be 1/4 of the retail value.)
  2. High Starting Bids – if the starting bids are too high, the first time someone reviews the Silent Auction, the high starting bids will scare them away and they will not return to bid later. Plus they will tell other guests the same. Start the bids low to inspire bidding and start a bidding war.

Lesson #6 – When should the Silent Auction close?

  1. The answer to this “Age Old” question is based on many years of experience and investigation. Whether a charity follows our direction is up to them, however, here is the answer:
  • Whether a Silent Auction runs for 2 hours or 4 hours, the items are only going to receive the same amount of bids, despite the time it’s opened.
  • When people first arrive at your charity fundraising event, they do not go to the Silent Auction. When they do, they browse and rarely place a bid. They check out what’s, identify what they like and then sit back down.
  • A smart bidder will “Stalk” the items they like and wait to see if anyone bid. Uneducated bidders will immediately place bids.
  • A smart bidder will then ask the organizers when the Silent Auction is closing. When that time draws near, they will begin to “Snipe” the items, watching if there are any bids and placing higher competitive bids. They will stand near the item or items waiting for the Silent Auction to close and for other bidders.

Lesson #7 – How to inspire high bids on the Silent Auction:

  • When the allotted Silent Auction closing time draws near, around 20 to 15 minutes prior, someone should start announcing “The Silent Auction is closing in 15 minutes”…that is the ALARM CLOCK. At this point, you will see many of your guests going to the Silent Auction to begin the bidding process.
  • At 10 minutes, 5 minutes and 1 minute, announcements should be made alerting your crowd that it is closing.
  •  When the time comes to close it, announce it’s closed.

Lesson #8 – When to close the Silent Auction:

Ask yourself this, was your last Check Out process a “Mess”?  Do you think your guests noticed it?  Don’t you think that tells them something about the professionalism of your staff and ultimately your charity?

  • Whether you leave the Silent Auction running for 2 hours or 4, the items there are not going to get any more bids. The bidding starts in the first hour then ends abruptly a few minutes prior or exactly when the Silent Auction is closing.
  • We will commonly close the Silent Auction 15 to 20 minutes prior to the Live Auction for three (3) reasons:
    • It allows for our Clerk to tabulate the winning bids in preparation for the Bids in the Live Auction.

It forces full attention by your guests to be placed toward the next phase of the Fundraising Event which is normally one of the financially successful fundraising platforms, the Live Auction and if there is a Donation Plea commonly referred to as the “Fund a Need.”

  • It does not place any undo pressure on the clerk or anyone involved in the check out process, providing enough time to tabulate the Silent Auction, the Live Auction and the Direct Plea. With the bulk of the work already being completed with the Silent Auction.

NOTE:  Commonly, after the Live Auction, guests will begin to go to check out.   However, if you follow the advice provided herein, you will experience a fluid, stress free Check Out process at the end of your event.  Remember, allowing your guests to leave your event with a “Bad Taste” in their mouths due to a poorly ran out check out process, will ensure much less success with tickets sales the following year.  Remember, you still have Raffles & Game prizes to give away…it’s about time to complete everything so that your guests aren’t inconvenienced.

  1. How to close the Silent Auction:
  • Most important about this topic is that people are still bidding or watching the items they bid on. Commonly, active bidders are standing there near their items waiting for the bid sheet to be picked up to ensure their victory.
  • Prior to your event, one (1) person should be tasked with closing the Silent Auction and one (1) person (commonly the Master of Ceremonies or the Auctioneer) should make the announcements.
  • When the time is announced that the Silent Auction is closed, that appointed person should be noticed by the announcer and pointed out (Ask them to waive their hands so that everyone can see her/him).
  • The “Closer” should be standing at Silent Auction Bid sheet #1 then begin to walk down the Silent Auction picking up the bid sheets.
  • If there are 2 or more people actively bidding, the “Closer” should allow them to “Bid it out” in their bidding war. Once the last place is bid, the “Closer” should confirm it with both bidders then pick up the bid sheet and continue through the remaining bid sheets.

NOTE:    Since announcements are made (5 total at – 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute, Closed), everyone in the room was informed of the Silent Auction closing.  They also see your guests going to it to bid.  If, you do not allow everyone to place their last bids, you may have to deal with angry bidders – we commonly hear “I didn’t know it was closing, I wasn’t able to bid.”)  Rushing over to the Silent Auction and quickly removing the bid sheets will stop people in their tracks, especially if they have been waiting for the last few minutes to bid.  Inspire a bidding war, because in the end, you are hosting a Charity Fundraising event and high bids are vitally important to you.

By following the steps above, you will see a marked change in the success of your Silent Auction.  Give everyone a chance to get engaged into your Silent Auction.  Create excitement around it and you will be highly successful at the end.  Or not follow the steps above and continue to see the same result.

If you would like to learn more about how to plan, set up, manage and especially how to have a highly successful Silent Auction, contact BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising today at

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a North American Charity Fundraising Leader in a “One Stop Shop” convenient setting.  With over 40 years of combined expert fundraising experience, the expert fundraisers study highly successful fundraising trends across North America on a day to day basis.  This allows BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising the unique ability to provide expert advice to charities on the way and means to greatly enhance their fundraising goals.  If you would like to learn more about BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising or how to host a Highly Successful, Highly Profitable charity fundraising event, contact BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising today at


Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “When should the Silent Auction close and how do we close it?

  1. ljp

    May 20, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I recently attended a silent auction/fundraiser where the owners of the company who were hosting it kept upping the bids on all of the silent auction items. I came across an angry participant, and I thought it in poor taste. What do you think?

    • bwufundraising

      May 20, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      I have never heard of that and in my opinion, extremely unprofessional. I would have definitely complained. Did the Charity know about it?

      Check out our website at


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