Silent auctions are a common form of fundraising that work for all types of nonprofits.
There are several benefits to holding a silent auction fundraiser. Unlike live auctions, silent auctions put little pressure on donors and appeal to their desire to get something for their gift. This event also helps expand your donor base and reach out to smaller donors who want to give but cannot donate large amounts.
In this article, we list 30 different silent auction ideas to help you raise more money.
Why have a silent auction?
Silent auctions can be added to any type of event, in-person or online. These events appeal to your own donor base and people new to your organization.
Most of your silent auction attendees are not major donors, so including various options and prices is best when planning your auction table. Finding items and activities that appeal to sports fans, music lovers, adventurers, and couch-potatoes is the way to raise the most money.
Best Silent Auction Item Ideas
The best silent auction items are unique. People bid on things they cannot get anywhere else. Items that follow a theme and open their world to an exciting new adventure will grab your donors’ attention and get them to bid.
Read to learn more about 30 silent auction ideas of different categories that you must adopt or take inspiration from, for your next fundraiser!
Your Nonprofit’s Mission
In addition to raising funds, silent auctions can be a fun and creative way to promote your organization’s mission. Use your mission to create a story and add an item that excites your donors and educates them about the work of your organization.
1. Mission-related activities
If you are an organization that wants to save the whales, include a whale watching trip. If you run a theater, you can include tickets to a show and a tour backstage to see how the theater works.
Time on the front lines is another popular auction item. If your organization does work outside the community, include a flight and hotel along with the chance to make a difference with your nonprofit.
Travel and Experiences
Unique trips and experiences give your donors a glimpse of their dream world. With a little creativity, you can find items that draw people to the table and will not let them go without making a bid.
2. Luxury hotel and resort stays
Hotel and resort stays are an excellent idea for parents who need a break from their kids or need somewhere to bring their families for a vacation. Adding this to your silent auction list can appeal to couples and families.
3. Hot air balloon ride
Hot air balloon rides are one of those things people say they want to experience but do not know where to start. By adding this adventure to your silent auction, you make it easy for your donors to fulfill their dream.
4. Vineyard tour and wine tasting
Vineyard tours and wine tastings are some of the most popular items on a silent auction list. Wine lovers cannot get enough of their favorite brand and will jump at the opportunity to tour the fields and watch the wine get made.
5. Mountain passes with ski and snowboarding lessons
Some people are always looking for places to enjoy winter weather. If your organization is lucky enough to be located near a ski resort, offer a mountain pass and ski or snowboarding lessons for these snow lovers.
Events and items that promote companies and services available in your community can raise funds and start community partnerships with other organizations in your area. Here are a few ideas of community items that can bring in bids at your nonprofit’s silent auction:
6. Dinner cooked and served by the mayor
A chance to converse with the mayor and have them cook for you? Now, this is a way to feel special. Add this to your silent auction list and watch the bids come in.
7. 20 hours of landscaping or monthly gifts from a local florist
Companies are always looking for ways to advertise. Many will be willing to donate their services to your organization in exchange for their name in your program. If you can find a landscaping business or florist willing to donate, a silent auction item of their services can be very popular.
Event attendees love to see high-end items that will make them the envy of their friends. Include a few unique pieces and watch the response.
8. Designer bags
You cannot go wrong with a bag by a well-known designer. Women love to catch a deal on these items, and auctions let them feel generous and trendy.
9. Custom Jewelry
Jewelry is another item that can bring in larger donations. Jewelry that is designed for your event or has name recognition can excite your donors.
Dinner and Drinks
Dinners and drinks are the easiest donations your organization can find. Restaurants are generally willing to donate gift certificates for meals to nonprofits organizations in return for advertising at an event. While finding these items is easy, you will want to get businesses to donate unique items to appeal to your donors.
10. Five-course meal at a top restaurant
Dining out is common but dining at a fancy restaurant that offers five-course meals is not. Adding this dream date to your silent auction list is sure to encourage donations.
11. Cooking lessons from a local chef
Some people would rather cook at home than dine out. Many of these donors would jump at the opportunity to learn to cook from a professional. Do you have a local chef that stands out in the community or one that has won a few awards? Get them to donate a meal for your donors.
12. Pig roast at your home
Pig roasts are a unique way to feed a party. Donors that want to impress their friends can bid on this item and make a memorable evening.
Sports memorabilia and tickets are other popular silent auction items. While more women purchase items at silent auctions, men are quick to bid when an item catches their eye.
13. Signed memorabilia
Most sports fans would love to win their hero’s signature to show off to their friends. Sports memorabilia is extremely popular during silent auctions and surprisingly easy to get. Just contact your local sports team and for a donation, and you may be lucky enough to get a few signed balls or pictures to put up for auction.
14. Game tickets
Tickets are another silent auction winner with sports fans. You may have supporters who are season ticket holders. You can ask these followers if they would be willing to donate a few tickets to the auction. You can also go directly to the source for a ticket donation. Generally, you will get better seats from your supporters.
15. Golf foursomes at private clubs
Many donors are avid golfers. For these donors, a foursome at a local and exclusive golf club is very appealing. Depending on the club, these can quickly bring in a few hundred dollars each.
Moms are always looking for things to do with their families. When planning your silent auction, you may want to focus on this desire. Look for items and events that families can do together. Remember to find silent auction items that are a little different.
16. Family photoshoots or paintings by a local artist
A beautiful family photo or painting is a beautiful addition to any home. People will donate quite a lot for an opportunity to get their pictures done by a high-quality artist. By promoting the artist’s work along with the cost to get it done on their own, this can be another way to bring in the bids.
17. Group paintball outing
Families are always looking for something to do, especially if they have kids. Paintball is a fun, and exciting activity families of all sizes can enjoy.
18. Party bounce house for a child’s birthday party
Do you want to make a kid smile? Give them a bounce house for their birthday, and they will be the envy of all their friends. This fun and unique idea are bound to get a few bids.
Music and Entertainment
People are passionate about their favorite musicians and will not miss the chance to get their idol’s signature or tickets to see them live. If you cannot get access to popular concerts, dance lessons or makeovers are other popular items.
19. Concert or stage show tickets
Is your organization in or near a big city? Concert or stage show tours travel the country regularly. Tickets to these shows are easy to find and can be attractive for couples or families.
20. Makeover with a local stylist
An item like this one will draw the attention of every woman at your event. Ask your board members or volunteers if they know any local stylists willing to donate their time. Create a package that includes a makeover along with gift certificates to a salon, and you will have an item to fight for.
21. Ballroom dancing lessons
Do you have a few attendees who are not drawn to the auction table by anything? Ballroom dance class is an attractive way to attract all closet the dancers. Granting the dream of being able to dance is one way to draw out those wallflowers.
Seasonal and Holiday Experiences
Many nonprofit events take place around a major holiday. Your organization can take advantage of this coincidence by including memorable holiday and seasonal experiences in your silent auction.
22. Santa or Easter Bunny visit your home or work
Your event attendees have work parties or family parties that can feel dull after the food is gone. Give them the chance to liven up the party with a visit from Santa or the Easter Bunny. With a willing volunteer and a donation from a costume shop, this can be an easy item to add to your auction.
23. Traditional Holiday Dinner (St. Patrick’s Day, Ramadan, Passover)
More people are interested in learning about other cultures, and food is one of the best ways to start that introduction. Include a St. Patrick’s Day, Ramadan, or Passover dinner with full decorations to your donors and watch them imagine the new adventure their about to undertake.
24. Limo ride to see Christmas lights
Driving around to look at the lights during the holidays is a Christmas tradition for many. Give a family or couple the chance to experience the lights from a limousine and make it even more of a memory.
Popular Silent Auction Gift Basket Ideas
Admit it. You have received in-kind donations to your organization, and you do not know what to do with them. This is where a little creativity comes in handy.
Gift baskets are an opportunity to use those in-kind donations. You can create themed baskets to use these items and build a beautiful dream world for your donors. Instead of hiding those gloves and socks in a closet, you can add them to a winter-themed basket.
25. Foodie’s Delight
Food is a way to bring everyone together. Besides gift certificates to local restaurants or grocery stores, you can include a few small chef necessities, spices, and other epicurean delights to this basket.
26. Baby Gift Basket
At least one of your event guests will know someone who has or is expecting a new baby. Baby gift baskets can include diapers and wipes, clothes, rattles, pacifiers, and a few special touches.
27. Man Crate
Men do not usually find a basket targeted towards them, so they pay attention when they do. Draw them in with some fine cigars and liquor, a poker game set, and a local golf club certificate.
28. Beer or Wine Sampler
This beer or wine mix can be an easy addition to your gift basket selection and is sure to sell at a good price.
29. Spa Basket
Do you receive a gift certificate to a spa that needs to go with something to get a good bid? Why not pair it with some comfy slippers, a robe, and a few bathroom beauty essentials?
30. Garden in a box
Those who love the garden are always looking for more tools. Create a basket in a gardening pot that includes a variety of gardening tools, seeds, and succulents.
Silent auctions can be a successful addition to your organization’s annual event. Your nonprofit can use this opportunity to raise funds, reach out to more donors, and spread your mission. By including items and activities in various areas of interest and creating a dream world your donors want, you can raise thousands of dollars.
As more nonprofit events get canceled, online silent auctions are growing in popularity and giving nonprofits the chance to raise funds in different ways.
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