Three Considerations Before Hosting a Silent Auction

Porter_auction considerations November 2, 2022 By: Jeff Porter

Auctions provide ways for associations to earn nondues revenue and create additional networking opportunities for members. A look at three ways for groups to get the most value and engagement from silent auctions.

Some of the main objectives when running an association are to drive user engagement, grow membership through recruitment and renewals, and boost nondues revenue sources. As an experienced association pro knows, hosting collaborative and engaging events can go a long way toward accomplishing these goals. 

One way to drive engagement and nondues revenue for your association is to host a silent auction at your next event.  Silent auctions give members and guests new ways to support the association and provide new opportunities for your members to engage. Here are three considerations to get the most value and engagement from your silent auction experience

1. Create Networking Opportunities

One reason people join associations is for networking opportunities, so incorporate these elements into your auction events to further engage your members and attendees. Here are three strategies that will boost your silent auction revenue, user engagement, and overall success of your event:

Strategically placed seating. For in-person auctions, use the data you have about your members to place them at tables where interests will align and conversation will flow. For example, members in the same industry, with similar interests, or from the same geographic area will have more to talk about. Or, seat donors together who have similar donation histories, such as major gifts, corporate sponsorship, and so forth.

Mobile bidding. Mobile bidding allows attendees to remain at their seats and enjoy conversation without the constant need or desire to leave the table and check on their bids in the auction area.

Look for auction software with instant push notifications, so supporters will immediately know when they’re being outbid without breaking conversations with others at their tables. This allows them to counter-bid quickly and get back to their conversation.  The benefit to you? More auction revenue!

Conversation starters. Just like any networking event, your organization can facilitate conversations among your supporters with conversation cards and icebreaker topics. This is even more essential if you are hosting your event virtually because the physical distance makes it more challenging for guests to connect with other guests. Use these conversation starters along with breakout rooms to encourage attendees to interact with one another. 

2. Procure Relevant Auction Items

Auction items are an essential engagement component for these events, so ensure the items you choose are relevant to your audience and your association. In addition to popular silent auction items like trips and sports tickets, you can auction off items like: 

  • Meet and greet or lunch with the association’s CEO, board chair, or the senior leader

  • A free annual membership

  • Free access to future networking events

These three suggestions don’t cost anything for your association to offer, but still provide great value for your association members. However, with these types of auction items, your auction manager needs to be careful to set the starting bids and bid increments appropriately. This will help drive bidding and reduce the risk of “no bid” items at the end of the event. 

3. Build Connections With Local Businesses

Build connections with local businesses both before and during the event itself to maximize the opportunities provided by these relationships for your auction. Consider reaching out to the hotel or resort where you’re hosting the event. Will they donate a free weekend or even a bar tab to a winning bidder? 

Cultivating these relationships can help you gain sponsorships and access to corporate philanthropy programs as well. Let’s dive deeper into these types of opportunities.

Sponsorships. These can come in many forms for your auction. You can secure financial sponsorships, in-kind donations of auction items, media and promotional sponsorships, and more. Reach out to your members with business connections as a starting point to gain access to these types of resources. Then, expand your outreach to develop new partnerships with other businesses whose mission aligns with your own. 

Corporate philanthropy programs. You can take donations, volunteer hours, and auction bidding further if your organization has connections to businesses with philanthropic intentions. For example, larger companies (where many of your members may already work) often offer philanthropy opportunities for their staff members, such as: 

  • Volunteer grants. Donations made by the company on behalf of their staff members volunteering their time for eligible organizations.

  • Matching gifts. Donations made to match the gifts that your members or donors already make to your association.

  • Organized volunteer activities. Some companies may set up volunteer days with your association, providing additional support and opportunities to get involved with your organization.


With simple planning and utilizing your current network to execute your plan, you’ll have great success hosting an auction at your next association event.

Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is CEO and founder of Handbid.