How to Plan a Silent Auction

American Vegan Society decided to do a silent auction at our galas because it is a good way to have a fundraiser and showcase vegan products without detracting from the event with a lot of number calling. If doing a raffle, one would need to get gambling approval, pay fees to state/local authorities, if they are even allowed. A silent auction is not considered gambling (no wagers are placed, therefore no gambling fees) and is classy, so we chose that.

Draw up a letter requesting donated items/services from businesses (sample below). Be sure to put the vital information such as what and when the event is, what the proceeds go towards, and include 501(c)3 number for nonprofit organization. This letter can be hand-delivered to local businesses when you are out postering/flyering. Make a corresponding form (sample below) they can fill out. Offer a receipt (sample below) for items/services received, the value of which is a tax-deductible donation.
It is very important to feature an explanation of the event such as:
“Proceeds from the Silent Auction support AVS' public education programs about food choices for compassionate, health, and environmental reasons.”

Organizing and Publicizing Items
Make sure all donated items are vegan. Of course, you want to feature vegan products and vegan companies. It’s okay to use companies that are not completely vegan if you have a good reason, such as local supermarkets offer some vegan products which can be featured in a basket. Posters on their community bulletin board or window will welcome people who are curious about veganism to attend the event.
Doing a gala in an area with very few all-vegan local businesses, we used the gala as an educational tool in many ways as we interacted locally. Then we put a disclaimer on our donor list:
“Many of the companies listed are completely vegan. Please note that some of the local establishments are new to having vegan items. Encourage them to continue to serve the compassionate lifestyle. Grow the interest in veganism by requesting their vegan options. Every dollar spent is a vote for more of their vegan products. For the best vegan dining experience at the restaurants new to creating vegan meals, it may be necessary to call a day or two ahead.”
Ideas of what to acquire: baskets of nonperishable groceries, toiletries, clothing, books, art, kids’ stuff, kitchen stuff, autographed items, memorabilia, sports merchandise from local teams, product selections from vegan companies. Gift certificates for restaurants, events, movies, museums, concerts, and sporting events.
Donated items are good advertising for the donor. Acknowledge donors in the program, on the website, etc. It’s expected that items will usually sell at less than the retail price, allowing the gala patrons to leave happy with their bargain and the organization to accept payment as a donation. It’s a great educational tool because some gala attendees might not be familiar with vegan products.

Bidding Sheets
List the company and its contact info, description of product, retail price, and bidding lines. We use the standard 14-line bidding sheet where the starting bid is 20% (or more) of the retail price, each line the price goes up by 10% of retail price. Guaranteed purchase price is 150% of retail value. Sometimes we use fewer than 14 lines such as for gift certificates the bidding sheet should only go to full monetary value. (sample below)
Standardize prices to make it easy, such as we received a lot of items worth 28, 30, 31, or 33 dollars. You can just reuse the same $30 sheet for all of them. (14 lines, $6 starting bid, increments of $3, up to $45) For something worth a particular amount such as 1000, but “it can’t go for less than” $500, you might opt to make a bidding sheet with only 11 lines $500 to $1500 in increments of $100. Keep the math simple.

Directions for Set-Up
Some attendees may not have been to a silent auction. It is helpful to have directions (sample) posted as they enter. There should also be volunteers working as silent auction guides to answer questions about bidding or the products. The volunteers should expect to periodically have to straighten/refold/adjust the items on display.
Set out the items so they can be viewed easily, grouped where applicable. Choose a method that makes sense for your venue space. It might be good to diversify the arrangement such as have a gift bag of food products next to a group of books, next to a piece of fine art. Make an appealing and interesting assortment of heights and colors to attract people to each table. If items are too similar and could get confused, keep them separated. If it helps to be able to compare items, put them near each other, such as all the gift certificates to restaurants. Put the appropriate bidding sheets in front of the items or group of items. Be sure to bring enough pens, one for every sheet. Publicize the closing time for bids.
Plan ahead. Have deadlines, but expect last minute items. Take blank forms with you for the unexpected donations brought on the spot or if you find yourself missing one. Have a team working together that enjoys the process and can still be smiling behind the tables on gala night! Be sure to have enough people working the silent auction that they can do shifts and enjoy the event too.
Designate someone to accept payments by cash and checks, another person to process credit cards. (We use PayPal Here on a smartphone.) Expect most people to want to check out at the same time. Have someone available to help carry large items to people’s cars.


Since 1960 - American Vegan Society - 56 Dinshah Lane, P.O. Box 369, Malaga NJ 08328
Phone: 856-694-2887   Fax: 856-694-2288

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