Silent Auctions aren’t always the most fun to plan – they take time, seem to require extensive resources, and can be intimidating at the get-go. However, if done right they have the potential to add thousands of dollars to the revenue of your fundraising event.
To start the silent auction process, identify retailers and businesses from which you’d like donations. Your event might have a specific theme making certain donations more appropriate than others. For example, if the theme of your event is athletic, you might want sports memorabilia or game tickets donated. But even if you have a theme, it’s nice to have some variety in your auction item selection because different people like different things.
Gift certificates to local spas, hair salons, or athletic facilities are usually a hit, as are hotel rooms, luxury or niche activity passes – golfing, rock climbing, sailing - or personalized experiences such as in-home dinners with accomplished chefs or local celebrities. Wine, art, and event tickets are also appropriate at auctions. Think about what’s popular in your area to see, eat, drink, or do and work from there.
Next draft a letter or personalized email addressed to the correct personnel at each specific business or organization. This correspondence should include a brief but detailed description of your cause, the goals of your fundraiser, the “when, what, and where” of your fundraising event, and what you would like donated. Be sure to close the letter with gratitude; often times a little “thank you” goes a long way.
If possible, have a representative from your organization take the letters to the businesses. This is a good task for volunteers and adds a personal touch to your request. To save time in person, find out in advance the name of the individual best suited to accept such requests and try to find out when they will be available. Also try to pick “down times” that won’t interrupt busy schedules or business productivity to make your visit.
You may get a donation on the spot, or they may ask you to return for the donation. Don’t get discouraged if they’re busy or deny the donation request, you won’t get one from every business you solicit.