Enjoy this series on determining the best number of auction items for your event.
- This post, on how many silent auction items are best.
- How many live auction items are ideal.
- How many online auction items are good.
- The influence of mobile bidding on terminology
On February 7, my company is working multiple school auctions. That means that last week I was visiting with several of them about which items should be live auction and which should be silent. Here are some tips for you.
(Back in 2009 I wrote a post about how many live auction items you should sell. Technology has changed, so I’m revising slightly.)
What’s the best number of auction items for my silent auction?
In a silent auction, the long-used metric has been to offer one item for every two “bidding units.”
What’s a bidding unit?
A buyer. The payer of the item. Let’s say that Julie and Dan Smith — a married couple — attend your event. They will be bidding as one entity; they aren’t competing against each other in the auction. They are on the same team. Consequently, they — together — are considered a ‘bidding unit.’
In contrast, I work an auction whereby everyone who attends is single. A “bidding unit” at that auction is one guest.
If your event attracts individuals (e.g. golf tournament auction, a bachelor / bachelorette auction), your best number of silent auction items is determined in this way:
- Number of guests / 2 = your best number of auction items for silent
If your event attracts couples (e.g. sit-down dinner galas, school auctions), determine your ideal number in this way:
- Number of guests / 2 = Number of bidding units.
- Number of bidding units / 2 = your best number of auction items for silent
(In this post I’m using the term “auction item” as equivalent to “auction package” — or what some annoyingly call a “prize.” To use more accurate benefit auction grammar, I should refer to these as auction packages — not auction items –as multiple items might be grouped into a singular package.)
Auctions are based on the economic Principle of Scarcity, and one item per two bidding units creates scarcity. Ignore this principle and you’ll find that you can procure more and more items, and raise the same or less money than if you had fewer items.
Not what a busy Auction Chair wants to hear, right?
I had a school client a few years ago reduce their silent auction by 100 items and raise the same amount (or was it a bit more?). Less work … same money.
My friends and I run a golf tournament for women veterans every year called Salute To Service Women and we include a silent auction. I’d love to get your “Silent Auction Success” program but can’t seem to find it in on your website.
BTW, loved the idea of a Super Silent Auction for those hard to sell items!
Sherry Truhlar says
I haven’t yet released the “Silent Auction Success” program (I will later in 2018), though I’m wondering if you might be reading the reference to the “Silent Auction Marketing Savvy” program mentioned in the other comment on this blog, and perhaps confusing the two. The “Silent Auction Marketing Savvy” program was discontinued; I sold out the product line in late 2017. But as mentioned, I’ll release “Silent Auction Success” later.
Your best option for keeping up-to-date with class releases is to read my newsletter. That’s where I announce classes. (And, of course, I post them on my website. But checking the website every week could be monotonous. LOL)
OK — update. I see you’re looking at it in the blog. It’s not worth explaining all the details online, but “Silent Auction Success” will replace the older product I retired. We updated images during the new website launch, and so that’s what you’re seeing. The advice still holds — just read the newsletter to keep up to date. The blog has a gazillion articles and as time marches on, some images disappear, links break, etc. It can make things confusing.
Sherry Truhlar says
I got an email from Kathie in the D.C. area pointing out a mistake in my blog. I’ve corrected the mistake but wanted to share my response to her in this comment. She was sharing with me that this year she’ll be reducing auction items. Here’s what I wrote:
The scarcity element absolutely works, but I’m not going to kid you — when I’m working with my clients, this isn’t the only change we make to get these returns. Other elements must be implemented in order to support strong ROI. But as this is a blog post, I convey information in 400-800 words.
In contrast, my entire silent auction training is nearly 3 hours, once the video tutorials are factored in. Go to Silent Auction Marketing Savvy. That’s where I teach the whole shebang — changes to make in item count, items, displays, bid sheets, and closings. The scarcity factor is one piece to the puzzle, but it’s a bite-sized appetizer before a large meal.