Learn How to Host a Successful SILENT AUCTIONCourtesy of Florida State University Best Buddies

Well, the holidays are over and it is time to get back in action with fundraising for your Best Buddies chapter!  Leadership Conference 2014 is around the corner so here is another fantastic idea for a fundraiser.

This latest fundraising idea comes to us from sunny Florida from our friends at Florida State University! President, Rachel Smith, shares with us something that she and her chapter puts on to raise money for their chapter. FSU’s Best Buddies chapter has been successful year after year so this month, we are highlighting their Silent Auction Fundraiser, as well as the steps you can take to put on the same event!

Thank you so much FSU, keep up the great work!

10 Steps to a Silent Auction

  1. Plan accordingly and give yourself adequate time.

To have a successful silent auction you will want to plan at least two months in advance. A large part of the preparation for a silent auction is requesting donations, so you need to give the businesses advanced notice to donate items. If you are looking to have bigger ticket items such as theme park tickets you should start collecting donations up to six months in advance. Don’t be intimidated by this, planning ahead will help relieve the stress!

  1. Select an event or venue to hold the silent auction.

Our chapter holds silent auctions at all types of events. We have had one at our end of year gala, a charity dinner at a restaurant, and even at our talent show. You do not have to limit yourself to these ideas. The key to success is choosing an event or venue that will have a large number of adults and/or families of chapter members attending. For example, you could have it at your parent night that starts off the semester or in the front office of your school. The ideas are limitless!

  1. Create a letter requesting donations.

Include three paragraphs in this letter; what Best Buddies is, why you need them to donate, and your request including an incentive. Be sure to include that Best Buddies is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, contact information, when the silent auction is, and concrete examples of what the money is used for. It is important to provide an incentive of advertisement for the businesses that donate. Set a value that if they surpass in donation they will receive a free advertisement. You could put a banner on the wall at the event, place their name on a table, or print their logo on the flier for the event.  All these things are cheap ways to reward the people who support you!

  1. Compile a list of thirty venues to drop the letter off at.

This list can include a vast array of different places. In the past we have asked for donations from local restaurants, boutiques, salons, spas, sporting stores, Target, golf courses, bike shops, cafes, etc. Try to keep these factors in mind when choosing; locally owned businesses usually have a simpler process of donating and brainstorm your connections, people you know are more likely to donate. It also helps to start backwards and think of what kind of items would make for a nice basket and then consider where these are sold. This is the time to get creative!

  1. Delegate and deliver in person to selected businesses.

Planning for a fundraiser is a team effort so divide and concur. An ideal number to help out would be four to six people. If you have a total of six people helping then each person only has five places to visit. Here are some tips to success; dress professionally it shows credibility, come prepared with both your state tax exempt form and the federal tax exempt form to give with each letter, and last call ahead before you drop it off to make sure the manager is there. This should be fun; there is no reason it has to feel like “work”. I suggest bringing your buddy and making it a day to hangout!

  1. Follow up with a phone call to each business.

This step is crucial to receiving your donations timely. Sometimes we have experienced that businesses genuinely want to donate but forget that they received the letter due to their hectic schedules. This is a courtesy call that should be made within 10 days off dropping off the letter.  You are simply following up and asking if they have any additional questions. Use this call to arrange a time to pick up your items/monetary donations if possible. I suggest at least getting the items a week, and if possible two weeks before the event. This allows you plenty of time!

  1. Preparing the items for the auction.

Once you received all the items the next step is deciding how to present them. When we have received gift certificates or tickets we usually make a nice paper sign that explains what the item is. For other items you may want to bundle them in a basket with a bow. You can get these supplies at a discount store. Depending on the business, some of them will come pre-packaged to be displayed. Once you have figured out the list of items being auctioned you will need to make a bidding sheet for each item. This sheet will contain the title/name of the item, value price, the starting bid, and blank space below for people to write their bid and their name.  You do not need to spend a lot of money on preparation!

  1. The final steps to success.

Do not forget to advertise for the silent auction and include the advertisement that you promised to your businesses that donated.  Put up fliers, include it in emails, call your members parents, text people, say something on the morning announcements, and post it on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. You want people to come expecting to bid for your items. It is important to be prepared with everything completed and organized the day before the event. Make sure all the baskets and items are prepared and have their bidding sheet with them. The last item that needs to be made is a sheet of paper that can be handed out to anyone interested in bidding or who attends your event. This sheet will contain each individual item auctioned, their value, and their starting price. The details matter!

  1.  The day has come to show your hard work.

Until now the steps were the same for every type of event. This is where they differentiate. For events that are limited in length you will want to announce the start of bidding at the beginning of the event and give a final call for bids fifteen minutes before you plan on announcing the winners.  For extended events that span multiple days or if you are placing it in a venue such as the school office make a note on all bidding sheets that the auction will end at a specific date and time. Just one step left!

  1. Last but not least, thank you cards.

This step is by far is one of the utmost important to the success of future silent auctions you will put on. By sending a thank you card to each business that donated and any volunteers that helped you show you are appreciative, which will build a relationship with that business or person. People remember simple gestures like this. These supporters you worked hard to find are now businesses and people you can count on next year when you do it again and the year after that too. My last word of advice is keep all the lists, letters, sheets, fliers, and everything you have made in a binder. It will be worth it in the near future!

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