A silent auction is a fundraising technique frequently used at charity events. It differs from the typical auction conducted by an auctioneer who calls out the prices for items and then takes the raised hands or paddles of people as bids at a certain price. It’s often a preferred means for raising money at charitable events because it does not detract from the entertainment provided at the event.
Usually, a silent auction is conducted by setting up tables or displays of items or services upon which people can bid. A minimum bid may be set, especially when the item is of high value. Paper is located near the item, which allows for people to write down their names and bids. This gives people a chance, during the event, to tour the different items available for auction and decide upon which items they would like to bid.
Often one sheet of paper shows all previous bids so that people participating in the silent auction know that they need to bid higher in order to get the item. They also have the opportunity to revisit bidding sheets before the auction is closed if they really want something being offered at the silent auction.
Alternately, the bids of others at a silent auction may be kept private. People may bid on small sheets of paper and deposit this in a holding receptacle. At the end of the auction, bids are calculated and the highest bidder wins the item, for whatever price he or she offered.
Similar types of silent auction are now offered on sites like eBay, where people bid for items and can usually see the bids of others. This is essentially a silent auction as well because no contact is made with the seller or the auctioneer until after bidding is finished. Like the silent auction conducted for a charity event, bidding time for items is usually a set period, but bidding time on sites like eBay can last for several days or even weeks. Most silent auction events last only so long as the charity event continues. So an “in person” silent auction could end in just a few hours.
There are advantages to both the silent auction and the regular auction. A silent auction conducted for a charity means the charity doesn’t have to pay a professional auctioneer. One drawback of a silent auction is that items may generate lower bids because people have more time to consider the purchase. A regular auction often takes advantage of the impulse buy, and a good auctioneer may spur people on to contribute more than they normally would for items. Knowing that others will be aware of what is being spent may also influence people to bid more at a regular auction as well as silent auctions with open-book bidding. Some charitable events offer both, to gain full benefit from both systems.