Procurement for a Silent Auction with City Fruit
Written by Vera-Camille Ingressa, Fundraising and Development VISTA.
Running a silent auction is a great way to raise funds for an organization. Though similar to a regular auction, this option reserves a nice set of possibilities that are less simple to pull off live. Silent auctions can be hosted easily online, offering many items and lots of information at once, over longer periods of time. A virtual fundraiser a few clicks away, open around the clock for a week, can be pretty convenient to visit!
Silent auctions can even be hosted during events. At City Fruit’s annual fundraiser, Celebrates, the silent auction ran alongside the cider-tasting hour. In a setting where team members are already talking with constituents, this fundraising is gamified, as people and staff mingle over the items, and folks compete for winning bids. So, what do you need and how do you do it, if hiring a fast-announcing auctioneer is not in the plan?
These auctions can be hosted on paper, online, or with elements of both. A paper silent auction, the method that most will be familiar with, lists all items with their associated information physically, with bidders bidding on a corresponding paper sheet. An online silent auction hosts the items, individually or arranged together in packages, with their pictures, donors, and descriptions, on a website. Bidding, bidder, and payment information are also kept here. The two can also be combined together to best serve an event.
When planning, it’s important to be clear about how and where it will be run, so that everything goes smoothly on auction day. The auction method chosen can shape procurement strategy; if an organization is hosting a local event with an in-person, paper auction, it’s easier to offer large, in-kind items or more elaborate services. If the occasion for an auction has a strong online component, or if the event seeks to bring together constituents distributed over a large area, sticking to mailable gift cards, certificates, and tickets may be more convenient.
Looking for Items
How can there be an auction without items? Items, or in-kind donations/contributions, are central to a good auction. Though time-consuming, with well-laid out information about one’s organization, procuring in-kind contributions is a simple process. Find the potential donor, then use their posted contact information or form to submit a request for a specific item. Generally, donors want information on the fundraiser and organization. Questions about the event’s reach and demographics, who your organization is, what it does, and how its activities are related to their stated goals are common.
What items best fit the event and its attendees? City Fruit is a local organization that does work outdoors, focused on food justice and the fruit trees that make up Seattle’s urban canopy. From past experience, their constituents are interested in broadly similar things: they like activities, food, events, and outdoor excursions happening around Seattle. Also, because they’re City Fruit constituents, they are interested in City Fruit. This knowledge helped to focus procurement strategy.
City Fruit tried to acquire and package a variety of items in line with the mentioned interests. They procured tickets to baseball and football games, tickets to local museums and shows, gift cards for climbing and outdoor gear, and gift cards, tastings, and meals at local restaurants and wineries. Their constituents, with intersecting focuses on urban apples and local beverages, happen to particularly like hard cider. So, several of the event’s packages included cider, and City Fruit partnered with local cideries to pour while the auction ran. Folks who follow City Fruit are interested in the organization’s work, so packages that included services City Fruit provides were added: a free two hour tree care appointment, a cider press rental, and the use of a harvest vehicle, for example.