Silent auctions are fun and engaging ways to fund-raise at events. They benefit the fundraising organization by offering a relatively low-cost way for fundraising and the bidders by offering interesting auction items that could potentially be obtained at a bargain price.
Silent auctions held at museums or not for profit art galleries may offer a great way to score a deal on an artwork, sculpture, or any other item on display that may entice you to make a bid.
It is important to always remember that the goal of the silent auction is to raise funds for the specific cause that the organization is involved with. So should you be the winning bidder, you know that your money will go towards the organization’s cause plus now you hold something that is of some value to you (assuming that you bid on it because it enticed you in some way).
Typically, the final bid on any item ends up being somewhere between 50% and 70% of the market value of the winning item. Of course, the organization has received this item either in-kind or at cost value from the donating sponsor. The opening bid price, if there is one posted, is what the organization aspires to receive for that item in order to cover the cost of the item plus some extra towards the fundraising goal.
If your intention to bid at a silent auction is mostly for fun and in support of the cause of the organization, there are two critical assumptions to be made about your bidding behavior for which the five secrets revealed below will benefit the most.
First, you are open to bidding on majority of the auction items on display. In other words, you are not a motivated purchaser is set on bidding on one specific item.
Second, while not your primary motivation for bidding, you wouldn’t mind scoring a bargain on your successful bid.
And now, the 5 secrets on bidding successfully at silent auctions revealed:
1. Do your research on fair market value
Most items on display at silent auctions at any given event is typically donated or provided at cost by a participating sponsor. All you have to do is review your event invitation or visit the hosting organization’s website to review the list of sponsors. There is a good chance that if the sponsor is a retailer of some sort, one or more of their items will be on display at the auction. Just visit the sponsor’s store (or online portal if available) and browse through their items for sale. The goal is to get a general overview of the items for sale by the retailer and the typical retail price. Thus, if you end up finding a similar item on display at the auction by the sponsoring retailer (usually the name is mentioned at the display), you will have a general idea of its fair market value.
This process may not work so easily in the case of artwork unless you are an art connoisseur since the value of artwork is very subjective and may fluctuate based on varying factors. However, a general rule of thumb is to expect the bid price to rise to a few hundred dollars at a minimum. A good way to educate oneself on artwork is by visiting local museums and galleries and speaking with the curators or gallery owners about the collection.
2. Bid early
Bidding early works to your advantage if there is no minimum or opening bid price. You can put a number that you think is reasonable such that is not so low that it does little to help the fundraising cause and yet no higher than 50% of your perceived market value of the item you are bidding on. The cognitive dissonance of “Anchoring”, where any number assigned to an unknown item will be set as a base number by subsequent viewers will work to your advantage. Typically, subsequent bids are in increments of $20 to $50. Therefore, over the evening, you can be assured that subsequent bids are unlikely to put the item’s price over its market value, as long as the item is not one of the popular items being bid on (Hint: Gift baskets of any kind tend to be the most popular items at the auctions).
3. Bid late
In order to bid late you must first bid early. That is, you must be the opening bidder on a few items. Then grab a drink and mingle and just enjoy the rest of the evening. But remain cognizant of bid closing times. This will usually be posted at the display item or will be announced in some fashion to the attendees. A few minutes prior to bid close time, go through the auction items to review the last bids on them. For those items where you think the last bid is less than your perceived market value or retail price of the item and it is one that you wish to acquire, place your final bid at a price that is at least $20 over the last bid price. This last tactic is critical, since if you place a bid that is marginally more than the last bid price (say by $5 more), there is a good chance that a subsequent bidder will do the same and outbid you just before closing time.
4. Don’t drink and bid
This tip is not intended to suggest not indulging in any drinking at the event. Fundraisers are designed to be fun social events so have a good time. As any social setting calls for responsible drinking, this tip is rather intended to remind you to not bid while being inebriated. The mantra to silent auction bidding success is HAVE FUN. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. BID WELL.
5. Chat up others who are eyeing the bid item
If you are totally clueless about the fair market value on the auction item that fancies your interest, just wait for others to walk up to your auction item. Chat them up on their opinion on the item including what their perceived market value is for it. Try it with a few guests so you can get a ballpark range of what others perceive the fair market value of this item. Remember, fair market value is not always retail value but rather whatever price that a willing and informed purchaser is willing to make at a given time. Using this ballpark range, you can then apply the preceding tips in placing your first bid or closing bid.