Auctions

20 Best Silent Auction Ideas: Complete List of Items

Silent auctions are a common fundraising event for all types of nonprofit organizations. Successful silent auctions can be held either virtually or in person. One of the great things about silent auctions is that they put very little pressure on the participants, while quietly raising the bottom line for your fundraising event. In this article, we will explore some of the best silent auction items – giving both in-person and virtual silent auction ideas. 

To have a successful silent auction, you will need the perfect set of items that will wow your guests. As a good rule of thumb, the average item at a silent auction will sell for 50-65% of its fair market value. Here are 20 of the best silent auction items that sell.

Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are a broad category of silent auction ideas, but the best gift baskets tend to:

silent auction basket ideas
  • Touch on your supporters’ interests. If you’re able to successfully tap into the things that interest your supporters, you will see a drastic increase in bids.
  • Fit comfortably in your average supporters’ budget. Big-ticket items are great, but they will have a limited audience. Keep the average budget of a supporter in mind when putting together baskets.
  • Offer a creative combination. Rare, unique, or personalized items will get the most attention. A run-of-the-mill basket full of things someone could find easily at the store will attract fewer bidders.

You can create theme basket ideas for silent auction attendees in all kinds of genres. Travel, tours, baby, food, wine, beer, friendship, neighbors, etc. all make great theme basket ideas for silent auctions.

Experiences and Travel Packages

When considering experiences and travel packages, the best silent auction items brainstorm around their supporters’ interests. What are your donors’ favorite restaurants to support? Do they have common hobbies or experiences that interest them? What sized budget do they usually set aside for travel and experiences? For example, young couples will have a different set of interests and average budget than retirees.

Here are some in-person and virtual auction ideas for experiences and travel packages:

Resorts and luxury hotel stays

silent auction ideas

If your supporters are the luxury experience type of people, look to put together more luxury packages for your auction. 

These packages can include flights, luxury hotel stays, a cruise, excursions, meals, on-site events like massages or a yoga class, etc.

Wine tasting

Another one of our favorite unique silent auction ideas is a local wine tasting package. Everyone loves an excuse to go wine tasting and your cause is no exception. Offer a wine-tasting package for an indulgent and tantalizing virtual auction idea.

Sky miles or airline tickets

If your donors are more spontaneous like the young couple demographic, for example, you can offer travel without the commitment. By offering universal airline tickets or sky miles, donors will be excited to bid on an adventure.

Ski passes

If there is a nearby mountain resort, ski passes may be one of the most perfect baskets ideas for silent auctions.

It combines several categories of silent auction gift ideas by offering adventure, sports, and travel.

Sports

Some of the best silent auction items are in the sports category. Signed memorabilia, exclusive tickets, and unique activities make for great silent auction items.

Exclusive tickets

The great thing about exclusive tickets is that they have a built-in uniqueness or rarity that makes them exciting to bid on. If there is a local professional or collegiate sports team your donors would likely be interested in, exclusive tickets can make a perfect set of theme basket gifts.

Signed memorabilia

Signed memorabilia is one of the best silent auction items. Similar to exclusive tickets, signed memorabilia has a built-in uniqueness and rarity that will make it an item sure to sell. 

Activities

Other sporting experiences and activities may include Super Bowl party packages, private lessons from a pro golfer or yoga teacher, camping equipment bundles, etc. 

Activities make exciting virtual auction items and the sky’s the limit for your creativity when bundling a gift package.

Culinary Experiences and Activities

Culinary experiences and activities are another category of in-person and virtual silent auction items that are sure to sell. Here are a couple of ideas:

Wine and dine

A wine and food pairing outing with a local chef is an exciting date night in a basket. If your audience includes couples, a wine and dine kit is sure to impress.

Cooking lessons

Everyone loves learning to cook excellent food from a professional. A cooking lesson with an Italian chef to learn how to cook pasta or gnocchi, or a cooking lesson with a French baker to learn the proper kneading techniques are examples of how to make cooking lessons an exciting prospect. Cooking lessons are an excellent item to include in your silent auction basket.

Family Activities

Another category of silent auction gift basket ideas is family activities. This is where knowing your audience will come in handy. Retirees, for example, will be more excited by excursions and wine tastings than family activities, but young couples, on the other hand, might be eager to bid on them. Here are some ideas sure to impress:

Family photoshoots

In the age of social media, everyone seems to need a photographer all the time. A silent auction item that could motivate a bidding war from donors is a family photoshoot.

Child care services

Another virtual auction idea sure to be popular with young parents is a day off from parenting. Child care services can make an exciting bid item.

Community Spotlight

If your organization is ingrained in the local community, offering relevant community gifts is sure to be in the interests of your donors. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Dinner with the Mayor

Dinner with the mayor is an exciting experience that is sure to impress your guests at your in-person or virtual silent auction. In general, experiential items experience higher bids and outperform tangible items. Connecting your donors with unique experiences (like dinner with the mayor) is sure to impress.

Reserved parking

Everyone loves the bragging rights that come with reserved parking at a frequented destination. This is an asset with no material value but lots of intrinsic value, so a reserved parking silent auction basket may surprise you with how well it can perform.

Reserved seating at a special event

Similar to reserved parking, reserved seating for a popular or special event in the community will create an exciting prospect in your donors’ minds. See if you can arrange for a reserved seat package at the year’s most exciting local event.

Technology

With people are always looking for the next big thing in technology, this category of gift ideas are always a hit.

Game consoles

A hard-to-get game console or game console bundle that includes a few popular games or an extra controller will be a hard basket to pass up for the right audience.

Mobile devices

Every year, our mobile devices become outdated. While many of us avoid the annual upgrade for practical reasons, the latest iPhone, for example, paired with the idea of supporting a good cause, may offer a perfect excuse for someone to upgrade early. 

Appliances

Exciting appliances like a Dyson vacuum or KitchenAid mixer make some of the best virtual silent auction ideas. When putting together baskets ideas for silent auctions, an appliance paired with a relevant cookbook, ingredients, or accessories can make great silent auction items that sell.

Silent Auction Ideas for Schools

If you’re planning a silent auction to fundraise for an educational institute, here are a few creative ideas:

  • Naming rights. If you’re building a new building, installing a bench, or developing a playground at your school, you can auction off the naming rights for this new development. Donors love to make a permanent mark on their community and this is an incredible opportunity to offer that to someone.
  • Ribbon-cutting rights. Similarly, if you’re breaking ground on a new development, opening a new building, or putting in a new memorial or statue, you can offer your donors and bidders the chance to cut the ribbon.
  • Reserved parking spot. That reserve parking spot we mentioned above for local community events would make an excellent prize for a school’s silent auction as well.

How to Get Silent Auction Donations

In order to accept donations and put together a virtual silent auction, here are a few pointers:

  • Form a committee tasked with outreach that includes members who are well-connected in the community, organized, have a lot of spare time to donate, and who have the guts to ask for donations.
  • Identify the types of items and experiences that will excite your donors specifically. Your donations ideally need to align with your donors’ interests and budget range.
  • Create a wish list. It’s easier to ask for donations when you know what you’re looking for. Gather ideas by looking at your local restaurants, entertainment venues, sports teams, recreational activities, resorts, etc.
  • Write enticing request letters. Writing donation request letters will be key to your success with actually securing those items. You can include a donation form in the letter so that the recipient can donate money if preferred.

Final Thoughts

We hope you found some unique silent auction ideas to make your in-person or virtual silent auction a success. Starting an online auction or putting a successful fundraiser together can be a daunting task, but hopefully the ideas discussed in this article give you a few ideas for getting started.

The best virtual auction ideas offer a range of prices, give a good mix of tangible and intangible items, and play to the interests of your donors. When putting together silent auction gift basket ideas, remember that the sky’s the limit—there are thousands of theme basket ideas for silent auctions that will create excitement, potential bidding wars, and a successful event for you.

To make your auction or fundraising event even easier, check out paysley’s auction software. Set up live or silent auctions in an instant, connect them to your social media, and accept mobile bidding. Paysley’s online auction app lets you host anytime, anywhere.