2021: What Works Better- Live Auction, Silent Auction or Raffle?
Raffle vs. Silent Auction vs. Live Auction
When is it best to do a raffle or a silent auction or a live auction? While all of these options have their advantages, if you consider your audience, auction items and venue, you can find the best fit for your event. Typically, a silent auction is best for groups of 100 or more, with items priced $500 or below, and when there are many items to bid on. A live auction is best for groups of 100 or more, when the dollar value of the item(s) is high (over $500) and there are just a few items to bid on. A raffle is best when you have a smaller group (less than 100 people) and just a few items to bid on. Take a look at our FAQs below for more details on each option, as well as our BEST BET, the combination of all three, at the end of this blog.
Silent Auctions FAQs
What items sell best at silent auctions?
Silent auctions are ideal for low to mid-priced items ($500 or less), where the organization has a large quantity of items to sell and a large group of guests attending (over 100 people). If there are multiple components to a prize (like a gift basket) and the items need to be examined up close, a silent auction is great because the items can be on display for guests throughout the evening. Here are some examples of items that sell best at silent auctions:
- Themed gift baskets- spa, food & wine, sports or art-themed baskets.
- Restaurant gift certificates- coffee shops, local burger or taco places, date-night restaurants
- Personal services- spa, lash studio, nail salon, kids haircuts
- Cooking classes- Sur La Table, Cozymeal, or local chef
- Group fitness classes- yoga, barre, pilates, zumba, or body pump
- Kids activities- martial arts, music class, or tumbling
- Tickets to sporting events, concerts or other live events
When considering a silent auction vs. raffle, keep in mind that silent auction items typically sell for about 50% of their stated value. This is important to understand in your fundraising goals.
How to Run a Silent Auction in 2020- Use new technology!
Silent auctions are a good option if the auction is being held as part of another event – an annual dinner or the like. In these situations, a silent auction can be conducted in a side room or in a corner of the event space. In the past and even still some today, organizers would set up items on tables throughout the space, with paper bidding sheets in front of each item. This has historically worked fine, with bidders circling the room and checking on their items to see if they have been outbid.
However, there are now a variety of technology applications to take bidding online and put it in the hands of the guests via their smartphones. Advantages to this sort of online bidding system are significant. First, the bidding can start long before the event. Organizers can open the bidding the week of the event, allowing guests to view and bid early. Additionally, people who want to support the organization, but can’t be physically present at the event, can bid electronically from their phones. Bidding can also continue throughout the event, without a guest getting up from their dinner to go check the bid sheets. Finally, electronic bidding means that organizers won’t have to chase down the winners at the end of the event to collect payment. The apps request credit card information in order to sign up for online bidding so the donations are collected immediately once the auction is closed.
The downside to utilizing this technology is it’s high cost. Prices can be a few thousand dollars for use of the technology, plus the credit card processing fees will be subtracted from the donations. The organization needs to weigh whether or not it believes the benefits can add up to enough increased revenue on the sale overall, to more than cover the additional costs incurred.
When & How to Run a Live Auction
Live auctions are often seen as more fun than silent auctions because they get everyone involved and, if done right, captivate the audience for a short period of time. Typically, live auctions are reserved for large, engaged groups of guests and high ticket items like a ski cabin for a week in Colorado, expensive artwork or a car. Sometimes they can include items that just pull on the audience’s heartstrings – for example, a puppy from a high-end breeder. Keep the schedule to allow no more than 40 minutes for the live auction, as guests begin to grow impatient which causes bidding to slow down or stop. It takes approximately 3 minutes for a professional auctioneer to sell an item, so you should have a maximum of 10 – 12 live auction items to stick to the 40 minute timeline. A professional auctioneer is essential to capturing the audience’s attention and getting the most money for the items on auction. In Austin, we have the Cowboy Auctioneers who are always a crowd favorite! Live auction items can bring in a lot more money than silent auction items, usually selling for close to or above their value, another important thing to consider in your fundraising goals.
Things to Consider for Raffles
Raffles are best for higher value prizes and times with you can have a large number of prizes, as both the value and odds of winning make the trade-off for the ticket price more appealing. If attendance will be low (less than 100 people) or most people are not expected to participate in a silent or live auction, a raffle may be more appropriate. It also takes far fewer volunteers to coordinate a raffle than an auction so this can be good for one-man or one-woman teams or small organizations without a lot of extra hands. To sell a lot of tickets, the raffle needs to be marketed well at the event. Having the prize(s) front and center at the entrance can help. Also, having raffle tickets available to purchase quickly and easily before, during and after the event can maximize ticket sales. Some organizations have volunteers circulating throughout the event offering raffle tickets up until the very moment the raffle is complete. Keep in mind, there are IRS regulations concerning raffles. Any winner of a prize worth $600 or more must compete a W-2G (gambling winnings form). For larger prizes, the organization may be required to withhold a percentage for federal income taxes.
What are good items to raffle?
Top raffle prizes include:
- iPads or TVs
- Travel Packages
- Luxury Experiences- like dinner for 10 with a private chef, driving a Formula 1 race car
- Pack of Live Entertainment Tickets- like a Broadway performance of Hamilton or a popular concert
How much do you charge for raffle tickets?
Typical pricing for raffle tickets is $1, $5, or $10. Sometimes organizers like to offer discounts like $5/ticket or 5 for $20 to encourage guests to make a larger purchase. What is important, is that organizers consider the total cost of the prize, the cost of the physical tickets and any marketing costs incurred while advertising the raffle. Then, a reasonable estimate needs to be made as to how many raffle tickets are likely to sell. It is unlikely that a room of 100 people will purchase 10,000 raffle tickets. Obviously, the number of tickets per person can vary quite a bit, but here are some numbers we’ve seen at our events. When tickets are priced at $1 each, people will often buy 2-5 tickets. When tickets are more like $5 or $10 each, many people will only buy 1 or 2 tickets. Using pricing strategies like volume discounts or bundling can help to increase that. Here is a Raffle Ticket Pricing Calculator that may be helpful to determine the right price for your raffle tickets.
The Best Bet is a Combination
In reality, many events tend to be a blend of a silent and live auction with the option to buy a few raffle tickets for one or two key items. A good marketing strategy is to invite attendees to purchase raffle tickets prior to the event and then again at the door. A ticket or two may also be included as part of the admission. The events then start with a silent auction allowing guests to enjoy a cocktail and bid on smaller items thus warming them up for the live auction. This format invites participation as some may be attending the event as a spectator but be happy to contribute by way of buying a few raffle tickets. Others may be more comfortable with a silent auction and less likely to get into the competitive live auction bidding. And a few may be there for the excitement of the live auction. Whatever you decide to do, your will be much more successful if you spend some time in the early stages of your event planning process considering your fundraising goal, the event format, and the types of items you will be giving away/selling.
What other questions do you have about raffles vs. silent auctions vs. live auctions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!