Successful Silent Auctions

Sometimes things can be too cheap. Or, just because
something is donated, doesn’t mean that it is a bargain.

A local church was holding their fundraiser at a beautiful banquet room and I was asked to both bring in several pieces of my silent auction items as well as a few live auction pieces to add to the selection that they had secured for the evening.


Upon my arrival I was quite pleasantly surprised at the professional presentation of their pieces and commented to the committee immediately on what a great job they had done.

They told me that they had spent months putting all of this together, in fact, that they had spent a full week prior preparing each and every bountiful basket, wrapping each in cellophane and creating hand cut labels noting contents and donors for each one.

They stored each basket in two separate garages and had to fill four volunteer vans full of baskets to the venue for the 7 hour setup the day before the fundraise with 6 of their helpers doing all of the work.

It did look SPECTACULAR though!

Walking around that evening, I couldn’t help notice that some of the opening bids seemed rather low. I mean… 20” diameter wicker baskets filled 2 feet high starting at $20 or $30 in many cases.

When I asked about this, I was told… “Well, almost all of the items
in our silent auction were donated to us by local businesses or families

The first thought that raced to my mind was … “ALMOST all of the items”?!?!?!?! That means they actually spent money on some of the items in each basket!

Immediately I started doing a bit of math in my head, and it looked like this.

While donations seem to be great and really exciting for every golf outing coordinator, I guarantee that they don’t see the absolute reality as pointed out above.

The stark reality hitting home at the end of the night when 7 of their 20 beautiful baskets went without a single bid! (That means, you can add 30% to the total cost in that image).

To say nothing of the fact that people simply do not, and clearly did not want to bid on a basket filled with a car wash gift certificate, bottle of Windex, Armor All, tire pressure gauge, an assortment of air fresheners and two rolls of paper towels, when I know for a fact that the only items in that basket that were donated was the car wash gift card and the paper towels out of one of the wives’ kitchens.

This fact makes my image above even more frightening as the evening was a FUNDRAISER.

To get back to my point…

I brought 7 silent auction pieces, 2 Masters Tickets and an autographed guitar for the Live Auction portion of the evening.

It took me 20 minutes to set up my items and they blended in perfectly with their room full of gorgeous baskets. Their cost and effort to have me there…. ZERO.

At the end of the night, all 7 of my silent auction pieces sold as did my guitar & Masters Tickets. All had minimum bids of course and the church profited almost $3,900 on the items that I brought.


On the other hand….

Only 13 of their 20 baskets sold. Some even made pretty good money, but one of the husbands commented that they spent almost $700 on all of the “extras” to fill out the baskets to make them “look good”.

And I couldn’t help but wonder what they were going to do with all of those Allstate Insurance stadium seat cushions and Starbucks travel mugs that didn’t sell?

I guess they will pack them back in those volunteer vans and store them in one of their garages until next year….  Add that cost to my graphic above.

The moral of the story is quite simple…


Realize that things can indeed be too cheap.

Asking for donations and getting them is worthless unless you can monetize them. Don’t even get me started on hole-in-one insurance.

You are far better off actually buying a few great items and raffling them off than getting a room full of beer coozies and spending valuable volunteer hours trying to “put perfume on that pig”. There are more important things you can be doing for your cause.

Of course, you can just call SMT Golf Outing Services and use one of our Outing Packages and be done with it.

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