Silent auctions have been a staple of event fundraising for years, and for a good reason. They’re an excellent way to create audience participation, engagement and have the potential to help organizations raise a lot of money with minimal advance investment.

To help you know if a silent auction is right for your next event, here are a few pros and cons.

What is a Silent Auction? 

A silent auction is when you have written bids on a sheet of paper that is commonly placed before or next to an item. At the predetermined end of your auction, the highest listed bidder wins the item. You might see this type of auction at charity events, with many items auctioned simultaneously. The auction is “silent” in that, no auctioneer is selling individual items. At charity auctions, bid sheets usually have a fixed starting amount and predetermined bid increments. 

Pros of a Silent Auction

Silent auctions contribute many advantages to fundraising efforts:

  • Cost: Hosting a silent benefit auction will be significantly cheaper than a live auction since you won’t have to hire an auctioneer.
  • Approachability: This may be far more comfortable for your attendees, who might be intimidated by the brash, speedy and competitive pace of live auctions.
  • Fewer formalities: Silent auctions are self-directed, meaning they don’t contain nearly as many curated events or details. Your guest can enjoy the space to socialize and interact with one another a bit more freely.  

Cons of a Silent Auction

Add these to your list of silent auction event considerations:

  • Item presentation: The auction items you solicit need to be displayed in an engaging, aesthetic way so they can be attractive. To help make sure the items receive bids, you’ll need item display cases, colors, and tiers.
  • Check-in and check-out procedures: Your silent auction must have proper guest check-in and checkout procedures. This ensures seamless winner identification, payment methods, inventory management, and item delivery.

Is a Silent Auction right for me?

A silent auction is hard work and it is not for everyone. In the beginning, you’ll spend a lot of time sourcing a few large items or you have to find a lot of small items. No matter how you cut it, your silent auctions will take time and manpower. Before planning your auction, decide if the return is worth the investment of time, people, and resources for your organization.

As you prepare for your next event we recommend that you consider an event host committee to assist you with your auction items.  Your first year, you may only auction off 5-10 items. Over time as you build relationships with your vendors,  silent auction items will become easier to source

We hope that you find our silent auction Pros and Cons helpful. If you have any of your own, feel free to add them to our comments below or email us at, and we’ll be happy to incorporate them into our post.