Creative Silent Auction Ideas

by Nicole Thelin

Gathering creative, worthwhile donations is the key to success for silent auction fundraisers. Donations should cater to the needs and interests of the expected audience to generate significant amounts of cash. For example, parents with young children are more likely to bid on a gift certificate for babysitting services than on an unusual piece of artwork.

About Silent Auctions

A silent auction varies from traditional auctions in many ways. Prices are not called out by an auctioneer. Instead, the items for auction are placed on tables for viewing by the bidders. Paper is placed near the item, allowing people to write down their names and bids. Minimum bids should be established for all high-value items to ensure maximum profitability for the fundraiser. Participants can view the sheets again throughout the event to make sure theirs is the highest bid.

Kids and Family

Services and products for families are popular silent auction items. Consider soliciting businesses and service providers who work with children and families for donations. Local babysitters may be willing to donate their time in the form of gift certificates. Retail toy stores, theme parks and local children’s venues may be willing to donate gift certificates for products or discounted admission. By doing this, they generate interest in their business while supporting the organization.

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Themed Gift Baskets

Depending on the interests and desires of the audience, successful basket ideas vary. However, generic interests, such as date nights, music or chocolate, can usually generate success. A date-night themed basket might include two tickets to a local theater, a box of theater candy, a gift certificate for a local restaurant and a bottle of wine or nonalcoholic sparkling juice.

Home Improvement

Homeowners will be interested in home improvement and repair services. Housekeeping services and landscapers may be willing to offer gift certificates for services in exchange for exposure to new clients. Similarly, nurseries may be willing to donate plants or seeds. Contact a wide variety of businesses to solicit donations, including plumbers, house painters, electricians, air-conditioning or heating services and general repair companies.


Solicit local repair shops and similar businesses for certificates or coupons for oil changes, alignments, car washes or other common services. A gift basket might include car wash items or general car-care products, such as air fresheners, seat covers and floor mats. Audio specialty stores may offer gift certificates for discounts on CD players and other gadgets.

About the Author

Nicole Thelin has more than a decade of professional writing experience. She has contributed to newspapers such as the "Daily Herald" of Provo, Utah, and now writes for several online publications. Thelin is pursuing a bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University.

Photo Credits

  • Jeanne Studio/Demand Media
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