Why Silent Auction Bid Sheets Are Dead



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Why Silent Auction Bid Sheets Are Dead

As fundraising professionals, there are certain fundraising traditions that we 100% stand by. One of these traditions is the silent auction, a tried-and-true method to help fundraising events increase proceeds. But while there are many fundraising traditions that we support, there are just as many that we know can change for the better. The most obvious of these is the silent auction bid sheet. Despite being a staple of many fundraising events, silent auction bid sheets are outdated, inefficient, and can actually hinder your event’s fundraising potential! With the evolution of mobile technology, most aspects of fundraising have been vastly improved, and silent auction bid sheets are no exception.

When considering the presence of effective and affordable mobile silent auction technology, it is no surprise that many fundraising professionals are now saying that silent auction bid sheets are dead. In case you aren’t completely convinced that it’s time to make the switch from physical silent auction bid sheets to a mobile and online silent auction solution, we’ve put together some of the best arguments against the traditional bid sheet, and a quick description of how mobile fundraising technology can help.

Not Interactive or Engaging

One of the more obvious arguments against traditional silent auction bid sheets is that they are not interactive or engaging for your audience. In order to participate in a silent auction using paper bid sheets, the donor experience is completely one-sided. Ensuring that you remain the top bidder is the responsibility of the bidder, and becomes an immediate distraction from the event itself. If a guest gets caught up in a conversion with a friend, or is interested in listening to a speaker at the fundraising event, they will most likely miss out on their opportunity to continue bidding on the prizes they have an eye on.

With silent auction bid sheets, bidders have no way of knowing that they have been outbid! This means that bidding wars, which are very profitable for your event, will be hindered greatly. The Mobile Silent Auction Solution:  Mobile/Online silent auctions harness the benefits of both text messaging and online bidding. This means bidding can become a fully interactive and engaging process for your guests. Bidders now receive instant notification if they have been outbid, regardless of their location, and can quickly and easily submit a new bid by replying to this notification.

In addition to making the bidding process more engaging, these notifications also mean that your guests can now focus on your actual fundraising event, while still donating through your silent auction! Another HUGE advantage of instant notifications is that they often lead to frequent bidding wars between your guests. And we all know that bidding wars means more money for you to donate!

non-profit auction event with guests about to place bids on multiple silent auction items of various retail value

Physical Limitations Inside the Venue

Another disadvantage of silent auction bid sheets is the physical limitations they instill on your  donor base. Relying on physical bid sheets forces your donors to continuously trek back to your prize table in order to check on their bids again and again. Unless bidders are repeatedly returning to your silent auction table, it will be nearly impossible for them to maintain their position as top bidder for a prize. Even if a friend is nice enough to let a bidder know that they have been outbid, this bidder will still need to return to the bid sheet to submit another bid. Additionally, your bidders must stay for the entirety of your event in order to know if they’ve won an item or have been outbid.

The Mobile Silent Auction Solution: Fortunately, mobile silent auctions provide the perfect solution to these physical limitations. As mentioned above, mobile/online silent auctions provide instant notification to bidders once they have been outbid. While this alone may not save a bidder a trip to the silent auction table, the ability to bid directly from their phone or mobile device certainly will! Another great advantage here is that your bidders can leave your event and will still be notified if they have been outbid or won an item. This means that guests will be able to continue to bid after they have left the event, increasing your proceeds even more.

women using the auction software on her iPhone to place bid increments and finally the highest bid at closing time

Audience Limitations

One of the most damaging effects of using traditional silent auction bid sheets is the limitation that these paper sheets put on your audience and proceeds raised. As mentioned in our previous argument, using paper bid sheets means that only those present at your fundraising event are able to participate in your silent auction. As you are probably realizing, this can result in a massive missed opportunity, as there are likely many people who are unable to attend for one reason or another.

The Mobile Silent Auction Solution: With a mobile bidding system and online fundraising page in place, anyone with internet access or a phone can participate in your silent auction. This means that you can send the link to your fundraiser to your friends and family who live across the country (or globe) and can still have them support your cause, while having a chance to win some amazing prizes.The implications here are huge for your cause/organization, as they mean that you can now raise significantly higher funds from a much larger audience!‍

woman participating in a live auction from home by placing the winning bid via a mobile bidding system as opposed attending the in-person charity auction

Time Limitations

On a similar note, silent auction bid sheets can also hinder your proceeds by limiting the time frame during which you are able to accept donations, also known as your fundraising window. With a physical silent auction (implementing paper bid sheets), your donors are limited to bidding during the few hours of your fundraising event. This is a clear barrier to your busy guests, who probably have other things they’d like to accomplish while attending your event!

The Mobile Silent Auction Solution: Luckily, mobile silent auctions come to the rescue again. Because they rely purely on online and text message bidding, mobile silent auctions have much more timing flexibility. In fact, many mobile silent auction users open their silent auction days (or weeks) in advance in order to maximize their fundraising window, appeal to potential donors when they actually have time to bid, and ultimately increase proceeds!

man using a mobile device to record bidder name and minimum bid weeks in advance of the next silent auction or raffle

Checkout Is Slow

As many of you know, checkout at the end of silent auctions using paper bid sheets is painfully slow and frustrating. Not to add salt to the wound, but some of the major inconveniences of silent auction bid sheet checkout include:

  • Aggregating your winners (especially for those who may have won multiple items)
  • Notifying those who have won items
  • Collecting payment (again, especially frustrating for those who have won multiple items)
  • Keeping track of those who have paid and received their items

Not to mention that slow checkouts can result in long lines and unhappy guests who are ready to leave at the end of your event! The Mobile Silent Auction Solution: The mobile silent auction allows you to streamline checkout, track payment, and get your guests out the door quicker! To be a bit more specific, mobile/online silent auctions allow for:

  • Winner tracking and aggregation
  • Notifications sent to item winner
  • Streamlined checkout, allowing winners to pay for items won via credit card on their mobile devices
  • Payment tracking (in real-time)
  • Automated receipts
streamline checkout at the end of the auction by tracking bidder number, item number, item description, item value and designated pickup location

Post-Event Analysis Is Nearly Impossible

Once your event is over, silent auction bid sheets may still haunt your dreams. Because all of your bidder information is stored on many different paper sheets (often in illegible writing), aggregating any type of data on your donors or on your highest performing items will be extremely difficult and time-consuming.

The Mobile Silent Auction Solution: As we mentioned previously, mobile silent auction solutions aggregate all donor and bidder information. This means all contact information and data on your highest performing items is conveniently stored online and easily downloaded for post-event analysis. This information can help you optimize your silent auction year after year, while also providing you with the necessary contact information to stay in touch with your donors throughout the year.

excel spreadsheet with list of winning bidders and other bidders with their bidding number


If it wasn’t obvious before, it should now be pretty clear that silent auction bid sheets are quickly becoming a thing of the past. From the ease of use to increasing your audience and streamlining checkout, mobile and online silent auction solutions are taking over as the preferred means of raising additional proceeds at fundraisers around the country. So frame that final silent auction bid sheet of yours (or throw it out), and get started with your first mobile silent auction today, and be sure to check out our other rules for running your best auction yet.

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