3 Tech Essentials When Planning Your Silent Auction

Silent auctions are a favorite fundraising event for all sorts of nonprofits and organizations. While they're technically possible to pull off with just a few printed bid sheets and a cash drawer, truly effective auctions today use a number of technological solutions to supercharge their strategy, better engage their bidders, and drive more revenue.

When planning a silent auction, it’s a good idea to take a step back and examine the tools you already have in your toolkit and the ones you’ll need to invest in beforehand. Before getting started, make sure you have the following essentials:

  1. Ticketing and registration resources

  2. Bidding software

  3. Payment and donation processing tools

Ready to dive into each category, better understand its importance, and explore your options? Let’s get started.

1. Ticketing and registration resources

Your ticketing and registration processes are likely your guests’ first impression of your event, so it’s critical that you get it right. We suggest looking for a fundraising solution with these key functionalities:

  • Online ticketing for both in-person and remote guests

  • Easy registration and ticketing for paid and free tickets

  • Attendance caps for in-person tickets

  • RSVPs and seating arrangements

  • Ticket packages, coupon codes, and promos

  • Streamlined check-in processes upon guest arrival

To provide a more seamless user experience for everyone involved, top auction software providers typically offer built-in ticketing and registration tools all-in-one platform. This way, by managing your auction from a single, centralized platform, all of your data and tools will be together and you won’t have to worry about transferring information from one system to another.


2. Bidding software

Your bidding software is the most critical component of an effective silent auction toolkit because it’s what allows supporters to participate in your event in the first place.

For many years, organizations relied on paper bid sheets and writing utensils for guests to place bids. Not only does this strategy require all guests to attend your event in-person the entire time, but it’s also less engaging for guests and less effective overall.

Why? These 2021 giving statistics from OneCause show that the number one motivator behind today’s nonprofit giving is the ease of the donation or participation experience. At a charity auction, this means providing a streamlined bidding experience through intuitive software that meets guests where they are—their smartphones. Consider the following features in any online bidding software:

  • Mobile-friendly bidding functionality

  • Real-time outbid notifications

  • Raffle ticket and “buy now” item sales

  • Instantaneous bidding scorecards

With the right auction technology, you ensure guests can bid effortlessly, browse available items, place their bids quickly, and get instant outbid notifications. Even better, bidding software works for in-person attendees and virtual guests—meaning you can offer a hybrid experience with the best of both worlds.


3. Payment and donation processing tools

Your payment processing tools are another critical component of an optimized auction toolkit. From event ticket sales to “buy now” offerings and winner checkouts, having the right resources to quickly collect payment information, process transactions, and provide receipts is vital for ensuring a positive user experience.

For the best results, look for a payment processor that includes:

  • Donation features beyond ticket prices and bid payments

  • Mobile payments and donations

  • Pre-registered card information for checkout

  • PCI-compliance and PCI-certification

  • Email automated receipts

  • Robust analytics and reporting features

Having the right payment processing tools can go a long way for future-proofing your nonprofit and its events. When you streamline the auction checkout process, you encourage additional purchases and make a good impression on donors who will continue to support your efforts time and time again.


All in all, an effective silent auction is easy to manage when you have the right tools in your event planning tool kit. If you're lacking any of these tech essentials, it's a good idea to explore your options before you begin planning any auction specifics. This ensures you’ll provide an optimal user experience for guests as well as your nonprofit team behind the scenes from start to finish. Then, once you have the tools you need to pull off your auction, don’t forget to start promoting it to donors and supporters to maximize your turnout and drive more engagement.



Karrie Wozniak has spent more than a decade bringing innovative technology and fundraising strategies to the nonprofit industry. As one of the first executives at OneCause, Karrie combines her 20 years of experience in marketing with her passion for helping nonprofits expand their reach, leading industry research, marketing strategy, and fundraising consulting initiatives. She is also an active speaker on donor and fundraising trends, and has been featured on Forbes.com, Philanthropy Journal, and Nonprofit Hub.

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