As the parent of two children, we're always attending fundraisers that benefit an organization. Whether it's their school, gymnastics club, or a charity event there is usually a silent auction being held. I guess since we're in the Los Angeles area, we're lucky to see some really cool items especially if you're into celebrity stuff. I remember one Silent Auction we attended a while back had a lunch with one of the runners up from “The Bachelor" as one of the prizes. The guy had just come off the series and was cashing in on his 15 minutes of fame. I don't blame the guy; he was really nice and mingled with all the guests. The moms loved this dashing young hunk and were pushing each other away at the auction table to win the lunch.
At other events, I've seen old scripts signed by the cast of Friends, Seinfeld, General Hospital and more. Since we're in the “area" these types of items don't appeal to us as much as someone who loves the celebrity world but is to far away to mix with the stars. However the celebrity stuff is only a small part of the treasures of Silent Auctions. The one I recently attended had a signed drum head by Mick Fleetwood, a poster signed by all the members of the Nine Inch Nails, lots of other cool rock & roll stuff, tons of spa stuff, salon stuff, PlayStation Games, WII, Games, Xbox Games. . . well you get the point.
Here's the cool part of most silent auctions. The best stuff either gets low ball bids or no bids. Does three pounds of Starbucks coffee with two mugs, and some other Starbucks stuff sound good? Winning bid $10! How about a brand new Tony Hawk Skateboard? Winning bid $30. What would you say to 10 baby sitter sessions at a local gym while you're working out for free? Winning bid $50.
Because I'm the curious type, I always ask the person running the Silent Auction how the traffic has been and most of the time they'll say, “Oh just a bunch of lookers, no bidders. This is when I bounce!!! You can get some really great gifts for next to nothing. A recent great buy was an Autographed framed photo of Marcus Allen. I paid $20! Highway robbery I tell you. Marcus is a Hall of Fame player. Shoot, the frame was worth at least $20. I love deals, just like you however I also feel bad in a way. People donate some really great items and see them go for next to nothing. I bet most think twice about finding items the next time their child has a charity event.
Silent Auction Tips
- Browse the items early
- Bring a pad and pencil to keep track of items you want or that you would like to gift
- As the event goes on, stroll back over to the items and see if you might have competition. Having eagle eyes on other bidders will help give you the upper hand when it comes time to make your final bid
- If you overpay, so what! It's for charity
- Make your high offers at the close of the auction in case there is a bidding war for stuff you really want
The truth is that Silent Auctions are meant to bring in money for the Organization. If your kids’ school is having a fundraiser, the proceeds might be going to buy copy paper and other supplies that are desperately needed in the public school system. If it's a charity event, that organization might need it for keeping an office running or other needy area. What can an organization do to open the purse strings of event goers? Obviously having alcohol at an event helps loosen things up, however I don't think most schools would take kindly to loopy patrons on school grounds. Should the letter in the back pack be a plea for help? Or are people simply so cheap that if they don't think they're getting a bargain, they'll simply pass on bidding?
Think about this and offer suggestions to your schools, charities, or other places that have auctions. Pass the word with other parents by subtly hinting on how excited you are about the event and tell them your “Silent Auction" secrets. My favorite auction win was actually not a silent auction but I still got a good deal and a great prize. We were attending a charity event benefiting kids with special needs. Luc Robitaille was playing with the Los Angeles Kings and scored a Wayne Gretzky autographed hockey stick, two Gretzky signed photos and four tickets to a Kings game. Winning bid was $500 but I was happy to pay it. The organization did a lot of great work with kids who have disabilities including my son. We got to hang out on the backlot of CBS studios where they film a bunch of shows on a street with fake stores, building with facades only, and other tricks the studios use to give us the entertainment we get when we watch TV or go to the movies. All in all there was great food, lots of laughing, some crying when they showed a film with kids who had benefited from their work, and people who were happy to part with their money to help a great cause.
Alycia Shapiro is Vice President in charge of product development for SensoryEdge. She has advocated for special needs children in order to get the therapy services they need. Many parents either have difficulty getting the proper services or might not know these services are available. You can visit her websites to learn more about Educational Toys, Toddler Size Furniture, and Sleeping Bags for Children.