Planning The Ideal Online Silent Auction

How to Run a Silent Auction

Whether you are planning your first ever online silent auction, or your 50th, there are many important things to consider in the planning.  Number of auction items may not come to mind, because at first you might think along the lines of, “more items, more bids, more revenue”. This is a common misconception as there is no guarantee that having more items will lead to more bids, or an increase in revenue. The opposite may occur, where having too many items results in them selling below value. The latter should be avoided at all costs as it makes raising funds and reaching your target goal more challenging. 

Fear not, we have studied auctions run on our platform and come up with four key factors that will help determine how many items your silent auction needs.

Audience Size

The size of your audience is arguably the most important factor to keep in mind when deciding on the item count. A mistake often made is to have one item for each attendee. There are two reasons why this is a crucial mistake: 

  1. Not every attendee will be a bidder 
  2. Couples and family members will typically bid together to avoid competing against each other 

A more reasonable approach is to assume that roughly half of the attendee list will be active bidders. With this is mind, we can start off by aiming to have one item for every two attendees. 

Now that we have taken the audience size into consideration, we are left with a solid foundation to build on. There are three additional factors that can be considered before finalizing your auction.

Online Silent Auction Duration

This is a factor that is easy to overlook when planning. How long your auction is open plays a role when deciding whether to adjust your item count. 

For example, if an auction is set to run for a week or more, it may make sense to increase the item count to keep the auction fresh, and participants interested. 

The opposite is true as well. For example, if an auction running for a single day has too many items, the result will most likely be that items sell below value, or worse, are not bid on at all. For any silent auction, it becomes increasingly more difficult to raise money and reach your target goal when items are not being bid on appropriately.


As more silent auctions become online auctions, space constraints of the venue are becoming less of an issue. If your silent auction is being hosted in a hybrid sense, with the physical items displayed on premise and bidding happening online, then space needs to be considered. 

Depending on the size of your venue, you may need to adjust your item count. Additionally, the size of each item needs to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, space cannot be created out of thin air, meaning we will need to work with the space available. 

If you find that space constraints tend to limit the success of your silent auctions, try switching to an online auction platform. 


The final factor to consider is to understand who your audience is. The more information that you have, the better off your silent auction will be. Information such as: age, gender and income can help to determine not only how many items to include, but also the types of items to include. 

For example, if you are planning a silent auction at a prestigious golf course, you may notice that your attendee list is made up of adults aged 35-65 and relatively wealthy. In this case, you may want to procure fewer, high-valued items. For example, all-inclusive vacation packages, jewelry, artwork, or baskets of vintage wines. 

If you can select items that attendee’s value, your silent auction will undoubtedly see an increase in revenue generated.

Bid Beacon Findings

Back in 2020, Bid Beacon hosted a record number of auctions. Looking through that data, we discovered that those auctions averaged just under one item for every two attendees. When we consider the four factors mentioned above, these findings are not much of surprise. 

Although there are many ingredients required to run a successful silent auction, determining your item count is among the most important. If you acknowledge the factors mentioned above, your silent auction will be one step closer to reaching new heights.

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