A silent auction is a classic nonprofit fundraiser and with good reason. Nearly any organization can hold a silent auction either in-person or virtually, and they pair well with many fundraising events from galas to golf tournaments. As participants bid on their favorite items, they foster a fun, competitive environment while raising funds for your nonprofit.
To make the most of your silent auction, you’ll need to plan strategically, and one of the most critical aspects of your planning will be procuring the right auction items. The best items for silent auctions are unique, not easy to find in retail stores, and high in value to bring in maximum bids.
In this guide, you will find suggestions for more than 100 silent auction items to get your procurement team started, including:
- Travel and Experience-Based Silent Auction Items
- Community Spotlight Silent Auction Item Ideas
- Food and Beverage Silent Auction Items
- Sports and Fitness Silent Auction Items
- Music and Entertainment Silent Auction Item Ideas
- Family-Friendly Silent Auction Items
- Education-Focused Silent Auction Item Ideas
- Seasonal and Holiday Silent Auction Items
- Technology Silent Auction Item Ideas
- High-End Goods for Silent Auctions
- Silent Auction Gift Basket Ideas
At Winspire, we understand the challenges that come with finding the right silent auction items, as well as how essential it is to build an auction catalog that your nonprofit’s supporters will be excited to bid on. With our years of experience in fundraising event planning, our team is equipped to help your organization put together a successful silent auction. Let’s get started!
Travel and Experience-Based Silent Auction Items
Travel-related items are best-sellers in silent auctions for several reasons. They appeal to a broad audience, add a unique element to your auction experience, and often bring in the largest bids among your auction items!
A good strategy when looking for travel and experience-based silent auction items is to procure a few big-ticket vacation packages as well as some smaller travel accessories. This way, all auction participants can bid on the items that fit their budget. You also may encourage the same supporters to compete for several items, such as a trip and something they can use when taking that trip. For example, you might offer a beach getaway and a set of high-end surfboards as separate items, or place a gift basket full of airplane essentials next to a voucher for plane tickets.
Some of our top ideas for travel auction items include:
- Luxury hotel and resort stays
- Airline gift certificate
- Winery tour and tasting
- Ski chalet stay with mountain passes
- Private boat cruise with cocktails
- Family trip to a beach house or lakeside cabin
- One-week timeshare
- Hot air balloon ride
- Helicopter ride
- Pet-sitting services or boarding
- High-quality luggage
While the physical items on this list may be easy to gather through partnerships with local businesses, procuring the experiences can be more challenging. That’s where consignment travel providers like Winspire come in.
Explore Travel Auction Items With Winspire
Winspire provides unique, curated charity vacation packages to nonprofits across North America to help them bring in more revenue at fundraising auctions. Your organization can get started with Winspire in four easy steps:
- Choose from Winspire's list of vacation packages, or Experiences, based on what you think will appeal most to your supporters.
- Promote the Experiences you’ve chosen to your supporters—Winspire will provide images you can use in your event marketing materials.
- Offer the items at your event with no risk, because you only pay for what you sell at your event.
- Provide a voucher to each winning bidder so they can book their vacation through Winspire—there’s no additional work required for your organization!
When you sell Winspire’s Experiences at your silent auction, every dollar you raise above the Nonprofit Cost (listed price for each Experience) goes directly to your organization’s mission, allowing you to easily maximize your event revenue.
Community Spotlight Silent Auction Item Ideas
Experiential auction items cater to faraway locations that have wide appeal, but you can also look to your local community for high-value ideas. Local, exclusive items are difficult to put a price tag on, so bidders will pay good money to win items such as:
- Dinner and a historic city tour with the mayor or a city council member
- Tickets and backstage passes to a performance by a local theatre or dance company
- Private, behind-the-scenes tours of businesses or factories in the area
- Sponsorship of a park bench with the supporter’s name on it
- A year of oil changes at a local car dealership
- 10 hours of certified mechanic work
- 20 hours of landscaping or home improvement work
- Car washes once a month for a year at a community car wash
- Certificates for dry cleaning services for a year
- Flower deliveries from a local florist each month for a year
Procuring community spotlight items like these for your silent auction benefits both your nonprofit and the businesses that provide the items. The businesses receive publicity during your event, and your organization can form lasting partnerships while bringing in revenue at the same time.
Food and Beverage Silent Auction Items
In addition to spotlighting your nonprofit’s community through experiences and services, you can also showcase the food and beverages unique to your area at your silent auction. As your supporters likely have different food and beverage preferences, make sure to have a variety of options available, such as:
- Four-course dinner at a high-end restaurant
- Cooking classes taught by a local chef
- Pizza delivery each month for a year
- Catered workplace lunch
- Custom birthday cake from a local bakery
- Private wine or beer tastings
- Vintage or rare bottles of wine
- Local beer or micro-brew samplers
- Behind-the-scenes brewery tour
- Bar or pub crawl with friends
- Afternoon tea at a park or botanical garden
- Tea or coffee samplers
- A year’s supply of coffee from a local coffee shop
Whether they involve learning a new skill, trying unique foods, or just sharing a drink with friends, food and beverage items are often favorites among auction participants. Plus, supporters who don’t want to bring more permanent items into their homes often prefer items like these that are either experience-based or consumable.
Sports and Fitness Silent Auction Items
Part of the appeal of many sports is the way they bring a community together around a common goal. Some auction participants may want to attend sporting events or own items related to their favorite sport, while others might prefer new ways to be physically active themselves. Either way, you can attract this segment of your organization’s supporters with items like:
- Signed memorabilia like jerseys, balls, and helmets
- Season tickets for nearby college or professional teams
- Tickets to championship sports events, including transportation
- Signed, framed photos of famous sports personalities
- Rare baseball cards
- Golf clubs
- Opportunity to sit in on a local sports radio show
- Behind-the-scenes tour of a sports network’s studio
- Catered tailgate party including set up and tear down
- Pro lessons for any sport
- Tee time at a luxury or private golf course
- A year’s membership at a gym, pool, or rec center
- Passes to group fitness or yoga classes
- Personal training sessions
What sports and fitness items you should procure will depend on which teams and activities are most popular in your area. Consider the professional teams that are located closest to your organization, the sports that nearby colleges and universities excel in, and the facilities located in your area that you could partner with to find auction items.
Music and Entertainment Silent Auction Item Ideas
There’s something for everyone in the world of music and entertainment. Choose silent auction items in this category based on current trends and your supporters’ preferences, including:
- Tickets to popular talk shows
- Musical instruments signed by famous musicians
- Highly sought after concert tickets
- Broadway tickets and after show meet-and-greet with the cast
- Season tickets at a local performing arts center
- Seats at a live taping of a TV show
- Behind-the-scenes tours of movie sets
- Musical instrument or voice lessons
- Red carpet award show passes
- Tickets to a comedy or improv show
- Ballroom dancing lessons
Tickets to popular entertainment events are often hard to come by, so these kinds of silent auction items tend to bring in a lot of revenue. Research which artists will be in town soon, what award shows are coming up, and when tickets are available for stage performances to make sure your items are up-to-date.
Family-Friendly Silent Auction Items
If your donor base includes families, it's ideal to feature some family-friendly auction items. From young parents to grandparents, everyone is looking for ways to unwind from work, make new memories, and enjoy quality time with family. Just make sure every item is still exclusive and worth the high bids you’re seeking. For example, you could offer:
- Breakfast at the firehouse
- Birthday visit from a princess or superhero
- Child care from a local daycare
- Tickets to amusement parks or water parks
- Season passes to community pools
- Family photo shoot with a professional photographer
- Family painting by a local artist
- Children's room decorating
- Backyard swing set or jungle gym
- Lunch and book reading with a favorite children's book author
- Group outing for laser tag, mini golf, go-karting, or another similar activity
- Inflatable rentals for child's birthday or family party
Family-friendly auction items help engage supporters of all ages in your nonprofit’s mission. Make sure you don’t leave out any key demographics as you plan fundraising events by offering something for everyone.
Education-Focused Silent Auction Item Ideas
Education and classroom-related silent auction items are the perfect addition to a school fundraiser. Even if you’re not hosting a school auction, remember that parents are always looking for new ways to enrich their children's interactions with educators outside the classroom. Consider partnering with a local school to offer items like:
- One year of a reserved prime parking spot (for parents or high school students)
- Ride to or from school in a fire truck
- Lunch with the principal
- Reserved seats for graduation ceremonies
- Front-row seats at a school play or sporting event
- Class party including snacks, games, and prizes
- Catered breakfast or lunch for child’s class
These one-of-a-kind items related to education appeal not only to the parents who purchase the items, but also to the students who benefit from them. It’s a great way to make the youngest members of your community aware of your organization and its mission.
Theming some of your silent auction items around upcoming holidays or the current season can generate higher bids as they create a sense of urgency and relevance. Some popular options include:
- Santa Claus or Easter Bunny visit to your workplace or child’s school
- Traditional St. Patrick's Day's dinner at an Irish restaurant
- Valentine’s Day romantic dinner for two
- Prime viewing spot for July 4th fireworks
- Limo ride to view holiday light displays
- Tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
- A week of summer camp for one child
- Equipment and lessons in skiing and snowboarding
Consider what seasons or holidays are coming up in the near future as you choose your auction items. For example, if your auction is in the fall, you might look ahead to the holiday season in December, while an early spring auction would lend itself to preparation for the summer.
Technology Silent Auction Item Ideas
If you’re interested in following current trends as you procure auction items, including the latest technology in your catalog can help attract younger participants to your auction. Try offering a variety of big-ticket devices and add-ons to get more bids, such as:
- New smartphones
- Tablets or e-readers
- 4K TVs
- Computers or laptops
- Smart watches and fitness trackers
- Video game systems
- Bluetooth headphones and speakers
- High-quality digital cameras
- Annual subscriptions for TV or music streaming services
Although many of these items can be found at regular stores, they retail for high prices. Supporters will likely be interested in getting them at a slightly lower price at auction, but they’ll still make significant bids if the items are brand new.
High-End Goods for Silent Auctions
Technological devices aren’t the only luxury items that sell well at silent auctions. Although high-end home goods and accessories are more subject to personal preferences than other auction items, chances are they’ll line up with some supporters’ wants, and they also make great gifts if participants would rather purchase them for someone else. Items that offer this kind of flexibility include:
- Designer handbags
- Paintings or sculptures
- Crystal dishes, vases, or stemware
- High-end kitchen appliances like blenders, espresso machines, and air fryers
- Snow blowers or lawn mowers
Alternatively, your organization could partner with the retailers that sell these high-end goods to provide an experience along with the item, such as a shopping spree featuring designer clothing brands or a cooking lesson that uses the high-end kitchen appliance. Doing so gives the item a higher starting value and makes it more unique.
Silent Auction Gift Basket Ideas
Gift baskets are a silent auction staple! The lower in value an auction item is, the easier it is to procure in most cases. By putting several low-value items together in a basket, you can raise the overall value of even the most commonplace items to bring in high starting bids.
To appeal to donors, center each of your baskets on a theme, such as:
- Spa Day: facial masks, bath bombs, scented lotion, and massage gift certificate
- Movie Night: popcorn, boxed candy, throw blanket, and movie theater gift card
- Beach Party: beach towels, sand toys, sunscreen, and tropical beverages
- Wine and Cheese: assorted cheeses and meats, charcuterie board, and high-end wine
- Campfire: s’mores supplies and unique camping gear
- Game Night: assorted board games, cards, and video games
As you create each basket, make sure to package it in a way that looks as appealing to auction participants as possible. Also, include a listing of all items included in each basket to ensure supporters know exactly what they’re bidding on.
No matter which silent auction items you offer at your event, the key is to understand participants’ preferences. Consider surveying some of your most dedicated supporters to see what item ideas appeal most to them. Then, lay out a plan of which items you’ll feature and how you’ll go about procuring them by partnering with businesses in your community as well as dedicated auction item providers. Happy fundraising!
For more information on silent auctions, check out these additional resources:
- How to Procure Auction Items: The Complete Nonprofit Guide. Explore strategies and best practices for procuring a variety of items for your nonprofit’s silent auction.
- 30+ Silent Auction Basket Ideas for Nonprofit Events. Discover more ideas for maximizing your auction items’ value through gift baskets.
- Build Your Own Charity Auction Catalog [Template]. Learn how best to showcase your silent auction items so participants come to your event excited to bid on them.