Book Review | The Silent Auction Handbook by Joe Garecht

In the midst of planning my charity’s largest fundraiser, I thought it apt to take a moment to read Joe Garecht’s “The Silent Auction Handbook,” hoping to absorb some words of wisdom before I bite my nails watching to see if my auction brings in the revenue we all need (and budgeted).

Right off of the bat, the book serves as a sense of motivation.  You are consistently encouraged to “think big,” and to move past the stigmas associated with fundraising and asking for donations. Garecht reminds the reader to remember the audience (a.k.a. event attendees) when making donation requests for the auction, bearing in mind the likes/dislikes and price points of auction participants. He also reiterates that the fundraisers are events, and to take a holistic approach to silent auctions; the better the overall experience, the more likely people are to bid.

Thankfully, the “Silent Auction Handbook” doesn’t take a single approach; it discusses how to incorporate fundraising into existing events as well as how to plan from scratch. He tackles the usual suspects for fundraising events: committees, payment methods, food and beverage, entertainment, marketing, and even how to propose a silent auction as an option to a board or higher level staff.

For organizations who utilize committees for event planning, Garecht spends time discussing how to train, motivate, and maximize the potential of committees in respect to special events and fundraising. For my charity, I’m a one-person shop, so I read these pages and drooled over the idea of relinquishing responsibility to a committee.

Perhaps one of the greatest sentences in this entire book is when he tells the reader to make auction solicitation mailings “Simple, direct, clear.” In the silent auction world, no wiser words can be spoken.  I know from planning my event, that the average company/prospective donor, spends about 2 minutes reviewing the letter and determining if they are supporting the cause. That isn’t a lot of time, especially if your solicitation is convoluted and wordy. If the donor has additional questions or needs more information, they’ll ask, believe me.

Another key component of this book is what Joe describes as “aggregated items.” In laymen’s terms – baskets or packages. I think this is something we don’t do enough of: taking small donations and combining them for one big one-two punch. Small items assembled correctly can have a high-perceived value and bring in the big bucks for an event.

Garecht continues to spend ample time discussing item tracking and pricing, and moves into payment processing and how to run a successful auction event. This was an area where I feel like my charity event failed last year.  It was chaotic; we didn’t have enough runners, people who bid on multiple items stood there while we shuffled through bid sheets and some people picked up their items themselves and didn’t wait for a runner. What a mess. After reading Joe’s suggestions, I feel like I have a better handle on how to manage the crowd of people all wanting their items.

Silent auctions aren’t for every organization or every event, but if you’re considering it, I think that giving “the Silent Auction Handbook,” a read will definitely help you put the pieces together to assemble a great event.

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