As technology becomes increasingly more mainstream, many traditional silent auctions are moving online. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a paper auction vs an online auction? Should you jump on the band wagon and trash the traditional paper auction?

When planning your auction, one of the first things to consider is “What is your ultimate goal?”. Of course raising funds is right there at the top. But are you trying to build a community and strengthen your support while raising these funds for your cause, or are you primarily looking for a way to raise one-time funds with the least amount of overhead and public interaction? Are you restrained by a time frame, or do you want your bidders to be able to “window shop” and contemplate before submitting their bids?

A well-laid out paper silent auction can enhance an attendees experience at an event, giving them the opportunity to wander, socialize and interact while perusing the available items. The social atmosphere helps build supporters for your cause by making it personal and allowing stories to flow and connections to be made. When done right, the silent auction can be a fun activity for your guests while enjoying appetizers and cocktails. Exciting competitions can arise, especially when the event is paired with a live auction, adding another dimension to the evening. This sense of community and connectiveness is enhanced through the personal interaction and presence of your guests and is vital to any longterm project. While you may want to advertise a few choice items in advance, especially those that will be included in a live auction, the duration of your auction bidding is usually limited to one or two hours, allowing you to showcase many items in a limited amount of time.

If your objective is to simply raise funds, your resources are limited, and you are not planning an event to go with your auction, the online solution may be the key. For an online auction, you can have a handful of volunteers help with uploading information and monitoring your bids. You do not need to pay for a venue, arrange food and entertainment, or deal with your supporters in person. Your items can be open for bid for a few hours or days. It is important to consider online bidding package charges, many of which are based on the volume of activity that your auction receives, as this will effect your profit margin. An online auction is a good option if your volunteer resources are limited, your fundraising is a one time deal, and your profit will justify the cost of the bidding package you choose.

A prominent myth is that online auctions bring in more funds than do paper auctions. While some believe an online auction will bring in more profits, experience has shown that when an auction is tied to an event, the majority of bidders, whether they bid online or in person, are those attending the event. Upon closer examination, its is discovered that these bidders spend approximately the same amount, whether their donations are made in person or online.

While Pearl Bids software is geared towards a paper auction, it does provide you the opportunity to auction your items online as well. We have heard that taking the items online provides an excellent backup option for those spare items that did not sell at an event. A few users have chosen to place a few mid-range items online as well, providing an option for non-attendees without pulling from the profits of the live auction or paper silent auction. This increased flexibility allows you to take advantage of both mediums without a lot of extra work

Bidding at the Marin SEL silent auction

Keep in mind - A paper auction helps build supporters.



Pearl Bids silent auction manager  is the perfect tool to easily set up, keep track, and run your silent auction.


Scroll through the feature slides or watch some of the how-to videos to see for yourself why our customers continue to use Pearl Bids year after year for all of their silent auction events. 


*The original downloadable Pearl Bids is available as an alternative for those who do not have wifi access at their event.