When to Include "Buy Now" Prices on Auction Bid Sheets

The best silent auction items generate a flurry of back-and-forth bidding until one winner is crowned. Indeed, the competitive nature of bidding is what makes charity auctions such an entertaining fundraiser – and what drives bids higher and higher.

However, what happens to 2nd and 3rd place bidders? When they don’t win that coveted Date Night basket or flat-screen TV… those once-pledged dollars often end up walking right out the door at the end of the night.

One easy way to capture a portion of these second-high bids, plus increase bids overall, is strategically including Buy Now spaces on your bid sheets. Read on to learn when and how to best utilize this silent auction strategy.

Benefits of “Buy Now” Spaces

How it works: You provide a set price bidders can pay to immediately win an item. Once claimed, any bid in the Buy Now section automatically becomes the winning bid amount.

It’s no secret that many bidders come to silent auctions looking for a deal. So, why would they consider buying an item outright at retail value or greater? Consider this scenario…

Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s 30-year anniversary is coming up at the end of the year. Mrs. Smith has suggested taking a trip somewhere they’ve never been. At the ‘super silent auction’ table, Mr. Smith stumbles upon a trip to Iceland, complete with 5 nights’ lodging, tour of the Northern Lights, dip in the famed Blue Lagoon spa and more. An avid traveler, Mr. Smith knows Iceland will be the perfect outside-the-box adventure to celebrate their big milestone; plus, all proceeds are going to one of their favorite causes. He sees a couple other guests have already started bidding, so he marks his bid card number in the Buy Now space. This stops all regular bidding.

The other interested bidders return to the table and see bidding has reached the Buy Now price. They decide to match the price. All 3 couples are set to go on the trip – and the Nonprofit pockets 3 times the proceeds!

As you can see, the right combination of timing, convenience and a quality auction item mean even a “high” Buy now prices is not out of the question.

If you can position your silent auction as a luxury shopping experience, donors will be willing to pay top dollar for your most exciting and exclusive items.

You collect a hefty donation, while interested donors avoid the hassle of bidding. It’s a win-win that can end up netting your organization a few extra hundred, to thousands of dollars, on popular items.


Tips to Maximize the Buy Now Option

Here are a few general guidelines to consider when determining when to include the Buy Now spaces; how many; and at what price.

1. Focus on items everybody will want. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to include “Buy Now” prices on every bid sheet. But since you have to go through the work of determining prices, you might not want to bother on items unlikely to generate bidding wars. Plus, a bid sheet with plenty of empty Buy Now spaces can be unappealing.

Instead, try using past sales data, tried-and-true items (like travel packages) and current trends (like craft beer) to determine categories likely to be a hit with your audience. Then, include buy now prices on your best and most exclusive items in these categories.


2. Set a price you would be very happy with receiving. “If you’re offering silent auction items before the event, make sure whatever Buy Now price you set is high enough to account for the number of bids you were expecting at the event, and then some,” advises Ian Lauth, Creative Director at Winspire.

“Remember, the whole point of a Buy Now price is to set a price that you would be VERY happy with receiving,” Lauth adds.

All too often charities operate their silent auctions with a “take what you can get” mentality. Instead, focus on procuring high quality auction items – then don’t be afraid to ask for a fair minimum bid and high Buy Now price, to ensure none of your precious donations gets away for a song.

Buy now option for auction item bid sheets3. As a general guideline, Buy Now prices can range from 100 to 150 percent of the retail value, or more. Vary the amount based on the exclusivity and nature of the item.

4. Use Winspire’s free, professionally designed Bid Sheet Templates. To maximize bids, you need to create a luxury shopping experience for donors. An item’s presentation is the first impression a donor will have of your “one night only” merchandise, so it’s important that each item is accompanied by a sleek, attractive display and bid sheet.

To help, we’ve created easy-to-use, fully customizable templates for bid sheets – both with and without “Buy Now” pricing. Click here to get the templates.


5. Include multiple spaces on your most popular items. Once you download the Winspire Bid Sheet Templates, you will notice the different options that include one to three “Buy Now” spaces.

You might be wondering – how can we offer one donated item to multiple winners?

Expert Tip:
How to offer one item multiple times


Here’s how can you procure a donation twice for two “Buy Now” bidders.

First, try simply asking for two of a donation from each donor. If they seem hesitant or you don’t want to push a new relationship, mention that you would use the second donation only if you get a real “lightning strike” on the bidding tables. Since the second donation would only be needed if the item sells more than once, this can be an attractive option that requires less commitment.

If the donor still says no, consider asking for its retail value, then setting a Buy Now price at which buying the package would still net your charity significant profits.

For more tips and examples, check out our recent webinar here (the section on silent auctions and multiple-donation procurement starts around 14:42). I also recommend…


No-risk Items

Offering an item to multiple donors is a breeze with consignment or no-risk items like Winspire’s travel packages. For example, you can offer tickets and a meet-and-greet with cast members in Broadway’s Hamilton in your auction with no upfront cost.


You’ll include a minimum bid on the bid sheet at a certain markup above the Nonprofit price (say, 20 percent higher). Then you might include multiple Buy Now spaces at double that markup amount (40 percent higher) or more.

This way, more than one interested couple can ensure they will win the item. They might even plan a group trip together and reserve trips at the same time. (And yes – we’ve seen this exact package sell six times in one silent auction!)

Winspire’s full-service travel agency handles the rest, fulfilling every detail of your winning bidders’ unforgettable excursions.