Running your own silent auction can be a good way to raise thousands of dollars for a charity, but not a lot of people know how to get one started. While there are several different ways to do it, this is the easiest way to get started.

Start by estimating the number of people you want to have at your event. Find a venue to hold them, then start planning for the auction. Ideally, try to plan for one item for every three people you have attending the event. This gives everyone enough variety to find something they want to buy, but still leaves enough room for competition.

Next, start gathering items for the silent auction. Ideally, try to get items that people would not ordinarily be able to buy. For example, think of backstage passes to an event, lessons from a local professional or minor celebrity, one of a kind artwork, and private tours. Because these items are rare and hard to come by, they tend to sell for the most money. Think of ways that prominent benefactors can help, then ask them to donate a specific item or gift of their time.

After getting some of the more unique items, start asking local businesses for donations. Be willing to accept practically anything that comes in. Gift cards and small items can be paired together to make gift baskets that can be auctioned off as a single item. Be prepared to have letters on your charity’s letterhead to give to potential donors, and be willing to print the names of businesses that advertise in programs for the event.

After gathering items, take a look at what you have and consider ways to package items together. Think about the typical amount that your guests are usually willing to donate, and group auction items together so that each item is within 25% of this amount. For example, if your donations are usually around $100, create auction baskets and group other items so that the value of each auction item is between $75 and $125. This ensures that you get the majority of people at your event bidding.

Finally, make up auction bid sheets for each item. Set minimum bids to roughly half the retail value of the items in the basket. This encourages people to start bidding in the hopes of getting a bargain, but prevents items from going so low that you don’t make any money. Arrange items on auction tables so that they entice buyers to look and bid.