Offering the right amount of auction items is a critical decision in your fundraising event planning. One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make when hosting a live or silent auction is offering too many auction items during the event resulting in lower bids, low energy, and a lack of “bidding wars” to add to the excitement of the event. On the other hand, too few items could leave guests disappointed and you may not achieve your target revenue.

Fortunately, we have provided a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting the right number of items for your next auction.

The first step is to determine your fundraising goal. A live auction typically generates roughly two-thirds of your fundraising revenue, while the silent auction produces one-third. If you’re pairing a live auction with a silent auction, you will want to present your big-ticket items live onstage, keeping it to about 6-10 items.

The size of the audience and the venue should also be considered. To better understand the number of attendees who will actually participate in the auction, a good rule of thumb is to divide your guest list in half. This helps to factor the tendency for couples to bid together and establish a more realistic number of donors with the spending power to buy higher priced items that help to reach your fundraising goal. According to our friend Doug Sorrell in his book, Beneath The Gavel: A Charity Auctioneer’s Complete Guide to Fundraising a good rule of thumb for the silent auction is one silent auction item per 7 guests. If you expect 225 guests, you should have approximately 32 silent auction items.

A good sense of the guest demographic should guide your procurement efforts. Understanding the profile of the bidder will help in offering the items that your donors want. Overcrowding your event space can be overwhelming for donors to browse and shop. Keep a designated area for silent auction tables, with plenty of space for attendees to move around, socialize, and place their bids.

Most importantly, the best non-profit auctions offer quality over quantity. Give your audience a chance to bid on items that are out of their norm and provide experiences that give people a chance to try something new or get out of their comfort zone.

Need help with thinking of out-of-the-box auction item ideas or narrowing in on the right number of items to offer? We want to help! Give us a call at 888-573-2220 or send an email to