Do Silent Auctions Draw Customers?
Are silent auctions the acorn that can help grow a business?
Many art fairs that I attend ask the artist if they’d contribute an item for their silent auction, held at the same time and location as the art fair.
The funds raised support the organization, their projects or their educational assistance programs. When I first started doing art shows and asking around what others donate, I found a general consensus of “something small”, or “something that hasn’t sold”, or similar comments.
There were exceptions to this, but not many. Some artists provide amazing things.
In talking with the benefactors of the silent auctions, I found that large items typically didn't sell well. The preference was for smaller items.
My Typical Donation
Over the course of years, I’ve donated different items to various silent auctions.
When I was moving away from selling 8×10’s, I’d donate that size. Now that I don’t carry 11×14’s in my booth, that has been my donation.
Although I have gone larger, depending upon the organization, I rarely do. It again comes back to what works best for the entity.
Specifically at art fairs, my main criteria is the offering does not compete with the prints in my booth. The 11x14s do not, as the smallest prints I now carry are 16x20.
Must Be Purchased
Another criteria I have for any donation request is the print must be purchased. A silent auction meets this standard. A "Door Prize" does not.
No Attributable Resulting Sales
Some suggest that donating an item will draw customers to the booth. Perhaps it has happened, though personally, I’ve known it to occur only one time.
No sales have ever been made in the booth because of a donation, nor have I ever witnessed after-show sales as a result of a donation.
So Why Do I Do It?
To me, there is an interesting dichotomy in action.
On one hand, I, as an artist, paid to have a booth at the art fair and it is my goal to sell a number of prints. After all, I’m there to make money.
On the other hand, if a small print can help the show’s cause move forward, then a small donation is not out of the question.
Are Silent Auctions The Acorn?
I’m not sure, but oak trees do grow slowly.