With many organizations trying to cut expenses, and with printed materials accounting for a large percentage of any auction gala budget, it’s worth taking a look at how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to printing.

Here’s my opinion on when to splurge and theme basket ideas for silent auction when to save.

Auction Invitation: WORTH IT, depending on ticket price

The formal printed invitation has not yet been made obsolete by the “evite” and many guests will expect to receive their copy in the mail (especially if you have a more expensive ticket price).

But make sure to have an electronic version handy, especially for corporate donors who increasingly do business by email only. This will help to cut down the number of invitations that have to be printed and mailed, saving you postage costs (which is another pricey portion of any auction budget).

Dinner Program: WORTH IT, in a ‘lite’ version

If a guest is enjoying themselves at an event, they won’t read lengthy program cover-to-cover. The truth is very few guests do.

You can cut unnecessary narrative and letters and stick to the items guests need to know that night, such as the order of the evening, the menu (some guests have allergies), and a description of live auction items.

Auction Catalog: NOT WORTH IT, UNLESS…

…you’re distributing these in advance. If not, save your pennies. When a full-length auction catalog is distributed at the event, your guests won’t read it until the event is over. That doesn’t help your bottom line.


For most organizations, a save the date card is redundant information since the date is usually announced in a newsletter, brochure, or other mailing already sent to patrons. If it is necessary, consider an email blast instead. (You do collect emails… right?)

Auction Signage: WORTH IT

Anything that clearly directs guests to the auction items they want to bid on will always be worth the money.

Large signs clearly marking each section and easy-to-ready display signs are essential.

Another option is to display or distribute maps of the silent auction layout. One of my clients went so far as to color code each section on the map to match the bid sheets, table cloths and signs, making each section instantly identifiable.