Home Fundraising Auction Technology 101: A Basic Course For Beginners

Auction Technology 101: A Basic Course For Beginners

by Eric Burgess

This article comes to us froKarrie Wozniak at BidPal, the leading provider of technology that helps charities raise more money while adding fun and excitement to fundraising events.

Of course, all nonprofits dream about selling out their fundraising events, and auctions are no exception. But anyone who’s ever thrown a fundraiser knows filling the house is easier said than done. Luckily, the ever-increasing prevalence of fundraising technology has made planning and executing successful fundraising events much simpler.

In this article, we will focus on auction technology to illuminate how this useful tool can help organizations plan more profitable and streamlined charity auctions. This technology includes:

  1. Auction software
  2. Event sites
  3. Mobile bidding

We’ll discuss what each of these do, their standout features, and how they can improve your auction. Don’t worry if you’re not especially tech savvy or if this is your first encounter with auction technology. We are here to help you understand. Now let’s see how auction software can help your organization plan an event that’s sure to get all of your supporters to the venue.

1. Auction Software

What Is It?

Auction software is simply a more specialized version of event planning software. It includes general event planning features and features specific to charity auctions to help nonprofits stay on top of the many elements that comprise a fundraising auction. In other words, this software enables nonprofits to streamline their charity auctions so their events are more likely to succeed.

All of the technology we’ll discuss here technically falls under the umbrella of auction software. However, in this section, we’ll refer to the main software that includes the event planning module and stores all auction-related data.

What Features Does It Include?

Auction software includes many useful features. Here are a few:

  • Item And Package Management
    Auction software includes an item and package management module where nonprofits can track auction items. You can list relevant item data, including descriptions and images of each item. You can also group similar items into a package if you feel they would perform better together than separately.
  • RSVP Management
    The RSVP management module enables you to create a centralized guest list to keep track of attendee information and monitor your expected turnout. You can also make seating charts and table arrangements, and automatically assign all guests bidder numbers for participating in the auction.
  • Reporting And Analytics
    Software enables you to run a variety of powerful reports on anything from your items to your attendees to the overall health of your auction. With this feature, you can more accurately pinpoint areas for improvement to increase your proceeds next time.
  • CRM Integration
    Most auction software supports integrations with nonprofit CRMs. That means your organization can automatically capture all attendee data in new and existing donor profiles to gain a complete picture of your donors’ engagement history.

How Can It Help You?

From attendee data to auction item information to venue arrangements, there are a lot of moving parts in your auction. Auction software can serve as a central hub for all of your auction-planning efforts. When used to its fullest potential, your software can help you:

  • Stay organized throughout the planning process
  • Centralize all efforts and data sources to create a holistic view of the event
  • Show donors a more convenient and enjoyable auction experience
  • Gain deeper insights into event performance

It’s true planning an auction can be a time-consuming, complicated endeavor, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. When you take advantage of powerful event fundraising software at every step of the process, you’ll be primed to put together an event that’s successful, engaging, and stress-free.

The Bottom Line

Auction technology is a specialized form of event fundraising software that streamlines the planning process by providing a comprehensive view of the auction.

2. Event Sites

What Are They?

Event sites are branded websites nonprofits use to promote and prepare for their charity auctions and other fundraising events. When used for auctions, these sites list all important information about auction items and the event itself. While it’s possible to build and host your own event site, the easiest way to generate one is by using auction software.

If you’ve taken the time to enter item and event details, all the software needs to do is pull the data you’ve recorded populate the site with it. Your organization can then easily customize the website so it reflects your event.

What Features Do They Include?

Event sites serve a variety of functions and can be customized to meet almost any need your nonprofit has. Let’s look at some of the many capabilities of event sites to demonstrate how they can help your nonprofit plan the most profitable auction:

  • Item Listings
    Because these sites are populated with records in your auction software, you can quickly create listings on your site for all items. These listings can serve as a virtual auction catalog where supporters can browse descriptions and photos of each item before the event. Advertising your items in advance leads to a bigger turnout since the chance to walk home with a coveted item is an excellent incentive to attend.
  • Online Auctions
    Your organization can also host an online auction through your event site. Bidders will be able to view your items and bid on anything they want. By coupling your live or silent auction with an online one, you can open up your auction to more supporters and increase event proceeds.
  • Online Ticketing
    With an online event site, your organization can offer donors the option to purchase tickets or sponsorships online. It’s a convenient way to RSVP. You can even set multi-ticket packages to provide your supporters with the utmost flexibility. When the ticketing experience is both flexible and convenient, donors are much more likely to follow through.
  • Mobile Bidding Registration
    If you’re using mobile bidding during a silent auction (more on that below), your event site can help you prepare. It should include a page where donors can learn how to use mobile bidding and pre-register their credit cards. By getting donors set up with mobile bidding in advance, your auction will run more seamlessly, and participants can start bidding sooner.

How Can They Help You?

Event websites can provide your donors with everything they need to know about your event, including how to purchase tickets, instructions for pre-registering for mobile bidding, and information on the items for sale. When all the crucial information is in one place, your donors won’t have to scour the internet to learn more about your auction. No more jumping from website to website to get the details they need. Your event site has everything and more to create a convenient, engaging donor experience.

Plus, your event site is the perfect way to bring awareness for your auction and your cause to potential new donors. On the homepage of your site, you can include an introduction to your auction and organization using text, photos, and/or videos. Share your mission, your reason for hosting the auction, and what you hope to achieve. When donors are more aware of the purpose behind your auction and the good work it can achieve, they’ll be more inclined to attend and share the site with their own networks.

The Bottom Line

When generated from auction software, event sites can help nonprofits generate a bigger turnout at their auctions, see more bid activity, and run smoother events.

3. Mobile Bidding

What Is It?

We’ve discussed the advantages of mobile bidding in a previous article, but since this technology is so central to auction success, it can’t hurt to refresh.

Mobile bidding is a new bidding method that has revolutionized the format of the silent auction. Instead of having to write their bidder number and bid amounts on a bid sheet every time they want to place a bid, supporters can bid from their smartphones anywhere in the venue. In fact, they don’t even have to be in the venue. Since all bidding takes place online, donors can participate remotely.

What Features Does It Include?

Mobile bidding itself might be straightforward to use, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a robust piece of technology. Here are just a few of the many features:

  • Item Listings
    The mobile bidding interface is essentially a mobile-friendly version of your event site. Supporters can browse all items right from their phones. Since they don’t have to rely on items being on display to bid on them, your organization can start packing up earlier to expedite post-event logistics, while leaving bidding open for as long as possible.
  • Automated Bidding
    With mobile bidding, donors don’t even have to do any work. They can set maximum bid amounts on the items they want so the software bids for them. With this feature, your organization will never miss out on receiving the highest bid.
  • Text Notifications
    Mobile bidding software will send donors text notifications throughout the night, alerting them when they’ve been outbid on an item they’re watching, warning them when the auction is about to close, and giving other announcements. This feature can assist donors to stay on top of bidding on the items they want and help engage them during your event.
  • Donation Portal
    Mobile bidding software also includes a donation portal where guests can donate to your organization outside of participating in the auction. By providing another way to donate, your proceeds are sure to increase.

How Can It Help You?

Auction technology is designed to make the auction experience simpler for you and your donors. Mobile bidding software is the perfect example of that.  Not only does mobile bidding software streamline the bidding process for donors, it also takes a lot of the logistical weight off of your team’s shoulders too.

For instance, your mobile bidding software is equipped with payment processing tools to easily and seamlessly handle all item purchases. Once it’s time for the auction to close, mobile bidding software will automatically shut down items, determine winning bidders, and process winners’ credit cards. Since it takes care of the transaction for you, the checkout process is simple. All your organization has to worry about is getting items to their winners.

Plus, mobile bidding maximizes your opportunities for donor engagement. Since viewing, bidding on, and paying for items is so easy, your donors will have more time to learn about your cause and talk to your staff one on one. When you pause to think about these advantages, it’s no surprise auctions that incorporate mobile bidding technology tend to raise three times more than traditional auctions.

The Bottom Line

Mobile bidding simplifies the bidding process for auction guests and the item checkout process for your organization. The convenience this software provides takes some of the stress out of running your auction and can help you host a more lucrative event.

Has your organization used auction software before? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments.


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