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A charity auction is a popular type of nonprofit fundraising event. During an auction, nonprofits raise money through taking bids for auction items and selling each item to the donor who places the highest bid.
With a silent auction, items are displayed on tables around the room for attendees to browse. Traditionally, guests place their bids on a sheet of paper next to the item, but with the introduction of mobile bidding software, the format is evolving.
During a live auction, an auctioneer will be in charge of calling out auction items and running the bidding. Attendees place bids by shouting out amounts, raising bid paddles, or otherwise capturing the auctioneer’s attention.
Online charity auctions are essentially digital silent auctions. Photos of the items are featured on an auction site for bidders to browse. Participants will have to register and submit their credit card information before they can place a bid.
Once it's time for the auction to begin, open up the bidding. If hosting an online or mobile silent auction, bidding will open automatically. If hosting a live auction or paper silent auction, you'll have to announce open.
Each item is assigned a starting bid amount, equivalent to about 30-50% of that item’s market value. The starting bid dictates the minimum amount that the first bidder can bid on the item.
Each item is also assigned a minimum raise amount around 10-15% of the market value. In order to place the new highest bid, each bidder must top the previous bid by at least the minimum raise.
Once it's time for the auction to end, bidding will be closed either automatically or manually, depending on the format of your auction. Whoever has placed the final, highest bid on each item is that item's winner.
By placing the bid, the winner has agreed to pay that amount and assumes full risk and responsibility for that item. Make sure to spell out the rules in your auction program so that bidders know what's expected.
Check out the above event fundraising page Benton Academy made with OneCause’s solutions. On this page, their attendees could buy tickets, make donations, and learn more about the upcoming event.
All types of auctions have many components, and expenses can quickly add up.
You’ll need to set a clearly defined budget to make sure that the event doesn’t break the bank.
Additionally, you’ll want to decide on a fundraising goal.
This will help you determine how many items you need to auction off and at what amount you should set your starting bids.
Auctions require many hands, and you’ll need a dedicated and diverse team to help the event planning process run as smoothly as possible.
Not only will your organization need to form a team of staff to help oversee planning , but you’ll also need to recruit lots of volunteers to ensure that the event itself goes off without a hitch.
If you’re running an online charity auction, you can probably get away with a smaller team, but you’ll still need people to set up your auction site, solicit items, and market your event.
With a large, devoted team on your side to help with every step of the event, your auction is sure to see success!
Of course, if you want to host an auction, you’ll need items to auction off!
Although the items you procure will depend largely on what donors are willing to give, it can be helpful to brainstorm about what items might appeal most to your donors.
If you’ve hosted an auction in the past, and you kept detailed records, you can look back on previous years to see which items were the most popular sellers.
If you’re hosting a live auction, you might also want to consider featuring consignment items, which are big ticket items that you only have to pay for if you sell.
Additionally, keep in mind that for online auctions, you’ll need to find items that appeal to people in all geographic locations and avoid items that are too large or heavy to ship.
About 9-6 months before your auction, you should pin down a date and location.
When deciding which venue to book and when, think about how many people will be attending, the ambiance of the event, and your supporters’ general availability.
Additionally, if you’re implementing mobile bidding, you should test out the wifi and cell reception to make sure the venue can accommodate your software.
For online auctions for nonprofits, you’ll need to shop for online charity auction software, which allows you to create an event site that supports online bidding.
Along with auction items, the auctioneer or emcee is the most important part of the auction.
Both of these figures are integral to the atmosphere and success of your auction, so choose wisely!
While you can probably get away with a volunteer emcee, you’ll definitely want to enlist the help of a professional auctioneer if you’re hosting a live auction.
Need help finding a great auctioneer? Check out: https://www.onecause.com/fundraising-partners/
Now that you know you have all of the essentials for hosting an auction, it’s time to start telling supporters about your event!
You’ll first want to compile a guest list. When thinking about who to invite, consider the size of the venue and who in your donor base has the capacity to bid on your auction items.
Then, start sending out invites! If you’re using event planning software, you can sell tickets online to provide supporters with more convenience.
Make sure to include the link to your online ticket page when you send out invites so that donors who want to attend can RSVP “yes”!
Giving guests a taste of your amazing auction items ahead of time is sure to get them hyped up about the event!
If you’re using auction software, you can set up an online auction site to serve as an auction catalog.
By featuring your catalog online, you can continuously update it as new information and items become available. You’ll also cut down on all of the fiscal and environmental costs associated with printing.
You can even open up online bidding to host an online charity auction solo or in conjunction with your live or silent auction.
Congratulations! It’s now the day of the event and most of your planning is over.
The day of your auction, you and your volunteers will want to get to the venue well before the event starts to set up.
During this stage, make sure you also have volunteers appointed to each task and that everyone is clear on their responsibilities.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to enjoy your event!
If you’re hosting an in-person auction, it will probably look a little something like this:
Once all the guests are gone, break down your setup, clean up the venue, and celebrate a job well done!
Your event might be over, but you’re not done quite yet!
It’s important to track your performance, especially if you’re going to make auctions a recurring staple of your fundraising events.
The most robust auction and event planning software will allow you to generate a wide variety of reports that will give you detailed insights into your auction items and bidders.
Next year will be even better!
Auction software can help organizations improve their in-person auctions significantly, and it’s absolutely crucial for online auctions. Before you start planning, look into online charity auction software and choose a vendor whose product meets your needs.
Early on in the planning process, recruit staff and volunteers to make up your auction team. You’ll also want to hire an auctioneer if you’re hosting a live auction, an emcee if you’re hosting a silent auction, and an auction monitor to oversee the bidding if you’re hosting an online charity auction.
You’ll have no way to fundraise at your auction if you don’t have items to auction off! All charity auctions need a range of amazing auction items to see fundraising success.
Auction catalogs are great for creating hype around your items and will play a huge part in helping your organization promote the event. If using auction software, you can create an online catalog by setting up an auction site.
Both live and silent auctions can be run with various bidding methods. If hosting a silent auction, decide if you’ll use mobile bidding software so guests can bid from their phones or if you’ll use classic bid sheets. If hosting a live auction, determine how guests will grab the auctioneer’s attention (bid paddles are a popular option!).
Event programs give guests a schedule for the night and orient them with your event. If using mobile bidding software during a silent auction, all event information will be in the app, so no need to print anything!
Auction software will simplify and streamline many logistics to help your organization stay organized throughout the auction planning process.
If guests will be sitting at tables, you'll want to assign seats in advance. Your software makes it easy to create seating charts and match guests with their seats.
If you're using auction software to help run your auction, you can automatically assign bidders numbers in the platform. Giving out numbers is as simple as consulting your software.
Encourage guests to pre-register their credit cards on your auction site or at check-in. Doing so will expedite the checkout process significantly, since payment info is linked to all other event data.
Volunteers should be ready to check guests in as they arrive. Depending on the format of your auction, they'll either assign guests numbers or get them set up with mobile bidding.
If guests have pre-registered their credit cards, check out should be easy as pie. Since their cards are recorded in the platform, attendees will automatically be charged if they win an item.
Even if you're using software, you'll still need to have a physical check-out set up for guests who wish to pay by cash or check. Make sure you have enough volunteers on hand to help.
You'll need some way to verify winners' payments and match them with their items. Guests paying through the mobile bidding platform will automatically receive receipts, making checkout simple.
Set up a separate line where winners can pick up their items after they've paid. You should have plenty of volunteers ready at pick-up to match up items and winners and retrieve those items.
For future reference, you should have the winner's name and winning bid amount recorded for each item. If using mobile bidding software, this information will automatically be recorded.