The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.”
The fundraising sphere is changing — auctions, the traditional cornerstone for fundraising, are now often held online. If your organization is looking for a new fundraising approach or transitioning to online events, virtual auctions and fundraisers are a simple alternative to conventional in-person events.
Online auctions open more opportunities for nonprofits – new supporters, remote supporters, and extended fundraising options. Online auctions offer many benefits like supporters can participate from any location. It lowers overhead costs since there is no need for a physical venue, which often includes several kinds of fees.
Let’s explore how to fundraise and host auctions online in fourteen steps:
Step 1: Plan
The first step is to outline everything that goes into the event itself, much of which we will cover in further detail further down in the blog.
Here are examples:
- Theme – more on this next in the article
- Who is responsible for what – tickets, item procurement, technical needs and marketing — create teams based on these lists
- Fundraising goals
- Ticket sale dates
- The start and end dates for accepting bids
- How many volunteers you will need
- Choose your event planning and hosting software
Step 2: Decide on a Theme
Data from previous events can help you plan a themed auction tailored to your audience’s tastes. With your theme set, you can procure items aligned to the theme and create an event finale based on the theme, too. For example, if art is the theme of your event, you can procure paintings or other creative works of art and invite an artist to speak at the finale.
Step 3: Create Teams
An online auction involves multiple tasks such as procurement of items on auction, promotion of the event, and more. We recommend you identify specific tasks create teams dedicated to those responsibilities. Hold regular team meetings and follow a timeline to ensure all groups are on the right track.
Step 4: Leverage the Power of Your Data
Collect data from previous events to give you an idea of donor behavior from the prior fundraisers. The feedback from earlier events will help you create an engaging online auction. A data-driven event makes it easier to achieve your engagement and financial goals.
Step 5: Procurement of Items
Align the items you offer at auction according to the theme. Based on your data, request that the procurement team collect items customized to your audience’s needs.
A helpful item procurement technique is to solicit corporate sponsorships. Businesses provide auction items in exchange for positive PR; this is a win-win relationship.
Step 6: Set Up the Online Auction Site
For hosting an online auction, you will need a platform like iConnectx that includes all features that will support the event. You’ll need a digital venue in the cloud to host all your fantastic auction items. Once you’ve picked your fundraising platform, it’s time to start creating your auction site.
Make sure your auction platform has the following features:
- It should be cloud-based to access your planning tools and data at anytime and anywhere
- A flexible design so you can customize your auction site
- Make sure it is mobile optimized so donors can use their smartphones
- Enable participants to place bids
- Item management to track, handle and package auction items
- Online bidding capabilities with robust features
- Must-have tech features that support texting, email, live event alerts, and donor recognition
- Secure payment and registration
- Social media integration to maximize your reach so you can communicate your cause
- Reporting and analytics – gather and analyze fundraising data
The site is your fundraiser’s HQ. Prepare for your online auction with bidder pre-registration. Make sure to request an address to ship items to the winning bidders. Remember to share the registration link in a couple of weeks to generate momentum and bids.
Step 7: The Ramp Up: Promote, Promote, Promote
Here are a few tips to help you publicize your event:
- Share the link to your fundraising site via social media and email
- Place your item catalog and fixed price items like raffles and merchandise on your site
- If your event has a peer-to-peer element, request your supporters promote their fundraising pages and share links on social media
- Leverage your support: consider who your loyal supporters, donors, volunteers, and staff are and make them ambassadors
- Maximize the power of social media – it’s your event’s closest ally. It is free and has a global reach – it’s the top way to engage and connect with your supporters
- Offer incentives — if the online auction is a paid event, offer early bird discounts for the first 100 people who register. Alternatively, you can provide special offers to participants.
- Your website — announce the event on your website to increase awareness
- Offer a sneak peek – provide registrants an early look at the items up for bids
Step 8: Bidding
Opening Bids: On your auction start date, it’s time to open for item bidding. Online auctions are flexible – you can extend the bidding period for more extended periods than any in-person event. Ensure to interact with your supporters throughout the auction’s duration by reminding supporters about your organization’s mission, sharing impact stories and text messages, updates on popular items.
One more note about bids: each auction item needs a starting bid amount to dictate the minimum amount the first bidder pays to kick off bidding on that item. Industry standards recommend setting the minimum at 40-50% of its Fair Market Value (FMV).
Minimum Raise: Set a rule that each bid must top the previous offer by the minimum raise amount to become the new top bidder. Set the minimum raise between 10-15% of the FMV.
Here are a few variables to think about when setting bid increments:
- High-priced, low popularity – expensive items that are not in demand by your guests may need a lower minimum bid increment
- Items that failed to perform in the past – if these items did not meet expectations in prior auctions, you may want to lower the minimum bid increment
- Items that trigger bidding wars – popular items require a higher minimum raise to maximize your auction proceeds
Use Buy Now and Maximum Bidding – These are two excellent values of online auctions. A maximum bid is a feature that allows a bidder to choose a “not to exceed” amount and lets the platform bid on their behalf. “Buy now” will enable one to set the top price of an item for immediate purchase. We suggest you place a buy now price 20-30% over market value.
Step 9: Live Auction Day
Open your auction a few days early for maximum revenue and follow up with a live virtual event on the official start date. The live event is your opportunity to recreate elements of an in-person auction by live-streaming a small group of people sharing and interacting with viewers. Services like iConnectX, WeInvite, and social media channels offer reliable live streaming capabilities.
Step 10: Follow Up
Follow up with your auction’s attendees by promptly and securely shipping items to the lucky winners. Also, thank all of your attendees through personalized thank you messages whether they won an item or not.
Collect feedback from attendees and volunteers about your auction – what worked, what they liked – there are free survey platforms available. After that, collect and analyze the data provided by your auction software – all of your compiled data assists in planning the next fundraiser.
An online auction requires innovative ideas and strategies to be effective. It also requires robust and dependable software. iConnectx offers an affordable suite of online fundraising solutions to ensure your auction’s success:
Whatever solution you need, iConnectX can help. We offer single-use technology up to full service in affordable packages. Call or email our consultants to choose the solution that is right for you: