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:

  • Budget
  • 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.

The Wrap

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:

  • Industry leading ticketing capabilities  
  • Easy to use administrative pages 
  • Virtual platform: host up to 1,000 participants in a standard or webinar format 
  • Custom URL and landing page to promote your event 
  • Live support 
  • Secure payments and checkout 
  • Item watch and auto-bid 
  • Text and email notifications for supporters and admins 
  • Full data reporting on RSVPs, attendance, and more 
  • Tex-to-give capabilities 

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:

Phone: 248-904-1740

Email: support@iconnectx.com

2020 and 2021 have been turbulent years for people across the globe. The pandemic has taken its toll on businesses and economies worldwide. The non-profit sector also felt the heat of the disturbing times. Fundraising strategies for nonprofits needed to be changed. Virtual events replaced in-person events. And, nonprofits were forced to take a digital route as far as fundraising was concerned.

Responsive website designs, online donations, mobile giving, were some methods that became popular for donating to charities. Different fundraising strategies adopted by nonprofits bore mixed results.

Here’s a look at some of them:

The FEP released its findings for the trend in Giving in 2020 and 2021. (Source: https://www.thenonprofittimes.com/donors/study-first-quarter-2021-fundraising-beat-2020/)

According to their report:

  • Giving in the first quarter of 2021 grew over that in 2020 by 6%.
  • The number of donors in the first quarter of 2021 grew by 10% over 2020 and the donor retention rate grew by 13.6% in the same period.
  • However, it is important to note that not all nonprofits experienced this increase in the number of donors, or the funds raised. The funds raised by charities associated with religious organizations and Human Services experienced an increase while most other charities were not so fortunate.

We do not know exactly how long the pandemic will last or how much it is going to impact the nonprofit sector. But nonprofits can leverage these insights to plan their fundraising for the future.

Now, when 2022 is just around the corner, it is time that nonprofits pulled up their socks and planned their fundraising for the coming year!

Looking at the current scenario, virtual fundraising seems to be an effective means in the near future!

Here are 8 Powerful Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits:

  1. Online Donations

Facilitating online donations for donors is no longer a choice but a must for nonprofits. Data reveals that online donations increased by 23% last year over 15% off the previous year. (Source: https://doublethedonation.com/tips/matching-grant-resources/nonprofit-fundraising-statistics/) Hence nonprofits must ensure that they provide easy and simple online methods for donations. Especially in the current scenario when it is difficult for donors to visit specific locations to donate, online donations are necessary to enable donors to contribute.

If donors can relate to a nonprofit and wish to support its cause then online donations make it easy for them to contribute to the charity from any part of the world.

Online donations can be made through the website of the nonprofit. The website should be easy to navigate and the donation page and donation button must be clear and easy to access. Online donations can also be facilitated through the social media pages of the nonprofit.

Non-profits can also offer other means of online donations to make it easy for donors to contribute.

  1. Online Auctions

Charity auctions have been an extremely popular means of fundraising among donors for years. However, in-person auctions had to be stopped in 2020 because of the COVID 19 restrictions. However, many nonprofits have switched to a virtual mode of holding charity auctions. In an online auction, the bidders can view the products on which bids are to be placed online. They can place their bids anonymously. They will get an alert when a higher bid is placed. They can raise their bids as and when they desire. The time limit for the auction is indicated by the nonprofit and all bids need to be sent within the deadline specified. The winning bids are announced in a virtual event where all bidders are present.

The benefits of online auctions to nonprofits are that they cut down on several expenses such as venue costs, hosting costs, transportation costs, etc. Besides, they save on the time, effort, and manpower required for hosting the online event. Nonprofits can also reach a wide audience easily online. People across the globe can participate in an online auction.

The participants of the auction enjoy the benefit of placing the bids from the comfort of their homes at a time of their convenience.

However, hosting a successful auction requires an event management platform to facilitate it. The software available for hosting such events can be expensive. Therefore the cost of the platform must be budgeted for while organizing an online auction.

  1. Virtual Events

Virtual events have become the alternative to in-person events when the pandemic has forced us all indoors. Nonprofits have created innovative virtual events to attract donors for their fundraisers.

Virtual events are facilitated through Zoom calls, webinars, Facebook Live, or Instagram Live events. In the past year, we have seen how these types of events have been successful in attracting a wide audience.

However, virtual events do not provide an opportunity for physical interaction for the audience. Therefore, it becomes challenging for nonprofits to host virtual events that engage their audience for the entire duration of the event.

Nonprofits have offered different ways of engaging their audience through break room chats, Q&As, etc.

Some of the virtual events hosted by nonprofits include online concerts, digital movie nights, virtual races, and more.

  1. Text-to-Give/ Text-to-Donate

Text-to-give and text-to-donate have become extremely popular methods of donation in recent times because of the convenience they offer.

Text-to-give is a method of donating where the donor is required to message a keyword to a shortcode. The amount donated is charged in the cellphone bill of the donor and the mobile service provider remits the amount to the nonprofit.

Text-to-donate is a little different from text to give. In text-to-donate, the donor messages the keyword to a shortcode. He is directed to the registration form of the nonprofit where he furnishes his details and donates the amount directly to the nonprofit.

Text-to-give and text-to-donate are convenient for both donors and nonprofits.

  1. Scan to Give

Scan to give is another method of donating using the smartphone. In this method, the nonprofit shares a QR code that the donor can scan and donate the amount to a charity. This method is popular because the donor can contribute any amount at any time of his convenience. Scanning a QR code is possible for donors even when they are on the go. It is a safe and secure method of fundraising which is also easy for nonprofits to provide to their donors.

  1. Peer to Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an effective fundraising strategy for nonprofits. In peer-to-peer fundraising supporters of the nonprofit and other individuals create fundraising pages on behalf of the nonprofit. They share the page in their community, among their friends and network to ask for donations.

  1. Social Media Takeover

This is an interesting and effective virtual fundraising strategy. In social media takeover, you can request your corporate partner permission to use their social media accounts for a day.

You can spread the word about your fundraiser on the social media accounts of your partner. Nonprofits can share links to their website, social media pages, their online donation forms, etc. Social media takeover helps increase the visibility of your brand and raises awareness about your cause. It helps you tap into an existing online audience and boosts your reach.

  1. Online Raffle

An online raffle is when participants need to purchase raffle tickets. One lucky winner wins the raffle prize. Raffles have been an effective fundraising strategy in the past and online raffles are also effective in raising funds for a cause.

However, the nonprofit needs to clearly communicate the purpose of the fundraiser and the cause that is being supported to attract donors.

This becomes easier by choosing an event hosting platform like iConnectx which facilitates customizing the event with your brand colors and logo besides making it easy for you to tell your brand’s story to your audience.

Most of the online fundraising strategies require software to organize and host fundraisers. There is a myriad of platforms with specific features available for event management. The non-profit must select a platform that meets all its needs. It is recommended to opt for a platform that helps host different types of fundraisers.

iConnectx is a platform that has all the features that facilitate hosting different types of events and fundraisers for nonprofits. This platform is easy to use and has a team to support the installation and maintenance of the platform. This platform also offers tools for marketing and promotion besides facilitating customization with brand colors and logos.