Just because in-person events have been squashed this year doesn’t mean your fundraising goals are doomed. Even without the fancy dinner and black-tie attire, auction fundraisers can still be fun! If you’ve organized an in-person auction before (or even if you haven’t), moving one online can be daunting and confusing. Where do you begin? What is the best way to communicate with your supporters? How should you price auction items? Will anyone actually tune in during the livestream? We’ve heard all the questions and we’ve found solutions to just about every one of them for our customers. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Check out the online auction best practices we’ve rounded up that, if implemented correctly, will result in a successful, goal-reaching online auction.

1. Round up some awesome auction items

First things first: what are you auctioning off? The items you include in your auction will affect how you promote your online auction, who you will attract to your online auction, and it will ultimately influence how much $$ you’re able to raise for your cause.

When procuring your auction items, consider the following things:

  • Who are your core supporters and what are their interests?
  • What are your fundraising goals?
  • How many attendees do you anticipate attracting?
  • What resources do you have to pull from?

Popular traditional item categories include unique experiences, travel, sports and entertainment tickets, dining, and gift cards. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of current times. Travel, entertainment, and even dining have all been severely limited and even prohibited across the country over the last several months, and it’s anticipated that it will continue into 2021. So, it’s time to think outside the box! Think about what your core supporters would be attracted to at this moment in time and how you can really “wow” them into taking action.

Here are some of our favorite out-of-the-box ideas for great auction items in the current climate:

  • Meal delivery services
  • Online subscription services
  • In-home entertainment equipment (TVs, sound systems, movie projectors)
  • Online fitness subscription classes
  • At-home workout equipment
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Kitchen sets
  • Virtual guitar lessons
  • Outdoor activities (kayaking, horseback riding, snow shoeing tours)

It’s important to offer a variety of items. Focusing on one item category may limit participation in your online auction. Start soliciting for items ahead of time, and make sure you seek out people in your network who can donate unique, attention-grabbing items.

2. Set appropriate starting bids

Set bids too low, you won’t raise enough funds, set them too high and you’re sure to scare off potential supporters. For donated items, you should set the starting bid around 30-35% of the market value of the item. So, if the item typically sells for $100, the starting bid should be around $30. For consignment items, bidding should start around 10% above the amount your organization is charged for the item. This ensures you don’t take a loss if an item only attracts one bidder. Your ultimate goal should be to raise eighty to one hundred percent of the item’s market value. If you get more, good on ya! Set minimum bidding increments to avoid the top bidder getting outbid by a dollar. Even better, alert bidders as soon as they are outbid to encourage additional engagement and a higher landing price. Mobile text-to-give is a huge help in engaging supporters and effectively raising donations. Assign specific keywords to each auction item, and donors can text the keyword for the item they want to place bids. Pro tip: set an agenda to put items up for auction at particular times so people can tune in when they are most interested.

3. Promote, promote, promote

Your virtual auction won’t raise a dime if you don’t attract donors. This is why promoting your fundraiser is key. These days, using social media for this purpose is a no-brainer. Even if your organization doesn’t have a giant Facebook or Instagram following, this is still one of the most cost-effective ways to reach your target audience. At the very least, you should create an event on Facebook and list it on your organization’s page with a time, date, and key details they should know. Yes, social media is important, but direct mail is memorable! We scroll and scroll so much that messages from our favorite vendors blend together or get lost completely. Studies show that not only do people keep advertising mail around their house for an average of 17 days, they also tend to share this mail between people in a household. So, instead of getting caught in a spam filter or being deleted right away, your direct mail postcard is likely to be handled and read, passed around, and remain somewhere prominent in the home where it can continue to make an impression. Don’t knock it ’til you try it! Have a comprehensive Event Page with all the info supporters need to attend. Share updates and changes in a timely manner, and don’t be afraid to send email and text reminders before the event!

4. Choose the right auction software

Set yourself up for success with a full-service fundraising platform. Cutting corners here will guarantee disorganization, missed opportunities, and could even earn your organization a bad rep. A comprehensive fundraising platform takes the extra work out of the equation. You should be organized, prepared, and ready to make an impact. This means being able to start and end your online auction planning and execution in one central place. Access everything from the virtual stage to the payment collection process and even detailed donor data that will help you make strategic decisions for future events. Make sure to hash out the details, like whether you are going or charge your bidders taxes and/or shipping before the auction commences. All of this is possible with Eventgroove Fundraising, and more! You’ll be able to plan, promote, and host your online auction the way you want to for maximum effectiveness. Let us know when you’re ready for a demo!

5. Make them feel like they’re there

Okay, let’s get real. There’s no way your online auction attendees will actually feel like they are there. At least, not in a physical sense. What we really mean is: engage your supporters for maximum participation. *This could include but is not limited to:
  • Livestream the auction
  • Include leaderboards on your event page
  • Announce winners on your live stream and social media accounts
  • Hold different contests throughout the event to keep supporters interested and excited
  • Enable text-to-give features to allow people to bid on an item via text message.
  • Provide hi-def images (or even videos!) of auction items.
Reach out ahead of time to let your supporters know what’s possible during your online auction so they know how best they can participate.   *Check out our other pro tips on engaging attendees at your virtual event!

6. Let your auction run

The 2-hour auction event is a thing of the past. Don’t limit your fundraising potential by shutting down early. Let your online auction span several days, or even a week, to allow people to bid when it’s convenient for them. This also creates opportunities for more touchpoints with your donors via email and social media posts. Don’t be afraid to remind donors to check out your sweet auction items up for grabs!

7. Thank your supporters

This is a key part of the fundraising process that so many people miss, and it’s a super important one: Follow up with your supporters! Say “thank you” for the time and money they spend to support your cause. You can do this by sending a personalized email to every person that donated to or attended your fundraiser. Although this seems like a small thing that may not hold much weight, donors really appreciate it, and showing your appreciation for their support increases the chance that they’ll tune in for your next event. If you really want to go the extra mile, send your top donors some branded merch. Everyone loves free swag, and they’ll have a permanent reminder of your organization and cause.

Online channels will continue to provide key ways to connect with supporters that may not otherwise be able to attend your event. This includes people limited by travel time, physical disabilities, or even something more trivial like the babysitter cancelling last minute.

Embrace this shift in demand and take this challenge head-on. And don’t worry, we’re here to help! Schedule a 15-minute demo with one of our Eventgroove Fundraising account specialists today to learn how simple fundraising can really be!

Start Fundraising Online Today

So, what are you waiting for? Create an account and launch your virtual auction today.

Want to learn more? Schedule a demo below.

We’ll tell you what Eventgroove Fundraising can do to reach your fundraising goals.