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Virtual Auction Fundraisers – A Success Cheatsheet for Nonprofits

April 6, 2021

The pandemic has upended everything. For many nonprofits, survival has meant quickly taking fundraising online. But the approach of slapping on a virtual band-aid to make it through this socially distant moment could be a missed opportunity. Instead, think about the long game and make online fundraising a tool for now and the future. 

Raise more than ever before with a virtual auction

Your nonprofit has probably held a live auction, and your donors are likely familiar with sites such as eBay. So, going online is just about as seamless as it gets. Additionally, virtual auction fundraisers are incredibly effective at raising money, easy to set up, and can be shared far and wide. The result? More people, more bidding, and, most importantly, achieving your fundraising goals. 

 At Eventgroove, we’re proud to have helped thousands of nonprofits successfully transition their events and fundraisers online. We’ve put together this handy online charity auction cheat sheet to help your organization do the same.

But first, let’s talk about branding

It’s time for your nonprofit to shine

Before diving into our must-follow online auction tips, ask yourself: Do you feel your nonprofit is the best-kept secret around? Or do your cause and organization not seem to get the attention they deserve?

One of the bigger reasons for this is branding. You may be thinking, “We have a logo and mission statement, isn’t that enough?” Yes and no. It’s great you’ve got the logo and mission statement down, but the problem often lies in the consistency and cohesion of your messaging. 

With fundraising (and online fundraising, in particular), building a brand that people can recognize, trust, and resonate with is one of the most important things you can do.  We know, you’d rather be out there making a difference for your cause rather than dealing with something like branding. But the effort is worth it—you’ll capture and retain more donors.

Think of your nonprofit’s brand as an outfit. Each piece has to complement the others and contribute to the overall impression. You can put on a black-tie tux or ball gown, but if you’re wearing beat-up sneakers and roll out with your hair as it was when you woke up, the whole look isn’t going to work. 

Branding is where a fundraising platform can help.

We’re not just saying this because we’d love you to take Eventgroove for a spin! Whether or not you do, the truth is that a cohesive, on-brand professional experience will positively impact your nonprofit’s ability to raise money. For instance, have you ever been ready to donate to a cause, but then changed your mind (it’s happened to all of us!). What made you navigate away? Was it because the site seemed amateurish? Maybe it was the visual representation of the brand or muddled messaging? Or did something simply just feel off? Chances are one or all of those reasons were to blame. 

 In the case of Eventgroove, our platform allows you to customize everything to your nonprofit—from your fundraiser’s page, URL, and notifications to emails, text-to-give functionality, and the donation process. In short, a fundraising platform enables you to amplify your brand, which in turn makes a great impression and converts visitors into donors.  

BONUS! Using a comprehensive platform (like ours) simplifies the organization, management, promotion, and analysis of your fundraisers. Access and manage everything in one account—no more scrambling between sites! 

10 Virtual Auction Fundraiser Tips

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Set yourself up for success

Why waste precious time toggling between various apps and software when you can have everything in one place? Choose a fundraising platform (yes, we’re back with that again!) with auction software designed especially for nonprofits and their needs. For example, Eventgroove makes collecting donor data seamless when supporters donate, bid, or buy raffle tickets. Additionally, all donor information is automatically saved in the system so you can easily swipe and deploy follow-up emails or even export the list to share with your team. Additionally, all the functionality you need—splashy item listings, gamification, bidding notifications, and easy email marketing—is at your fingertips.  

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Make it mobile

How annoying is it when you visit a site on your phone and everything is a pain to see and navigate? Chances are you won’t be visiting for long. Don’t let that happen at your online auction! Ensure it’s easily accessible via smartphone and that item listings are a snap to browse. Bidding from mobile devices should be intuitive, require as little effort as possible, and notifications regarding bids (and wins!) must be instant. Anything less and you’ll lose potential bidders.s.

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Develop your pitch

Once you’ve chosen the (virtual) place, brand it to your organization (seeing a theme here?). Make sure your logo and mission are crystal clear and communicated consistently in everything you do. Next, think about this specific fundraising event’s positioning. Why should people bid in your auction? Where will the money you raise go? Include all of that information on your auction page and reinforce it with images and video. People are more likely to bid if your cause resonates and people understand precisely who or what their cash will help.

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Create an auction theme

Similar to the hook of your favorite song, your auction should have its own hook. Which sounds more interesting: “Auction for Shelter Animals” or “Bid for Barks”? A name that also hints at what you are raising funds for piques interest and increases clicks.  It also (surprise) reinforces your brand.

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Display your FAQ

When people buy online, they have questions. Will they be notified by email, text, or passenger pigeon if they win an item? When can they expect their item to ship? Will they get a receipt? If they are local, can they pick it up? Who do they contact with further questions? Will they receive the tax information they need for their donation? Having a specific section for auction information won’t just save you from answering the same queries repeatedly, but It’ll help you sell because information legitimizes your online auction and reassures buyers.

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Build engaging item listings

Remember, “eye appeal is buy appeal.” Include at least three images per item and descriptions that accurately represent the item. Signed memorabilia should be visible on a mobile screen, with any certifications associated with these items displayed with hi-res images. After all, people are going to want to zoom in to see signatures or maker’s marks! As you build your listings, approach it as if you were the one shopping. What would you want to see and know in order to bid?

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Keep your virtual auction exciting

Don’t list everything at once! Instead, start with a small group of around 20 items, then add more as the online auction progresses. Before listing new items, tease them on social media so followers are brimming with anticipation. Then announce fresh items with some fanfare—it’ll help generate buzz! Finally, vary the closing times on items to keep the action hopping.

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Real-time bidding notifications

No one can raise a paddle or hear the auctioneer in a virtual auction. To boost engagement, build on your listing strategy and utilize your online charity auction platform’s notification tools. Notify participants about bidding deadlines or when they are outbid, encourage counter bids, and announce when they’ve won. Increase the odds of selling more by directing bidders to hot-selling items or by drawing attention to things that haven’t received any bids. Use email, text messages, and social media to increase bidding activity. 

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Stir things up with gamification

To keep your bidders engaged in the auction, add a live thermometer showing funds raised in real time and a leaderboard displaying top bidders. Also, utilize notifications strategically to increase the sense of competition. Use the updates section of your Eventgroove auction to post regular updates about hot items or soon-to-be posted listings. When in-person events return, you can run your live silent auction and virtual auction simultaneously, which will really up the bidding ante.


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It's not over 'til it's over…which is never

We’ve talked about notifications and how they gin up competition and engagement. But just because the auction ends, your communication shouldn’t. Set up automatic emails thanking bidders for their contribution to your cause and talk about their money’s impact. Email those who bid but didn’t win thanking them for their interest, and invite them to learn about other ways to support the cause. Once you’ve used the funds toward the issue at hand (new facilities, bedding for shelter pets, uniforms, art supplies, meals for those in need), email everyone who participated in the auction with another “thank you.” In it, include pictures of their money in action and invite them to follow your organization on social media. This cycle of updating donors and participants on the impact of funds raised can continue in perpetuity. It’ll keep your organization top of mind, continue to tell your nonprofit’s story, and build a lasting relationship. A fundraising platform (yep, that again) like Eventgroove is helpful here, too! For instance, we seamlessly integrate with whatever mail client you use, whether that’s MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Blackbaud. 


Want to see Eventgroove in action?

We’d love to show you! Schedule a one-on-one demo with our expert sales team.

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