Silent auctions build community among your donors and create a truly meaningful event, but they also come with a unique set of challenges.
If you don’t have a roadmap to help you get started and set yourself up for success every step of the way, silent auctions can feel overwhelming. However, the right technology and event management practices truly change the game, enabling any organization to become a silent auction pro.
In this guide, we’ll explain how finding software that serves your fundraising needs will not only give you a stress-free event but also help your organization meet its fundraising goals!
1. Invest in the Right Silent Auction Software
The first step is to set your nonprofit up for success by investing in the right silent auction software. While silent auctions have traditionally been done on paper, switching to mobile bidding software can transform managing bids and payments and give everyone a better auction experience. On top of giving you the option to host fully virtual silent auctions, quality auction software can enhance in-person and hybrid events.
As you compare top auction software options, look for the following key features that will help you manage bids and payments:
- User profiles for guests: Look for software that allows guests to securely file their credit card information in an intuitive app so that when it's time to check out, their information is already ready to go. The best platforms let users track payments, remember what they bought, and keep the same in-app profile for their next silent auction!
- Integrated, secure payment processing: You and your donors can say goodbye to horribly long checkout lines at the end of the night with built-in payment processing features. Check that your platform offers in-app, secure payment processing to save donors time and give them peace of mind.
- Mobile bidding features: Mobile bidding lets guests place and increase bids right from their phones, no matter where they are. Ensure your platform has adequate mobile bidding features by asking about online auction catalogs, in-app outbid alerts, and more.
- Push notifications: Part of the joy of mobile bidding is letting your guests enjoy their time to the fullest at your fundraiser, rather than trying to keep them in one room to continue bidding on items. Now, a guest can enjoy live entertainment, eat their meal, or spend time with other guests, all the while having their phone in their back pocket, ready to raise their bid when an outbid notification goes off.
- Fundraising capabilities beyond bidding: Look for additional features like the ability to create fundraising pages with visual and written content to create a narrative around your organization’s goals. On some platforms, you can even create fundraising “teams” to encourage a spirit of competition and motivate guests to continue giving.
Choosing quality auction software isn’t a one-off decision for a single fundraising event. It's an investment that will help your guests have the best experience possible and create more fundraising opportunities for years to come.
2. Collect Payment Methods Ahead of Time
To decrease checkout wait times when guests are ready to go home, collect credit cards at the door or let guests add their own payment information in your mobile bidding app. Either way, attendees will get their items faster and you’ll save your event volunteers plenty of stress at the end of the night.
The decision of when to collect payments may depend on whether you’re hosting an in-person or virtual event:
- For in-person and hybrid auctions, ask for credit card information at the door as attendees enter. For any guests who check in online, ask that they add their payment information themselves.
- If you’re hosting a virtual auction, make it mandatory for all guests to add a payment method when they check in online.
Online payment methods can feel complicated, but the right software will simplify this process immensely. For example, your silent auction platform could save payment information from last year’s auction on file so returning guests don’t have to add their information again.
3. Ditch the Paper Bid Sheets
For all the good that paper bidding has done to help nonprofits raise money in the past, it has become impracticable and overly complicated in today’s digital age. Paper bid sheets have multiple drawbacks, including:
- Keeping track of bids is far more difficult when volunteers and organizers have a pile of bid sheets they need to count, decipher handwriting, and keep in one place.
- Guests have to work to stay engaged. Rather than your guests having the ability to relax and enjoy their evening, they have to walk around and check papers constantly to see if they’re winning or not.
In contrast to paper bid sheets, mobile bidding occurs fully online using guests’ phones or computers. With a mobile bidding app, your guests can create their own account, see a dashboard of items they’re interested in, easily track their progress among other bidders, and make in-app payments.
Whether you’re hosting an in-person, hybrid, or online auction, mobile bidding will simplify the bidding experience for everyone. Just a few of mobile bidding’s advantages are:
- Locked in bidding increments. There is nothing worse than when guests don’t abide by the starting, max, and bid increment guidelines that you set out at the start of your silent auction for each item. Mobile bidding tools take away the risk of human error and rule-breaking by giving you backend control over the limits on each item, so you can have peace of mind that the right bids are being made every time.
- Outbid notifications. Rather than walking around trying to figure out if they’ve been outbid on their favorite item, your guests will immediately get an in-app notification. This not only frees up guests’ time but also enables them to be even more competitive with their bidding. When a person can see their bids being beaten before their eyes in the app, they often become more and more motivated to win.
- Holistic views of bidding progress across the auction. Just like your guests get to stay informed on the app about the items they’re bidding on, you as the fundraising host get to track which items are doing best, where bidding is picking up, and what items may need more attention and participation.
Ultimately, these features help your organization boost participation and revenue. When your guests get to participate in the entire event, not just the auction, and remain competitive with their bids in the midst of it, they will have a much better time at the event as a whole.
4. Send Automatic Digital Invoices
To make collecting payments easier for your staff and volunteers and streamline the checkout process for donors, your silent auction software can automatically send invoices to winners at the end of your auction.
This means no more tracking down your guests for their payments or trying to ensure that the correct bidder name has been paired with the item they won. Your mobile app will already have that information and provide it to you in a streamlined way—no confusion or panic. Plus, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t have to keep track of every guest making every payment they owe!
Additionally, sending invoices automatically means you can more easily send donation receipts and thank-you messages to your event guests. This way, they won’t only feel cared for during your event, but they can know you’re thinking of them and grateful for their participation afterward.
Whether you’ve run silent auctions for years or gearing up to host your first one, taking these steps will relieve some stress and confusion about the dozens of logistical pieces you’re responsible for.
But your work doesn’t stop here! Silent auctions can still be complicated, and you can take steps to continually learn how to make these events go off seamlessly. Make sure to learn from your past auction experiences and seek out the advice of experts. There are plenty of webinars and podcasts created by seasoned nonprofit professionals that you can learn from.
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