Running a silent auction at a live in-person event without mobile bidding software can be a chaotic, stressful endeavor. We know because before creating Handbid, our founders ran an annual fundraising event and golf tournament for their non-profit organization, the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado (PWSACO).
During those years, we dealt with many of the hassles involved in trying to coordinate silent auctions with traditional methods (paper bid sheets, Excel spreadsheets, etc.). Here are just some examples of the heavy hitters that we’ve experienced or seen others experience:
- Incomplete guest lists. Not knowing the names or contact information of a significant portion of attendees prior to an event.
- Long check-in lines. The need to wait in line as we capture nearly every guest’s information at the beginning of an event.
- Poor bidding experiences: Long lines at auction tables, people needing to interrupt their nights to continuously revisit auction tables and see if they’re winning or losing items, needing to remember which items they bid on, difficulty reading other bidders’ handwriting, etc.
- Disorderly auctions. Bidders walking away with bid sheets to ensure they win auction items, stealing bid sheets, intimidating other bidders, stealing pens and pencils, not following bid increments, crowding around tables at the last minute, and continuing to try to bid after an auction has been closed.
- Frantic, labor-intensive check-out processes. Scrambling around once the auction is closed to collect or track down bid sheets, manually going through them to figure out who won each item, creating flip charts to announce winners, and manually generating invoices.
- Lost donor revenue. Guests not knowing when they’ve been outbid, not returning to auction tables to bid again (even when they’d have been willing to pay more for an item), and not being able to contact certain auction winners at the end of an event to secure payment.
These issues cause more than just a few headaches during fundraising events — they severely limit an organization’s ability to raise funds for their cause (the entire point of putting on these fundraisers!).
To solve all of the above challenges and more, we built Handbid, which we think is one of the most robust auction software solutions on the market for mobile bidding and event management.
In this post, we’re going to walk through how it works. Specifically, we’ll cover how Handbid helps to:
- Simplify event registration, guest list management, and check-in
- Raise significantly more money during silent auctions
- Speed up check-out for event staff and donors
Schedule a call for a free, personalized demo of our auction software, and learn how we can support you in meeting your fundraising goals.
Create Branded Event Pages to Share with Your Donor Network
Using Handbid for an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event begins with setting up an event registration page akin to the type of page you’d create with a platform like Eventbrite.
Setting up a new landing page is easy. Simply open up the settings and add:
- Start and end time for your event (if you choose to do so, Handbid can automatically schedule your auction to close at a specific time)
- Event location (which will automatically populate the address and time zone)
- Event description (which can be formatted and include hyperlinks)
- Event images (organization logo, event page banner, etc.)
- Presenting and supporting sponsor logos
You can also indicate whether the event is an online auction only.
Ultimately, you end up with an event web page where potential attendees can learn about, register, and buy tickets or sponsorships for your event.
Note: Something that’s unique to our platform compared to most other mobile bidding software is that we offer a robust set of tools for you to customize your event page with colors, fonts, and images so that your page can impress viewers and maintain the look and feel of your organization’s brand or event theme.
Once the rest of your auction details are set up and your event page is pushed live, it is discoverable via the event URL and inside of the Handbid app. We also offer a number of features to help with event promotion and generating signups, such as:
- Text to Engage: The ability for potential guests to send text messages to a 5-digit phone number that provides them with a customizable response set by your team, such as a link to the event registration page where guests can purchase a ticket or start bidding in the auction.
- Event Page QR Codes: An event QR code is automatically generated for you — making it simple for guests to scan the code and visit your event page.
- Social Share Buttons: Links for your organization and your attendees to easily share via their social media channels.
To register, guests have the option to buy individual tickets or a sponsorship in which they can, for example, buy a table at the event and bring a defined number of guests. In both cases, guests are prompted to fill out their name and contact information (as well as the names and contact information of their guests, if they’re a sponsor).
Manage Your Guest List with Ease (No More Spreadsheets!)
With Handbid, there’s no need to export your guest list into a spreadsheet in order to manually track and manage your list.
Once registered, guest data is automatically logged into our guest list management system on the back-end of Handbid where event organizers have access to a variety of different tools providing the ability to:
- View their entire guest list
- Filter their guest list by different criteria such as sponsors, guests, etc.
- Check-in guests with a built-in QR code reader (including scanning their tickets at the door and securely swiping credit cards)
- Send messages to guests and sponsors
- Assign paddle and table numbers
- And more
In particular, our users find that our communication features are invaluable for building up more complete guest lists prior to an event. For example, it’s easy to message sponsors to remind them to fill out names and contact information for their guests, which significantly speeds up check-in experiences on the day of an event.
Compared to manually tracking and managing these actions in a spreadsheet, these features completely transform the way organizations manage their guest lists.
Smooth and Efficient Check-Ins at Your Live Event
Once the day of an event comes around, a lot of the leg work of check-in has already been done. For example, individual ticket holders that bought their tickets have already:
- Given you their name and contact information
- Given you their credit card information
- Been added to your guest list
So, instead of needing to capture all of this information manually as the line grows longer, you can simply greet these guests (handing them a cocktail, if you wish), tell them their table number, and hand or assign them a paddle if there’s a live auction or paddle raise at your event.
For guests whose information you don’t yet have, or guests of sponsors who never gave you their information prior to the event, there’s a simple check-in workflow that event staff can follow on their laptop or iPhone/iPad app to quickly check these guests in. (However, due to everything we’ve discussed above, there’s far fewer of these guests than there would normally be, which is key to a faster and smoother check-in.)
There are tons of different ways in which Handbid helps organizations raise more money in their auctions, including the abilities to:
- Open up bidding before the event begins
- Make bidding available to people who can’t attend the live event
- Engage event attendees with compelling and convenient mobile bidding experiences
- Ensure bid amounts follow set increments
- Offer “buy now” functionality to drive immediate donation revenue
- Secure contact and payment information for greater revenue assurance
- Lower the bid increments to generate more bids through competition and increased revenue
Let’s look at each.
Traditionally, a silent auction run on paper can only begin once guests arrive at the venue. This isn’t the case with mobile bidding software.
With Handbid, you can open your silent auction prior to your live in-person event. Once your auction items have been procured and uploaded into the system with descriptions and images, you can send an announcement that the silent auction is open for bidding. Ticket purchasers can then begin browsing and bidding on silent auction items right from the event page or Handbid app.
This is an awesome advantage for both bidders and organizations alike.
By opening up bidding early, there’s more time to bid on items, which generally increases revenue over the course of the auction. And by allowing guests to bid prior to the event, they are already prepared when they arrive and can spend more time socializing at the event itself (instead of worrying about walking around to auction tables to place bids).
Without auction software, you’d typically have to be at a live event in order to bid in a silent auction. But Handbid allows donors to place bids online, so people who can’t make the event can still bid and donate in your auction! More people bidding and donating means more revenue for your cause.
Handbid significantly improves convenience for bidders because it completely eliminates the need to:
- Walk around to auction tables
- Wait in lines to write down bids
- Mentally track and remember which items they bid on
- Repeatedly go back to the auction table to see if they’ve been outbid
When guests are checked in, Handbid’s smart links feature enables organizations to send a personalized text to each guest, providing a link that automatically logs them into the auction where they can do all of their bidding from their mobile device (whether before or at the event).
Instead of constantly walking around to tables to see if they’ve been outbid, they can receive real-time outbid notifications that vibrate in their pocket and let them know when they’re losing an item! This provides a significantly improved bidding experience while also encouraging more people to counter and increase their bids.
People can also create favorites lists, set max bids, and easily see which items they’ve bid on, which all further enhance the bidding experience.
With Handbid, bidding increments (which are displayed for bidders) have to be followed in order to place a bid.
This helps to prevent lost revenue and is a much better alternative to paper bid sheets, where guests can decide they don’t like that you’ve set $50 bid increments on a particular item, and choose to do $25 bid increments instead.
Event organizers can choose to include an option to “Buy Now for $X” for auction items.
So, if a guest really wants a particular item, they can choose to lock in that item by purchasing it for a designated price on the spot, securing donation revenue and eliminating the risk that the item goes for less than its value during the auction. (Note: Using this feature and strategy requires that auction managers understand how to price these amounts correctly. With Handbid, these are types of details that our coaching team can help you with.)
Because of the systems we offer to streamline registration and check-in (discussed above), we help organizations avoid the common issues of not having the names, contact information, and/or payment information of winning bidders.
Handbid offers greater assurance that organizations can contact their auction winners and collect payment on each auction item.
Logic would tell you that lower starting bids and bid increments would generate less revenue — and, if you were running a silent auction on paper within a 2-3 hour window, that may be true. But with mobile bidding — and the ability to extend the length of the auction by opening up bidding prior to the event — lower bid increments actually encourage more bidding.
At some point, competition and human nature overtakes people’s budgets and they start to bid more than they originally intended, just to “win” that item. We’ve seen it happen and watched skeptical auction managers become believers when they exceed their auction goal.
Mobile bidding software that instantly notifies users when they are outbid and does so in a game-like fashion is a key factor in all of this.
This is where Handbid shines over most other platforms. Our native app immerses guests in the bidding experience and gamifies your auction. All you need to do is take our recommendations for starting bids and bid increments and sit back and watch the Handbid manager’s revenue thermometer update in real-time as the bids flow in.
Note: Handbid’s auction platform also includes fundraising tools for live auction events, paddle raises, hybrid events, peer to peer campaigns, and general giving campaigns, offering a holistic online fundraising platform for private schools, sports teams, nonprofits, and other organizations looking to hit their fundraising goals.
When using paper bid sheets, it’s not uncommon for event staff to need 30-45 minutes after an auction is closed before they can begin check-out.
As we mentioned above, staff need to run around and pick up paper bid sheets (provided they were not stolen), create flip charts displaying all of the auction winners, interpret bad handwriting, decipher bids covered with spilled wine, manually draft invoices, or follow up with winners days after the event to try to secure payment.
With Handbid, checkout can begin almost immediately, and most of this work is already done for you.
When you decide to close the auction, you set a timer and every bidder will bid frantically until the clock hits zero. At that point, Handbid will calculate winners, update everyone’s dashboard accordingly, and send notifications to winning bidders letting them know they’ve officially won.
Once the auction is finalized, all bidders are automatically sent to their digital invoice in the app where they can browse and pay with their previously stored “card on file”. Invoices can also be sent via text or email and include a link where winners can pay.
Run the Majority of Your Event From a Single Platform
Among all of the benefits we’ve discussed so far, the ability to run the majority of your event from a single platform is a huge improvement in auction and event management.
Before using Handbid, many organizations we work with were using upwards of 8 different software tools to run their events. For example, a ticketing platform, a CRM, Excel spreadsheets, an email marketing platform, a tool such as Zapier for integrating multiple software to work together, table management software, and others.
With Handbid, you can reduce the number of tools you need to run your event while consolidating the majority of your event management into one platform. For example, many organizations can rely primarily on Handbid, their CRM, and one or two other tools to run their events.
Try Handbid at Your Next Event
Handbid offers one of the best mobile bidding apps on the market. Its modern, user-friendly interface is easy for event staff to use, and it’s incredibly engaging for guests at an auction.
Our team deeply understands the needs of organizations hosting fundraising events because we have extensive experience running fundraising events and auctions ourselves.
To see Handbid in action and talk with our team about what you’re looking for in auction management software, get in touch with us for a free demo and consultation.
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