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Online Auctions for Charity: Grow Your Revenue with Handbid

Get an in-depth look at Handbid’s online auction platform.
Online Auctions for Charity: Grow Your Revenue with Handbid
Get an in-depth look at Handbid’s online auction platform.

Online auctions can be transformative for charities and nonprofit organizations that want to grow their auction revenue. For example, our client Liz Scull of The Viola Foundation said that their auction revenue increased by more than seven times when they transitioned to using Handbid, our auction software (from $3K to over $23K in their auction). 

With that said, not all auction platforms are capable of generating that level of revenue growth. Specifically, charity auction software often falls short in two key areas:

  1. Bidder User Experience: Many auction platforms have outdated user interfaces that our customers have described to us as being “clunky to use.” The look, feel, and usability of an auction platform may seem trivial — but in our experience, these aspects are absolutely not trivial. Having a clean, modern design is integral for maximizing donor engagement and bidding. If your mobile bidding software feels like a 1980’s video game, or forces bidders to repeatedly log in every time they want to browse auction items (surprisingly common), your silent auction revenue will reflect that.

  2. Bidder Engagement: Many of the top auction platforms do not offer mobile apps, restricting auction participation to web browsers (whether via mobile or desktop devices) and notifying users about bid statuses strictly via email or SMS. As a result, bidders are pulled out of the auction environment to reference emails and text messages which can disrupt engagement, and there’s less reliability in the timeliness of when bidders receive alerts. In contrast, mobile apps — like what we offer at Handbid — provide the ability to leverage push notifications (which users can receive instantly, regardless of cell signal) and gamification that keep donors coming back throughout the course of an auction, ultimately driving more engagement and revenue. 

Combined, bidder user experience and engagement can make or break your online auction, and we’ve taken this into consideration at every stage while developing Handbid. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through how our auction platform works, including:

Schedule a call for a free, personalized demo of our auction software, and learn how we can support you in meeting your fundraising goals.

Browse Items in Auction with Handbid

Over the years, many organizations expressed to us that they wanted the ability to customize their auction website to match the look and feel of their brand. 

As a result, we’ve built a robust set of tools for organizations to customize their auction event pages with colors, fonts, and images, providing them with the tools they need to maintain brand consistency and impress their donor base. 

Digital Seen Manager: Manage Your Event's Digital Presence

Handbid users can customize everything from logos, to header and footer images, to gradients and button colors, to menu and event page labels. In addition, these design elements can be applied to the way auction pages render in the Handbid mobile app.

Handbid App Preview example: Justin's Demo March Madness

Example of how design customizations translate into the app for a client’s sport team auction.

Currently, we have not seen this level of design customizability in other auction software on the market. If design is important to your organization, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better set of customization tools than what Handbid offers.

A User-Friendly Interface with Mobile-First Design

Preview of Auction Items within Handbid App

As we mentioned above, providing your donor base with a clean, intuitive user interface is essential for maximizing auction participation. In particular, usability from mobile devices is key because if auction sites are not mobile-friendly, this can significantly hinder the online auction experience and reduce participation.

Handbid offers a modern design that’s easy to use and works just as well on mobile devices as it does on desktops. Bidders can access auction pages directly through the web via a URL, or via the Handbid mobile app (rated 4.8 stars with 23K reviews in the app store). 

Gamification Features That Maximize Auction Engagement

"My Dashboard" within the Handbid app

The Handbid mobile app — a feature which many auction platforms do not offer — provides organizations with an unparalleled means of maximizing auction engagement. Specifically, it has been carefully engineered to leverage game mechanics that drive more auction participation and revenue. 

For example, we understand that the purpose of an outbid notification is not just to tell the user they’ve been outbid — it’s to invoke an emotional response in the bidder that compels them to feel challenged and respond. The Handbid app does this through vibrating the phone, changing the screen color, and playing a sound, providing an experience that is both fun and motivating to keep “playing” and bidding.

Notification that you have been outbid on an item

We also offer features such as: 

  • A countdown timer to generate a sense of urgency in bidders.
  • A live thermometer to invoke the desire to be seen as generous.
  • Leaderboards that tap into bidders’ competitive nature.
  • Personalized alerts to end users that can be sent enmasse from auction managers.
  • Integrated live chat that managers can enable to allow guests to communicate with each other.

These are the types of features that simply cannot be replicated in the same way by auction platforms that do not offer mobile apps.

People love games, and when gamification is applied to online auctions, higher auction engagement and revenue follow!

Note: Some organizations do not want their donors to have to download an app to participate in their auction. That’s not a problem. Handbid’s auction pages are just as easy to use when accessing directly through the web. Auction notifications can be sent via text for bidders that choose not to download the app. But for all the reasons discussed above, our customers who utilize the app see even higher levels of engagement and revenue.

A Seamless Log-In Experience for Bidders

To participate in an online auction, bidders need to log in to your auction site. 

However, many auction sites make this process arduous for bidders, forcing them to log in any time they want to explore auction items or place a bid, or wait on an account validation email that can take precious minutes (or hours, in some cases) to arrive. These barriers to entry can severely limit auction participation and revenue.

To solve this, Handbid offers smart links and universal accounts that are set up to automatically log in bidders and keep them logged in no matter what device they’re on. This applies whether bidders are accessing the auction via the web or our mobile app, providing a smoother bidding process and leading to higher engagement. 

In addition, once a bidder has a Handbid account, they can be notified about and join your next auction, allowing you to more easily maintain and grow participation in future auctions. 

Tools to Promote Your Auction and Easily Communicate with Bidders

Broadcast Messages: Send messages via PUSH or SMS immediately to users

The ability to promote your auction and communicate with participants is fundamental to an auction’s success. Handbid offers a wide range of tools to support this, including:

  • Text to Engage: The ability for your donor network to send text messages to a 5-digit short code that provides them with a message set by your team, such as a link to the auction registration page where guests can purchase a ticket to a live event or start bidding in your auction. 

    Note: Many auction software use 7 or 10 digit phone numbers for text to engage that are difficult for donors to remember (and also highly regulated). Our clients tell us they love the short 5-digit short code we offer.
  • Broadcast Messaging: Outbound messaging that allows auction and event managers to send out updates to participants throughout the course of an auction. For example, you can send out a broadcast letting bidders know the auction has one day left before closing, or send out thank you notes to participants once the auction is over. 
  • Auction Site QR Codes: An auction QR code is automatically generated for you — making it simple for donors to scan the code and visit your auction page.
  • Social Share Buttons: Links for your organization and donors to easily share your auction (as well as individual auction items) via their social media channels.

By empowering charities with the tools they need to promote their auction, send timely communications to auction participants, and provide a mobile-friendly experience, Handbid drives silent auction engagement far beyond what paper bid sheets or less sophisticated auction tools are capable of.

Note: Handbid’s auction platform also includes fundraising tools for live auction events, paddle raises, hybrid events with live streaming, peer to peer campaigns, text2give, and general fundraising campaigns, offering a holistic online fundraising platform for private schools, sports teams, nonprofits, and other organizations looking to maximize their fundraising efforts. 

Bidders & Bids: Top Bidders, Bidder Number, Winning, Total

Many organizations that we speak with do not realize that auction management software like ours also offers tools and integrations for managing auctions with live fundraising events. 

For example, in addition to the online auction and mobile bidding features we’ve discussed so far, our platform offers robust functionality for ticketing and registration, guest list management, check-in/check-out, and more. As a result, by using Handbid, organizations can reduce the number of tools and platforms needed to manage and run their events.

Here we’ll look at a few of the essential features we offer for streamlining in-person auction event management.

Ticketing, Registration, and Guest List Management

With Handbid, there’s no need to use ticketing platforms such as Eventbrite, or deal with the hassle of using spreadsheets to manage your guest list. We offer all the tools you need to handle ticketing, registration, and guest list management.

From your auction event page, guests can purchase tickets for individuals or sponsorships for groups. Once they’ve registered, they’re automatically added to your guest list inside Handbid in real-time (where their credit card information has been securely stored), and event managers have the ability to:

  • View their up-to-date 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!

Our communication features can all be leveraged from your guest list to ensure event attendees are kept informed, and your guest list is as complete as possible prior to the live event.

Seamless Check-In, Check-Out, and Payment Processing

Once the day of your event arrives, much of the work involved in checking guests 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 your check-in line grows longer, you can simply greet your 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 do not 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/Android to quickly check these guests in.

Once you decide to close the auction, you can set a timer for guests to place their final bids. 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.  

Finally, to streamline the check-out process, all bidders are automatically sent to their digital invoice in the app where they can view 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. 

Handbid Demo Auction Invoice

See if Handbid Is the Right Solution for Your Next Online Charity Auction

In this post, we’ve walked through some of the key features our platform offers to help charities bring their auctions online and raise more money. However, there’s far more to our platform than what we’ve covered here.

To get an in-depth demo of our auction software and learn how we can support you in meeting your fundraising goals, schedule a call to chat with our team

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