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Nonprofit organizations and community groups of all sizes host charity auction fundraising events for one main reason — they work.
Auctions are an extremely effective way to raise money and engage your supporters. They do, however, require an investment of your time and resources in order to really pay off. The most important investment you’ll need to make before getting started? Charity auction software.
Even if you’re planning to host an engaging donations-only event
We’ve created this updated buyer’s guide to walk you through the ins and outs of auction software to help you find the best fit your organization.
If you’re planning your organization’s very first auction, start with our guide to planning a charity auction. If you already have an idea of the kind of auction you will execute, then let’s start talking software. We’ll cover a few basics before digging into essential features.
Charity auction software is any digital tool or set of tools specifically designed to help nonprofits plan, manage, and execute a fundraising auction. The software could support a specific part of the process, like event planning, or it could support the whole auction from start to finish.
Charity auction software is designed to help streamline your planning or management process so that your team can focus on what’s most important: your cause and connecting with donors.
Although there are comprehensive software options out there, charity auction software is sometimes designed to specifically support one type of auction event. This software generally falls into one of three general categories:
This software is designed to help you plan and manage live auction events. These solutions should ideally include both event planning and auction-specific features.
These web tools will help you create an online auction. These are usually hosted alongside live or silent auctions, but they can be standalone events, too.
These mobile tools are designed to simplify the bidding process at live and silent auctions. They let remote bidders get involved, too.
Now, let’s dive deeper into charity auction software. You’ll need more context as you begin researching your options and choosing a solution for your organization, so we’ll walk through these key areas:
Ready to get started? Use the list above to jump to a section, or follow along from the top. Let’s dive in.
This will depend on the type of auction you’re planning on hosting for your organization. There are a few top features that you should look for in any type of charity auction software. These include:
Most importantly, look for software that’s mobile-optimized. The number of nonprofit transactions made through mobile devices increased by 50% over the past year. It’s essential that any fundraising software you use can meet donors where they are – their smartphones – and this is especially true of charity auction software. Whether you host an in-person event or want to offer online components, your donors want an engaging, mobile-optimized experience.
Look for these features in any charity auction software you consider. For specific types of charity auctions, though, you should try to find tools that are specifically designed to support them. For each type of auction event, there are some key software features that will be particularly helpful.
To support a live charity auction, your software should include features that will help with both general event planning tasks and managing auction-specific elements. Look for these elements:
Explore our more comprehensive guide to planning a live auction for more help on organizing one of these events. They’re extremely effective at engaging donors and raising money, but they do require some extra planning that other events don’t.
For online auctions or auction events that will have online bidding components, there are a few other important features to look out for. Pay attention to these:
Mobile bidding tools are a new necessity for charity auctions of any kind. The ability to bid from a smartphone has completely changed how live, silent, and online auctions can be planned and managed. Plus, they provide huge fundraising benefits by keep guests more engaged for the whole auction.
When investing in mobile bidding tools, look for these features:
Remember, more comprehensive charity auction software is probably your best bet. Nonprofits increasingly host auction events that incorporate live auction elements, mobile bidding tools, and online components. Look for software vendors that can support any type of charity auction event you might want to host. This will save your organization time and money in the long run, and it’ll help you plan and host more impactful fundraising events overall.
Using dedicated charity auction software can support nearly every stage of your event from start to finish. These benefits fall into two general categories: benefits to the planning process and benefits to the management process.
Since it lets donors access many facets of your event online, charity auction software makes participating in your auction more convenient and enjoyable. This simplifies the logistical headaches of planning; online registration and up-to-date guest lists make planning a breeze. Plus, when guests can quickly purchase tickets and automate bidding with their phones, you’re sure to see a bigger turnout and more bids!
Charity auction software can automate many tasks for your team, making planning the event a much simpler process. Plus, since these activities are centralized, you won’t have to waste time transferring data or switching between platforms to consult various information sources. Check your guest list, item catalog, seating arrangements, schedule, and marketing efforts all in one place with comprehensive software.
Software that keeps all event planning efforts under the same roof gives your organization a more complete picture of your auction. Robust reporting and analytics features give you additional insights so you can keep honing your event until it’s the best it can be. Learn more from your past events to continually host better, more effective auctions in the future.
With auction sites and mobile bidding, all bidding takes place online. That means that even donors who can’t make it to your auction can still participate, which can really expand your audience. Having more participants will make your auction more profitable since you can increase your bidding and donation base! Plus, a larger pool of competition among bidders can create exciting bid wars over your top auction items!
Because many tasks are automated and run through the same platform, charity auction software can simplify your event execution, too. In particular, mobile bidding takes care of most of the item checkout process (the most involved auction logistic if you’re using bid sheets). Easily prepare ahead of time by generating a real-time list of winners, and even begin the check-out process before the event is over by equipping your team with mobile devices.
Charity auction software enables organizations to provide guests with additional donation avenues (for example, donation options and fixed price items like t-shirts and swag bags), helping them raise more money. Strong mobile bidding software will even support your donation-only events with these features. By streamlining the whole process and improving the donor experience, auction software can significantly boost your donation intake.
Once it’s time to begin researching your software options, there’s a basic process you should follow to ensure you find the right solution for your organization.
Remember, all-in-one vendors will be the most likely to check off all the boxes. Their suites of auction tools will have the most comprehensive features, and they’ll be able to work with you to build out a more tailored package of solutions.
Finally, let’s walk through a few best practices for making the most of your charity auction software once you’ve selected it. Familiarize your team with these tips:
Charity auctions are popular fundraising events because they can raise a lot of support in a short amount of time. However, this also means auctions require a significant investment of your time to plan them effectively.
Get started implementing new tools and developing strategies as soon as possible! This will help ensure maximum fundraising return on all your hard work.
Promoting your auction is necessary to make it a success. It’s especially important to promote your event online if you’ve taken the trouble to set up an event website and configure registration or online bidding tools. The main idea is to drive plenty of traffic to your central auction website.
With the right tools in place, your visitors will be able to easily register, buy tickets, browse the item catalog, and get set up with mobile bidding.
We mentioned this in an earlier section, but it’s important to keep in mind. Charity auction software that integrates with your CRM, like Salesforce or a Blackbaud platform, will be extremely helpful when it comes to data and analysis.
CRM integrations can make it even easier to put your auction insights into action across your whole nonprofit. Conducting prospect research on attendees is a common example.
Your charity auction software should contain one or more gamification tools. These are extremely useful at building excitement and directing attention during the auction itself.
Scoreboards and fundraising progress thermometers are great for keeping up the energy. Countdown clocks are another great way to build up the momentum as your auction ends, especially when used alongside text notifications in your mobile bidding tools.
There you have it! The basics of charity auction software, the types of features to look for, and how to choose the right solution for your event.
Auctions are incredible tools for strengthening your relationships with supporters and raising money, but only if you invest in the right tools and if you spend time developing a strong strategy. To continue your research, check out our other resources on planning and hosting charity auctions: