Charity Auction Software | Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

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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.

What is charity auction software, and how can it improve your fundraising?

What is charity auction software?

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.

What are the types of charity auction software?

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:


Charity auction software can be used to plan and manage live auction events.

Live Charity Auction Software

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.

Online auction software can be used to host online auctions and online bidding components.

Online Auction Software

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.

Mobile bidding tools are an important part of charity auction software to look for.

Mobile Bidding Tools

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:

  1. Essential software features to look for
  2. The benefits of using auction software
  3. How to choose auction software
  4. Best practices for using it

Ready to get started? Use the list above to jump to a section, or follow along from the top. Let’s dive in.

There are a few essentials to look for in any type of charity auction software.

What are essential charity auction software features to look for?

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:

These features should be included in any charity auction software you use.

  • Cloud-based operations. Being able to access all of your planning tools and data from mobile devices at the event venue itself is invaluable. Cloud-based software also makes it much easier for your team to stay coordinated and organized.
  • Nonprofit-specialized design. For-profit auction software is designed to cover a different set of needs than nonprofit charity auction software. Choose a vendor who specializes in nonprofit software to ensure you’ll have the right capabilities.
  • Long-term scalability. By this we mean your software should be able to grow with you. Your organization will probably host more than one auction over the years, so it’s best to invest in tools that can handle a range of tasks and events.
  • Reporting and analytics. This is absolutely essential. Any tool you use should make it easy to gather and analyze any and all engagement data that your event generates. The auction software should have built-in analytics tools or integrations with top CRMs.

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.

Look for these features in live charity auction software.

Live Event Charity Auction Software

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:

Use your charity auction software to manage your items and enter important details.

  • Event planning tools. Track and view all event details and data in one central online location, from basics like date, time, and guest lists to auction items and RSVPs. View the results of multiple events side by side.
  • Item management. Record all important auction item data to create a master list for easy item consultation throughout the planning process. You can also group related items into packages to maximize revenue.
  • RSVP management. Live auction software should help you manage guests on the big night. Accept RSVPs online, track transactions, auto-assign bidder numbers, and group guests into tables with ease.

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.

Online charity auction software should also have several key features.

Online Charity Auction Software

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:

Use your online auction software to customize the branding, layout, and packaging of items.

  • Full customization. You should be able to fully customize and brand your auction site. Also, look for complete flexibility when it comes to how you group, package, and display your auction items.
  • Online bidding. Of course, this is essential. Your auction software should have robust, effective bidding features whether your event is online-only or in conjunction with an in-person event.
  • Ticketing and registration. For in-person events, your auction site should serve as a central hub to attract guests. Then, make sure they’re able to easily buy and upgrade tickets and register for the big night.
  • Social media integrations. Link your social channels from the software to maximize your reach.
  • Online notifications. Messaging and text notifications make it easy to remind participants of your auction. Keep up the bidding energy by letting them know when they’ve been outbid.
  • Custom pages. Your auction software should let you create unlimited custom fundraising and informational pages. Every event has different needs, so this feature is key.

Your mobile auction software should accomplish a few specific tasks.

Mobile Charity Auction Software

Your mobile auction software should include plenty of gamification tools to keep guests engaged.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:

  • Intuitive item browsing. Mobile bidding tools can pull item listings from your event site so guests can browse items and place bids without needing to jump between displays. Plus, guests can even automate bidding on their favorite items.
  • Text notifications. Send attendees text messages throughout the night to keep them engaged with your auction. Automate the notifications through your software to send messages when guests have been been outbid, when the bidding is about to close, and more.
  • Gamification features. Scoreboards give guests real-time updates throughout the event. Feature the status on popular items, live Twitter streams, progress thermometers, and more to ensure your auction is always exciting.
  • Fixed-price options. Offer standalone, fixed-price items for purchase through your mobile bidding software, too. This a good strategy for raffles, sign-up parties, and selling merchandise during the event itself.
  • Donation functionality. Your auction software should also make it easy for guests to simply donate to your cause. Look for the ability to add donation buttons and packages to capture some extra generosity on the big night.
  • Covered cost options. Give guests the option to cover the credit card processing fees that typically cut into a nonprofit’s revenue. This will maximize proceeds and let donors ensure their bids and donations are having maximum impact.

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.

FREE ONLINE TOUR: Find the best tools for your next fundraising auction! Test drive OneCause to see how we can take your auction to the next level!

There are some major benefits to using charity auction software to plan and manage your fundraising.

What are the benefits of using charity auction software?

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.

Explore the benefits to the event planning process from using charity auction software.

How Charity Auction Software Helps with Planning

Create an easy donor experience.

Charity auction software improves the donor experience and helps you plan smarter.

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!

Streamline the whole planning process.

Using charity auction software simply makes it easier to plan your event by centralizing all your data.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.

Get more actionable performance insights.

Using charity auction software helps you to continually refine your strategies every time you host an auction.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.

Here are some ways that charity auction software can support the process of managing the event, too.

How Charity Auction Software Helps with Management

Extend your organization’s reach.

Grow your audience with mobile based charity auction software.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!

Simplify logistics during the event.

Charity auction software can simplify logistics during your auction event.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.

Dramatically boost your fundraising.

Charity auction software can significantly boost revenue at your event.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.

Here's how to choose charity auction software that's right for your organization's goals.

How do you choose the right charity auction software?

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.

Follow these steps to choose the right auction tools for your next event or fundraiser.

  1. Start by reviewing your organization’s goals for your next auction event. How much do you want to raise, or how many new donors do you want to engage?
  2. Think about what type of auction event you’d like to host. Live, silent, or online-only? Do you want to incorporate mobile bidding?
  3. Now, consider your organization’s needs. What will new charity auction software have to accomplish? What are the gaps or blind spots in your current auction toolkit?
  4. Determine a budget. What can you afford to invest in new tools? Will auctions become a recurring part of your fundraising strategy?
  5. Review the features to look for in the section above. Pay particular attention to core features like cloud-based operations, nonprofit-specific design, scalability, and reporting tools.
  6. Begin researching top providers and comparing their key features. Reach out to your favorites to request demos and discuss prices.

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.

FREE ONLINE TOUR: Find the best tools for your next fundraising auction! Test drive OneCause to see how we can take your auction to the next level!

How do you make the most of your charity auction software leading up to your event?

What are best practices for using charity auction software?

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:


Get started early.

Start planning your auction early using the software you choose.

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.

Promote your auction.

Promote your auction as much as possible, especially if your charity auction software contains marketing features.

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.

Look for CRM integrations.

Your charity auction software should ideally integrate with your CRM.

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.

Use your gamification tools.

Make sure to use the gamification tools in your charity auction software.

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.

Not done? Keep learning with OneCause!

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:

Supercharge your next auction with OneCause