Online Charity Auction Guide: Raise More with OneCause

We live in a digital world. We’re constantly turning to technology to make things more efficient each day, and charity auctions are no exception!

Nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are adding online charity auctions to their fundraising toolbelts. Why? Online auctions can help nonprofits raise a lot of money. After all, the chance to walk away with an amazing item while also supporting a worthy cause spurs more giving. Even better, online charity auction software makes giving easy.

But there’s a lot of steps leading up to giving your donors that irreplaceable feeling of being the highest bidder on a highly sought-after item. Charity auctions have a lot of moving parts. Between directing your team, building your guest list, marketing your event, procuring items, and hammering down logistics, you need the right software to support you while you support your mission.

OneCause even has the Virtual Event Center to meet the needs of those specifically going virtual with livestream capabilties.

Whether your online charity auction is a part of an in-person event or an entirely virtual campaign, you’ll want powerful technology to support your powerful fundraising efforts.

See how OneCause’s fundraising solutions can help your organization:

Plan the perfect charity auction event

Planning the perfect auction doesn’t have to be a daunting task! In fact, with online charity auction software, your planning efforts are automated and centralized – saving your team time and hassle!

Don’t waste time transferring data, switching between platforms, or consulting various information sources. With OneCause, you can promote your auction, manage your items, sell tickets, and get the bids rolling in early and often.

With less time spent on planning your online auction, you can focus on the things that matter – engaging with your donors and fundraising for your mission.

Spread the word about your auction

Promoting your upcoming auction is essential for success. Having the right audience for your online charity auction can propel your organization above and beyond its fundraising goals and invigorate those working towards your mission.

Your main goal is to drive traffic to your charity auction website. With online auction technology, your supporters will easily be able to buy tickets, browse auction items, and begin setting up their bidder profile.

Get your supporters onto your site and into the fundraising groove by taking these essential steps to promoting your auction:

  • Social media: Tell your story, share impact, and drive participation on social. By adding your social media profiles to your online auction site, you can connect with your supporters wherever they are!
  • Video: Bring your mission to life with video messaging. Create compelling messages from those you’ve served and connect your online auction to your mission. Embed your video to your homepage for maximum views and engagement.
  • E-mail marketing: Send out an e-mail to your supporters highlighting all that your upcoming event has to offer and where to register. With all of your donor information in one place, this is a quick and easy way to promote your event.
  • Text messaging: With OneCause, you can message supporters directly from your auction site. With a call-to-action statement, like “Register to bid in our Virtual Gala!” you’re sure to drive traffic.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Make sure your donors are counting down the days until your online auction by building the suspense! When promoting your event, give guests a taste of what amazing auction items you have in store to get them anxiously awaiting your event.

Procure & manage your auction items

Your online auction can only as successful as the quality of its auction items. Online auction software makes it easy by allowing you to track what member of your team is responsible for procuring an item, if the item has been picked up from its donor yet, and where the item is being stored before the event.

While there’s no secret formula to procuring the best auction items for your event, we can help you get started!

The best items for an online auction will appeal to your demographic. Think: What particular items would my donor base be excited about? When identifying the best items to procure, follow these top tips:

  • Review your past auction’s performance. With online auction software, data from previous events will be invaluable for guiding your procurement process. What types of items were popular? What types of items only had few bids? Use this data to procure even better items for your guests.
  • Use donation request letters. Using donation request letters when soliciting items for your school auctions is a smart way to save your team time, give them a solid framework to expand on, and simplify the donation process.
  • Get creative! Your offerings need to be unique and interesting to draw as much attention and competition as possible. Get creative with your procurement team!

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip: If your online auction is a virtual event, keep in mind not to procure anything too large, heavy, or fragile – or else your items might be too cumbersome to ship to the winners.

Sell tickets & manage RSVPs online

Think of registration as your supporters first impression about your event. You want it to go smoothly! The right online auction software will ensure that registration and ticketing are effortless for donors. The key benefits to OneCause ticketing solutions include:

  • Streamlining your fundraising tickets and event process creates a flawless experience where no details, or donors, are forgotten and no time is wasted.
  • Integrating your ticketing with your event software means all your data is compiled in one central location and easily accessed at any point.
  • The ticketing process can give your organization new donor data, which you can then use to create new donor profiles and use personal insights to help tailor future events to your donor base’s liking.
  • With the data from your fundraising tickets flowing directly into your event software, your organization can quickly contact donors with fundraising appeals or other information about the upcoming event.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Unlimited ticketing options brings unlimited customization. Use OneCause ticketing to offer various sponsorship levels, VIP ticket options, or simply a no-cost volunteer ticket. The sky’s the limit and your registration data is all in one place!

Start the bidding early & build excitement

One of the smartest strategies you can implement in your online charity auction is pre-bidding. Pre-bidding allows you to jumpstart your fundraising, build excitement for your main event, and extend the life of your auction!

Follow these top tips to make sure you’re set up for success:

  • Set parameters. Clearly define the exact date and time at which silent auction pre-bidding will become available on your online auction site.
  • Prepare an e-mail blast. Amp up the excitement for pre-bidding with an e-mail communication before the online auction is published. Make an announcement when your auction is open and that guests can begin before your event even begins. Including your friendly URL allows them to start bidding from their own smartphone right away.
  • Communicate the benefits. It’s simple! Let your guests know they can get a leg up on the competition. Pre-bidding allows your attendees to walk into an event with bids already on the table.
  • Don’t show all your cards. You don’t need to release all of your items for pre-bidding – you’re trying to build suspense, not take it away. Only packages flagged for “Enable Online Bidding” will be available for bidding/purchase will show. Stagger in items to keep up bidding momentum and keep people coming back to bid!

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Pre-bidding will ensure a highly engaging (and highly profitable) online auction event. Digital and mobile tools have made it easier than ever to get your guests eager to bid and keep the excitement going all throughout the event.

Learn more about planning the perfect auction

Seamlessly manage your charity auction

For your donors, the giving experience plays a large factor in turning one-time donors into lifetime supporters. If your donors can give easily, they’re more likely to have a favorable opinion of your nonprofit and engage in the future.

Make sure you have the right software to manage your online charity auction. Without the right tools, you’ll risk losing out on your donors’ support.

The best technology allows you to easily register your guests, track their information, encourage online bidding early and often, and execute a flawless check-out experience.

Register guests quickly and easily

Whether your online auction is in-person or virtual, a seamless registration process gets the event started off on the right foot.

Robust online auction software will simplify and streamline the entire registration process from start to finish. By using mobile technology, your organization can:

  • Assign seats in advance. If guests will be sitting at tables, OneCause software makes it easy to create seating charts.
  • Assign bid numbers. Automatically assign bidders numbers in the platform to ensure things run smoothly when it’s time for the auction.
  • Pre-register credit cards. Encourage guests to pre-register their credit cards on your auction site or at check-in. It will significantly expedite checkout and you’ll thank yourself later!

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Easy event registration means easy check-in. An easy check-in process leaves your donors satisfied and allows more time for what truly matters – connecting to your mission and fundraising for your cause.

Track & manage guest details

Have you ever heard the saying “what gets tracked, gets measured”? We’d like to put our own spin on that and say “what gets tracked, gets measured. And what gets measured gets results!”

When nonprofits focus on donor engagement, tracking and managing guest details in one central location is key. With OneCause, it’s easy!.

When a guest registers for your in-person or virtual event, they enter their contact information, and as they bid, their mobile bidding information auto-populates on their profile. Now your organization has access to bidders’:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Address
  • Credit card on file
  • Bidding history
  • Auction items won

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip: The benefits of tracking these details is twofold. With all of this contact information at your fingertips, you can engage with your supporters long after the event is over! And, with a credit card on file and access to auction items one, the checkout process is seamless for your guests and your organization. (We’ll get to that later!)

Encourage bidding with real-time updates

Online auctions work because of their fun, competitive nature. On the day of your online auction, amp up the excitement!

Create an atmosphere that has energy and use a variety of communication strategies onsite to drive engagement and bids. OneCause makes it easy with texting capabilities, scoreboards, and countdown clocks.

Use texting to drive bidding

With OneCause online charity auction software, you can send text message reminders straight to your guests’ phones. Send messages to your guests about:

  • Items that have sparked a bidding war
  • Items with no bids
  • Key program timeframes
  • Donation Calls-to-Action
  • When the auction will be closing

Text messaging is the perfect feature for online auctions because it gets guests back on their mobile devices and back to bidding!

Leverage the power of scoreboards

Use leaderboards and scoreboards to gamify your auction and get everyone focused on the goal of supporting your organization’s mission. Scoreboards spark healthy competition and make giving FUN!

Plus, donors love seeing the impact of their support. Give your guests real-time updates about how their support is making a difference. Remember – show, don’t tell.

Scoreboard Powered by OneCause

Set your countdown clock

Create a sense of urgency at your event by setting a countdown clock on your online auction site or on display at your event. They are another great way to build up the momentum as your auction ends, especially when used alongside text notifications in your mobile bidding tools

Show your guests that time is ticking, and they only have a small time left to make a BIG difference in their community.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
If you want to take your online auction to the next level, make sure your online auction software has gamification capabilities. When you gamify giving you add the element of competition that drives up bids and can help you reach your fundraising goals.

Eliminate lines with instant check-out

Make sure your online auction ends on a high note for your organization and your guests. Instant check-out puts the cherry on top to a perfect event!

With online auction software, you can streamline this process.

  • Guests can check themselves out. If guests have pre-registered their credit cards, check out should be easy as pie. Attendees are automatically be charged if they win.
  • Quickly match guests with their items. With instant access to auction transactions, you can easily unite auction items with the appropriate winners with the help of your volunteers and technology. Plus, you can easily add tax or extra chargers, process live payments, and even split bills between guests.
  • Auction item winner data is recorded. For future reference, recording the winner’s name and winning bid amount for each item happens automatically with online charity auction software.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Donors with a great experience at checkout are more likely to return for the same event next year and attend other fundraising galas for your organization. Tap into the power of online auction software to ensure things go smoothly.

Learn more about running a seamless auction.

Engage with charity auction attendees

In the nonprofit world, nothing is more important than maintaining a close relationship with your supporters. Finding new contributors is crucial, of course, but dedicating time to maintain a connection with your existing supporters is the key to long-term and reliable fundraising success.

The heart of any relationship is communication and consistency. When your nonprofit is consistent in its gratitude, outreach, and engagement, your supporter relationships will flourish.

When looking to engage with your charity auction attendees, make sure you have the right technology to do so – one that lets you recognize top donors, automate the thank-you process, and dive into post-event analytics.

Recognize your stand-out charity auction donors

One of the best parts about having all of your donor data in one central location is how easy post-event follow-up can be. After your event concludes, recognize your stand-out charity auction donors for the key role they played in making it a smashing success!

Make sure your follow up has these three key elements:

  • Personalization: You’re recognizing these donors for a specific reason: they stand out! Let them know why and how their support has made an impact on your mission. Personalizing your thank-you’s brings your organization closer to your donors and it brings donors closer to your mission.
  • Detail: In your follow-up, make sure to include an update that tells supporters exactly how much was raised and how this money will impact your mission.
  • Additional engagement opportunities: Providing further opportunities for interaction will be the only way you can actively continue to deepen attendee relationships and successfully convert them into recurring donors. The only caveat: Avoid making a monetary ask.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
With extensive bidder profiles from each guest, online auction software makes it easy to identify stand-out donors from your event. You’ll be able to see how many times they bid, how many items they won, how many fixed items they purchased, and if they participated in the live appeal.

Automate the thank-you process

Two of the most powerful words in the nonprofit industry: thank you. Thanking your donors for their support is how you cultivate better relationships with your supporters and keep them engaged with your mission.

We understand that after an online auction is over, it’s easy to want to take a deep breath and say, “All done!” That is why OneCause online auction software automates the thank you process for you.

After guests check out, an email receipt with information about their winnings and a special thank you from your organization is sent.

But don’t forget that you should follow up with a more personalized thank you within 48 hours after the donation! Think of these thank you tactics:

  • A hand-written thank you note
  • A phone call from a board member
  • A video testimonial from someone organization

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
By automating your thank-you process with online auction software, your organization has one less thing to worry about, and your donors always have the peace of mind knowing that their gift has been received and is making a difference.

Learn from your events with post-auction analytics

The last, crucial best practice for any nonprofit – track your performance! After your online charity auction, gather your team and address these questions:

  • Did we have a good turnout?
  • Did we reach our fundraising goal?
  • Which items were the most popular?
  • Did any items not receive bids?
  • Who were the top bidders?
  • What could we do better next time?

The good news is online auction software has your answers! OneCause’s robust online auction software allows you to generate a wide variety of reports that will give you detailed insights into your auction items and bidders.

When you learn more from your past events, you’re able to continually host better, more effective auctions in the future.

Online Charity Auction Tip
Online Charity Auction Tip:
Software that keeps all event planning efforts under the same roof gives your organization a more complete picture of your auction. OneCause’s robust reporting and analytics features give you additional insights so you can keep honing your event until it’s the best it can be.

Make Your Charity Auction Count

Learn from these OneCause Success Stories

Ready to see the OneCause difference? We’ve compiled some of our top OneCause Success Stories to spark online auction inspiration!

How PS 150 Exceed Their Goals & Build a Community with Their Virtual Gala

PS 150, a small school in Manhattan put the ‘fearless’ in #FearlessFundraisers. They pulled off a move to virtual fundraising in 3 days with huge success. See how they brought school spirit to their supporters’ couches and created community online.

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How MICC’s Small Development Team Raise $300K In Their Virtual Appeal

A small but mighty, two-person development team was able to put on a virtual appeal with BIG results. Read the full story to see how Minnesota Independence College & Community raised $300K in their virtual appeal.

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How Cornerstone Schools of Alabama Took Their Event Virtual – FAST!

The Cornerstone team knew that for their virtual event to be successful, the team needed to move fast, communicate often, and be authentic. Learn how the right technology and right strategy allowed this team to take their event virtual in only 24 hours!

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How MARR Ditched Paper Bid Sheets and Grew Their Fundraising with Online Auction Software

MARR knew they needed to adjust their fundraising strategy to maximize engagement and drive more revenue. Read how transitioning from paper bid sheets to mobile bidding allowed MARR Inc. to TRIPLE their auction proceeds.

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Check out more success stories

Get Started with OneCause

Successful auctions require powerful fundraising software! The OneCause Fundraising Platform makes giving modern, flexible, and seamless to drive deeper engagement and grow your fundraising. Take a look at this versatile all-in-one fundraising software that meets the expectations of today’s donor, supporting any event, in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
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