Nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are adding virtual auctions to their fundraising toolkit.
Why? Large in-person galas aren’t the best option for donors and nonprofits right now, AND virtual auctions can help nonprofits raise a lot of money regardless of public health concerns.
After all, the chance to walk away with an amazing item while also supporting a worthy cause spurs more giving. Even better, virtual auction software makes giving easy.
Between directing your team, building your guest list, marketing your event, procuring items, and hammering down logistics, the right plan for a virtual auction is key in supporting your mission.
OneCause’s product suite includes the new Virtual Event Center to meet the needs of those specifically taking their auction virtual with livestream capabilities.
We’ve got all the bases covered for you to kickstart your next virtual auction. Let’s get to it and cover:
For virtual fundraising newbies, here are the essentials to keep in mind as you get started.
Taking your nonprofit’s auction online can have major benefits. These virtual events are highly flexible, engaging for audiences, and typically less resource-intensive to plan than in-person auctions.
Check out our complete guide to virtual auctions for a comprehensive breakdown of these virtual events when partnering with OneCause.
If you’re new to virtual fundraising, you and your team may have a couple of questions that immediately come to mind. Let’s tackle some of those top FAQs when it comes to virtual auctions.
|What is a virtual auction?||A virtual auction brings all elements of an in-person auction to an online format. With large in-person galas not being the best option right now, virtual auctions allow supporters and nonprofits to meet virtually and still raise money for an important cause. With fundraising software, there are still ways to incite giving, create community, and power your mission forward in a virtual world.|
|How do virtual auctions work?||Virtual auction execution is very similar to in-person auction execution. Setting goals, collecting auction items, creating an event marketing plan, building an event program (that includes your virtual auction), and promoting your virtual auction are all present in a virtual auction. The difference? Mobile bidding technology. After the tech learning curve, it makes fundraising easier. Gone are the days of paper bid sheets and executing in-person check-out.|
|What are the benefits of virtual auctions?||The benefits of virtual auctions include: (1) Larger audience reach. You’re no longer limited to a certain number of tickets at a specific location. Share your fundraising site far and wide. (2) Lower cost. Your overhead cost is significantly reduced without a venue and similar event planning costs! (3) Flexible. Specifically suit your mission, community, and goals to your nonprofit’s virtual auction.|
|Do donors like virtual auctions?||Yes! The nice thing about virtual auctions is that you literally meet your donors where they are. You can offer a more streamlined, convenient bidding experience that keeps the energy up, deliver immediate notifications to bidders, and provide a one-stop shop for all bidding on your fundraising site.|
Of course, fundraising software is a necessity to execute a virtual auction. Let’s dive into the different options.
Especially if you’re new to fundraising software, it’s tough to know where to start when it comes to making the right choice for you and your organization.
Here are some of the tools available that you’ll need to plan and host a virtual auction:
Working with virtual fundraising software provides a more streamlined experience for your team and a more enjoyable event for your donors. Rather than piecing together a system of separate tools, dedicated virtual fundraising software can serve as the central hub for your event.
For virtual fundraising events that include online auctions—mobile bidding tools are a must!
Live video feeds are an extremely effective way to engage donors during your virtual events. Any virtual fundraising event can be improved with live-streamed festivities or appeals, so explore your software options early. Don’t forget the cameras, too!
Comprehensive virtual fundraising software will include built-in live-streaming capabilities. For small-scale virtual gatherings, platforms like Zoom can work, as well. However, larger events will benefit from a more immersive, branded live-streaming experience.
Platforms like OneCause help you centralize every aspect of your event, from its website to virtual auctions to live-streams. With an intuitive virtual event center, your donors can focus on supporting your mission instead of navigating multiple, confusing platforms.
To get people registered for your virtual auction, marketing and promotion is key. Here are a few tools to help you streamline your virtual auction marketing plan.
When setting your virtual auction fundraising goals, look beyond just bidding on items and registration fees. Consider incorporating a corporate philanthropy strategy into your event so that you can raise more for your cause without asking your supporters to donate more. Instead, introduce them to matching gifts.
In your registration process, include a matching gift database so that your donors can look up their employers’ matching gift programs. If they are eligible, they can submit the forms necessary and support your cause even more!
Your nonprofit’s database will be essential for planning and hosting virtual fundraising events.
Use your database to help you research your audience during the planning process, and then ensure all new engagement data is automatically reported throughout your event. Virtual fundraising software that integrates with your database will be invaluable!
Although these tools on their own are incredible, a more comprehensive platform will return more value over time than a piecemeal approach of tools that don’t work well together.
VIRTUAL FUNDRAISING TOOLS: OneCause wants to help you fundraise in a virtual world with ease. Take a tour of our virtual fundraising software and see if it’s the right fit for you!
To plan a virtual auction, there are several core steps you should follow:
Don’t try to tackle the entire event on your own! Form a team of staff and volunteers and designate specific responsibilities to different team members. These responsibilities could include:
Determining these guidelines early in the process will keep your plans focused from start to finish. Begin by setting a budget, including any new tech you’ll need, and then specific revenue and engagement goals for your virtual event.
In addition to setting monetary goals, you might also use a fundraising event to facilitate other goals, such as:
For your first virtual fundraising event, you’ll need to invest in new software to help plan and host it. If you’ve already hosted one or more virtual events, take some time to review your toolkit and fill any gaps.
If you’re ready to see the software for yourself, take a test drive of the OneCause virtual fundraising suite of products.
Your virtual auction can only be as successful as the quality of its auction items.
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:
For your auction to succeed, you’ll need registrants! Marketing your virtual auction will be essential for a few reasons. Effective promotions help with:
Marketing is crucial for any type of auction, live, silent, or virtual. For online auctions, digital promotions are especially important to make up for the lack of in-person engagement and to reach wider audiences to drive more bids. We recommend taking a multichannel approach to marketing your auction.
Here’s how it might work:
The main idea of a multichannel marketing campaign is to use each of your digital outlets to drive more traffic both to one another and to your target action – in this case, your auction’s registration page.
Your online fundraising site will serve as your fundraising headquarters and your “virtual venue.” Once you’ve picked your virtual auction software, start building your site. Make sure to include:
To incite bidding and bring your community together, a virtual program might be the perfect pair for your virtual auction.
Design your event program just like you would a normal in-person gala, just tweak for virtual adjustments.
We’ve found a shorter program holds the attention of donors better than a typical 2 hour gala event. Check out an example run-of-show that includes your virtual auction:
For your virtual event to succeed, it has to stand out online. Donors need to know about your event, how to sign up, and what to expect on the big day. Get them excited with promotions via email, social media, and peer-to-peer tactics.
Now your virtual auction day is here! Let’s walk through the steps and best practices for actually hosting your auction once you’ve planned it.
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:
Most important in a virtual world, have a staff member on hand to answer questions and troubleshoot tech challenges.
It’s a good idea to consider the many facets of your event and delegate a person (or a few people) to tackle specific aspects, such as:
One of the smartest strategies you can implement in your virtual 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:
Live streaming ‘works’ because it’s an engaging alternative to in-person events that can open up new opportunities for multi-channel engagement with supporters.
With the right recipe of virtual storytelling, energy, mission moments, and fun, live streaming your fundraising event can be very effective (not to mention the exponentially greater donor reach than in-person).
The most popular and accessible options include:
For more on how to use live stream in your next virtual auction, head to this guide.
VIRTUAL EVENT CENTER: If you’re looking for a fundraising platform with live streaming capabilities all in one place, the OneCause Virtual Event Center could be your answer. Check it out here.
Virtual auctions are successful 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 fundraising progress bars.
When you don’t have everyone in the same room, it’s tough to try to control the distractions around your donors. BUT, the good thing is your virtual fundraising software includes text notifications.
Virtual auction software gives you the ability to instantly notify participants of changes or announcements. This is huge for boosting engagement. After all, how many times a day do you look at your phone because it buzzed?
Typical reasons for sending notifications include:
Text messaging is the perfect feature for online auctions because it gets guests back on their mobile devices and back to bidding!
With online auction software, you can streamline this process.
Time to close out and ship your items off to their lucky winners. Be sure to ship the item to the winning bidder in a timely manner.
When packaging items, be sure to:
After any fundraising event, following up is critical. Express your gratitude to everyone who attended and donated and begin studying your engagement data for ways to improve your next virtual event!
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.
When your nonprofit is consistent in its gratitude, outreach, and engagement, your supporter relationships will blossom.
The last, crucial best practice for any nonprofit – track your performance! After your virtual auction, gather your team and address these questions:
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.
Diving headfirst into the world of virtual fundraising can seem daunting when all you’ve done in the past is traditional in-person fundraising. It’s easier to gain the courage of making the leap when you see others have executed it (with success).
We’ve compiled some of our top OneCause Success Stories to spark online fundraising inspiration.
ACS weighed their options and knew they had to move their 38th Annual Auction online.
After strategizing how to create engagement in a virtual world, they were able to design their program to include an online auction, Fund-A-Need, and raffle while also having a short video to kick-off the event followed by Zoom rooms for different grades to socialize. Read how they made it happen below!
Tennessee Kidney Foundation’s annual black-tie gala attracts of 500-600 attendees and is a vital funding source for their mission. Due to COVID-19, the team decided to keep fundraising and turned their gala into a One Virtual Night Only fundraiser with a virtual auction!
By going virtual, this nonprofit was not only able to keep fundraising, but open up their mission to a wider audience via social media reach. Read more about their event in this OneCause Success Story.
A comprehensive virtual fundraising platform like OneCause can save you time, provide a better experience for donors, and ultimately help you raise more.
Although virtual fundraising has quickly become a new necessity for many nonprofits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, online-only campaigns and live stream events are a trend that’s here to stay.
A virtual auction, powered by virtual fundraising software, is the perfect tool to engage with your guests virtually.
The benefits of flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and the ability to reach wide virtual audiences make these strategies a no-brainer for many organizations.
The world of fundraising has gone online and we can help! Request a consult today.
Not done with virtual auction content? We’ve got your back. Here are some more resources to make sure your next virtual event is seamless: