BidPal CEO Steve Johns said new technology is key to the Indianapolis-based firm’s success helping nonprofits in the fundraising space.
August 17, 2016 – BidPal Inc. made a splash in the nonprofit world in 2008 when it introduced a mobile bidding system for fundraising events like galas and silent auctions.
Like roadies at a rock concert, BidPal employees rolled up to a venue with cases of equipment. In this case, they were armed with mobile devices loaded with bidding software and a computer server that connected wirelessly with up to 1,500 more devices.
Fast-forward to today and the Indianapolis-based company is working overtime on new innovations to stay ahead in the crowded fundraising space. Not the least of these is a new twist on a 4G cellular system introduced in 2013. Last year it was enhanced to allow novice fundraisers to operate their own auctions at lower cost. Also new: tools that seek donations from donors throughout the year via mobile devices.
In just one recent weekend, BidPal hosted 91 events, a number that reflects a year’s worth of work during the early days.
“That number would have been unattainable under the prior model,” BidPal CEO Steve Johns said of the company’s old wireless system.
Using 4G cellular units is about one-third the cost and almost two times more efficient than Wi-Fi units at a 2,000-donor event, according to the company, which launched nearly 10 years ago with a mission to “help nonprofits acquire new donors, communicate their messages, engage their donors, and – importantly – retain those donors.”
Changing technology has brought growing pains for BidPal in recent years, however. In 2014, the company cut its full-time staff to 84 from 113. The company now has nearly 90 full-time equivalent employees. The privately held company declines to disclose revenue numbers.
“We’re at a point where we’re profitable and growing,” said Don Aquilano, a BidPal investor and managing director of local investor services firm Allos Ventures.
BidPal’s growth is reliant upon its ability to innovate. While BidPal is among relatively few offering a device platform for fundraising events, the number of firms making donor management software seems to outnumber the grains of sand on a beach.
Beyond the software suite that runs its bidding platform, BidPal has developed new products such as Text2Give. That technology makes fundraising easier year-round, not just during silent auctions, as it helps nonprofits stay in touch with donors via a click – say for an upcoming youth trip.
BidPal priced the product at under $500, which makes it affordable for nonprofits and broadens BidPal’s customer base, Johns said.
The company also has developed mobile apps tailored to events such as golf outings. One example: station a golf pro at a hole and dare players to land their shot closer to the pin. If the pro wins, the money goes to the charity.
A crowdfunding tool is also under development. BidPal recently released BidPal Connect, which allows nonprofits to integrate their BidPal activity with the Salesforce.com customer relationship management platform.
BidPal also refined its own mobile bidding software, which can keep track of dietary restrictions for donors attending events, create more elaborate catalogs of items up for bid and send thank-you and solicitation letters.
The company said it has tripled the growth of do-it-yourself bidding software, which allows clients to manage their own auction rather than use a BidPal crew at an event.
Such functionality allowed American Red Cross-Kentucky Region to expand its number of fundraising events from one to three, said chapter spokeswoman Amber Youngblood.
After an event, the group was able to quickly determine the most generous givers and send them text messages, she said. Youngblood estimated that the new capabilities helped the chapter double money raised from one recent event.
“We continue to improve our mobile bidding solutions as well as our software funding suite,” said Aquilano, “to use the best tools throughout the year as opposed to (just) black tie galas.
“Our goal is to be a leader in the broader fundraising software space for these charities.”
BidPal estimates that since 2008 its various products helped about 2,800 organizations raise upwards of $1 billion.