There are reportedly more than 250,000 charity auctions held yearly in North America. This number includes live auctions – run by an auctioneer or MC – silent auctions many managed by professional auction houses that may also provide both auction items and personnel. As well as online auctions accessed through the Internet.
In many cases, large fundraising events such as galas combine live auctions with silent auctions and even online auctions. These auctions potentially raise more than $20 billion annually in North America.
So Which Type of Charity Auction is Best for Your Cause?
Charity Auctions are a great way for non-profits to raise money. Their contribution to fundraisers’ coffers can’t be denied. Auctions can be fun, entertaining, and create an exciting atmosphere to help raise money for a worthwhile cause.
Once you decide to plan a charity auction, your format should not just fit your fundraising goals, but should also reflect the theme of your event, and be within your budget. So, your next decision is whether your auction is a live auction with an auctioneer, a silent auction, an online auction, or perhaps a combination.
The Benefits and Constraints of Each Auction Format
The allure of a live auction, led by a professional auctioneer, is hard to resist. A room full of guests all focused on the auctioneer, driven by the excitement and competition of live bidding – a nod of the head, a simple hand gesture, or raising a paddle.
The key to the success of a live auction is the skill of the auctioneer and the quality of the auction items. Live auctions usually feature more expensive items – vacations, life experiences, art, jewellery, and luxury items. In many cases, these articles raise as much or more than their market value.
If you are considering a live auction as the main event of your fundraiser, here are some considerations:
- A good auctioneer and support team can be expensive, as well as the cost of acquiring high-end items.
- You may have to spend a lot of money before the gavel is dropped. But live auctions do raise a lot of money even though they may not fit every occasion. Many events combine a live auction with a silent auction to provide a wider range of items and the opportunity for each guest to bid at their comfort level.
Online Charity Auctions
An online auction is a “website” auction accessed through the Internet by a computer, a tablet, or any web-enabled device. Items are listed with a description and image, on dedicated websites like Charity Auctions Today, Bidding for Good, and other similar donation websites. Fundraisers can also build their own online auction sites as part of their regular website, or as a standalone link. With online auctions, bidders can bid anytime, anywhere.
There are many companies offering online auctions who provide a turn-key package – supplying the expertise, custom bidding sites, the items, and all the services to hold an auction. Typically, these online bidding sites are live for periods from one week up to a month, or even longer. When the event times out, the winning bidders pay and receive their items.
Online auctions of this type are popular, but not the best way to raise money. By hiring a reputable firm, you can have the entire event managed without fundraising volunteers or committees.
While you may enjoy this level of convenience, what you miss is the social interaction and excitement of a live event that in most cases delivers better results. And while most online auction companies are reputable, stories persist about those companies who simply want to use their clients’ entities to raise money, then turn over a small portion of the returns to the cause.
Of all the auction formats, the silent auction has benefited most through the universal acceptance of smartphones and mobile technology.
Before the use of mobile technology, silent auctions were time-consuming and required many volunteers to manage:
- Items were displayed with guests crowded around bid sheets, surveying the items and writing down bids.
- Bidders continually found their way back to the silent auction table to check whether they had been outbid, and then placed another bid to stay in the running.
- When the bidding closed, volunteers gathered the bid sheets, deciphered the bidding and the billing, and then announced the winners and manually produced invoices.
- Winners lined up to pay and receive their items.
Bid sheet style silent auctions offer unique challenges and yet their popularity persists. Technology, however, is making silent auctions easier to manage, as mobile bidding and instant updates make the bidding happen quickly and feverishly.
What makes new silent auction bidding platforms attractive to savvy fundraisers is the convenience of managing their own auctions from setup to close and saving the expense of consultants and technicians.
Within the last decade, several companies began to develop platforms that introduced new convenience to the silent auction process, allowing guests to access auctions, review items, and then bid – initially from shared tablets.
This advance increased silent auction bidding substantially and relieved some of the confusion of jostling to access a bid sheet by allowing bidders to respond to outbids from their tablets.
But these early systems had not yet solved the biggest challenge – the dreaded close.
Today, advanced mobile bidding platforms have moved beyond shared tablets. Bidders have the convenience of signing into a charity silent auction by texting a special number, where they can review items, bid, and answer re-bid alerts from their phones.
A few programs have solved chaotic closings by issuing detailed invoices seconds after the event ends, giving winners the option of paying from their phones. Payment triggers a receipt used to retrieve their items.
An optional feature requests credit card info upfront processes all winners’ cards immediately at close, and issues receipts for product pickup.
MobilBid, as a full-featured, scalable product, contains all of these features. Our advanced software options let you design and build an auction that not only reflects your style and brand but also allows you to build an auction to suit your needs. Cached bidding analytics and guest contact information helps fundraisers plan future events.
Whether your auction is live or silent, using mobile bidding, it’s important to choose a style and format to suit your needs.