Bidding Apps for Fundraising and Auctions
Live, silent, and online auctions have become favorite fundraising methods for many nonprofits. And today, there are sophisticated software systems to help make those auctions efficient and more fun.
Reliable auction software can and should perform a number of tasks quickly and efficiently. For live or silent auctions, those functions include tracking complex information, such as items up for sale, the fair market value of each, and selling prices. Such systems will also need to produce bills and receipts during the event within minutes.
For online auctions, non-profits may want to use an existing platform such as eBay for Charity with a built-in audience or a system that caters to a specific audience – usually friends of the organization. In any case, systems must be adaptable, customizable, and sturdy.
When shopping for fundraising software and systems, pricing may not always be transparent.
Some questions to ask include:
- How much for various packages and add-ons?
- Are there separate fees or does the company take a percentage of sales?
- Is there a contract and if so for how long?
- What are the credit card fees both swiped and manually entered?
- And is there an early termination fee?
Systems That Integrate Online and Offline Auctions
1. Greater Giving Event: This is a package of three processes: Online Payments, Auctionpay, and Greater Giving Event Software. Greater Giving Online Bidding can be added.
- When used with the online bidding add-on, the package brings mobile bidding to live and silent auction events
- Can be integrated with offline silent bidding when info sheets are printed out and distributed. Can be used alongside gavel bidding by providing a preview of items to be gaveled.
- Pre-registers guests
- Allows pre-bidding, bidding from anywhere, sends alerts, so bidders know when they have been outbid
- Features "Buy It Now" capability
- Stores guest payment information, providing a quick, efficient checkout process
- Tracks, displays, and announces results in real time
Pricing depends on package purchased plus any add-ons. No pricing information available on the website. Could be too complicated for small non-profits and some volunteers.
2. ReadySetAuction: This auction program says that it is a “one-stop, cloud-based auction software solution for your silent, live, mobile, and online fundraiser auctions.”
- Excellent guest management, including tracking RSVPs, table assignments, meal choices, etc.
- Item tracking by donor and type, including services, in-kind gifts, consignments, sponsorships, and cash contributions.
- Printed catalog and bid sheets that can be branded.
- Online ticket and sponsorship sales, mobile bidding during the event, online bidding before and after an event.
- Full-featured cashiering, including check-in, check out, and receipts, plus low-cost credit card processing.
- A wide range of reports that are easy to generate and store.
- Transparent pricing. Pick one of three programs, ranging from $1,099 to $1,999, using an easy chart of features. No contract, no percentage of sale fees.
Just one-hour of training for up to 25 people. Additional time available for a fee. Email technical support included, but telephone support requires an extra, but reasonable charge.
Tools for Online Auctions
1. eBay for Charity: The eBay charity auction platform gives non-profits the ability to fundraise on the vast and popular online auction site. Listings are open to anyone who searches eBay, a potentially huge audience.
eBay for Charity has two kinds of charitable auction options. The first is “Community Selling” which allows anyone who sells an item to donate a portion of the proceeds to a chosen charity. Working through PayPal Giving, the seller receives some rebate of listing fees and gets a tax deduction for the donation. Charities can also benefit from this program by encouraging their supporters who sell on eBay to use this option.
The “Direct Selling” option allows a charity to sell its own items. The charity gets all of the income and a 100 percent credit for PayPal processing fees. This option can benefit a charity directly by selling items, either intermittently or continually.
- Substantial potential existing audience plus you can drive your specific supporters to the site by advertising Charity Shop on your website and in your communications.
- Full credit for processing fees
- Easy signup procedure
- Ability to run an auction continuously
- A branded page that allows visitors to donate directly, become a community seller and designate a portion of sales to the charity, or shop for items posted by the charity. The charity also becomes part of an overall listing of charitable causes on Charity Shop.
- Simple order processing and the ability to communicate with buyers.
- Works well for charities with physical shops that want to have an additional way to sell. For instance, see this list of Goodwill shops on eBay for Charity. Also may work well for schools or school groups that need to fundraise.
- Not especially useful for one-time or recurring events such as an auction connected with a gala.
- Charity must be an IRS registered 501c3. Sales are processed through PayPal Giving Fund, a nonprofit.
- Although the potential audience is enormous, a charity must spend time and some money advertising the option to its own supporters and donors.
- Perhaps useful as an add-on to other fundraising and auction events.
2. CharityBuzz seems to be the belle of the ball when it comes to online charity auctions. From its “buzz-worthy” website to its love of experiences (check out the celebrity and travel emphasis), this service doesn’t look like your grandfather’s charity auction.
CharityBuzz is part of the Charity Network, recognized for innovation by Fast Company in 2017. For edgy non-profits and those appealing to a new generation of donors, CharityBuzz might be worth a look.
- Emphasis on planning, speed, results. Payment within 30 days. Auctions run for two weeks.
- Although the website is light on specifics, the company promises to plan, equip, optimize, execute, enhance and finish. (You’ll have to fill out a form and wait to be contacted for the details.)
- Specializes in creating “viable auction packages, including celebrity meet-and-greets, luxury travel, internships, and business lunches.”
- Pricing based on a percentage of net proceeds with CharityBuzz receiving 20 percent.
- Little specific information is readily available on the website.
- Perhaps best for charities targeting high-end donors, a younger generation, and people interested in fashion, celebrities, travel, luxury.
Especially Affordable Auction Products
3. BiddingForGood has been around for a long time and continues to be popular, especially with smaller non-profits and schools. That may be due to its affordability and flexibility.
Event management and auction management are at the heart of Bidding for Good’s several products. The platform seems stable, and the company is known for excellent support.
- Affordability. Several products at various price points starting at free for a basic setup (no online or mobile bidding) to a pro version that starts at $249. However, there is a nine percent fee on auction proceeds raised online and a 3.8 percent credit card processing fee (from Capterra).
- Longevity can mean stability and experience with a wide range of customers
- Unlimited events/auctions allowed
- Access to an ongoing online auction site helps tap a broader potential audience
- Mobile bidding
- Event registration
- Easy to use set up, user-friendly systems
- Support throughout
- Detailed pricing information not provided on the website. You must contact the company for a consultation and to learn pricing in depth.
- Feature descriptions sketchy on the website. Other vendors often have much fuller information.
- Whenever products are very affordable, systems may not be as sophisticated as one would like. Look up reviews and find other customers who have used the product to get a sense of how satisfied they’ve been.
4. Canadian-based Auctria is another very affordable product. There are five plans, starting with free (one event, 30 items) and proceeding to $349 for a Platinum Plan. The pricing is based on a yearly subscription. Credit card fees depend on the program level and run from 0.5 percent to 0.2 percent.
- Emphasis on streamlining the process through tracking and management of all aspects of an event.
- Procurement tracking
- Bidder Automation
- Organized Printed Materials
- Collection of payments, donations, ticket and product sales, print and email receipts
- Pricing transparency with most information available on the website.
- Excellent support on the website including a demo auction and case studies.
- There are limitations with each level of product so organizations must be alert to when they approach those limits (such as the number of items, number of events, dollar amount processed, etc.) so they can stop or upgrade to a higher plan. See customer reviews at Capterra
3 More Low-Cost Auction Apps
1. GiveSmart is a full-service auction product offering everything from silent to live and online auction support. Pricing variable based on needs of the client. You’ll have to contact them for a consultation.
2. WinningCause specializes in online and mobile silent auctions. It calls itself “better than free” because you can earn a cash back bonus. The product allows mobile bidding, unlimited items, and unlimited bidders. More info at the site and Capterra.
3. 32Auctions specializes in silent auctions, taking them online and live or integrating the two types. Choose the feature you want with a quick chart and find out the cost right on the website. Prices range from free to over $200. Custom packages available as well. Friendly site!
These auction apps, programs, and companies are certainly not the only ones on the market today. No matter your organization’s needs or budget, you’re bound to find just the right combination of services to take your auctions to the next level.
But pick your way carefully through features, pricing, and ease-of-use. Keep in mind that your volunteers will need to use whatever system you choose. Make sure that the software makes everything as comfortable as possible.