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, nonprofits 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.
Brings mobile bidding to live and silent auction events when used with the online bidding add-on
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
Allows pre-bidding and 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 and efficient checkout process
Tracks, displays, and announces results in real time
Pricing depends on package purchased plus any add-ons
No pricing information is available on the website
Could be too complicated for small nonprofits 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: Three programs range from $1,099 to $1,999
Just one hour of training is included for up to 25 people with additional time available for a fee
Telephone support costs extra
Tools for Online Auctions
1. eBay for Charity: The eBay charity auction platform gives nonprofits 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.
A branded page allows visitors to donate directly
Potentially substantial existing audience
Full credit for processing fees
Easy sign-up procedure
Ability to run an auction continuously
Simple order processing and the ability to communicate with buyers
Not especially useful for one-time or recurring events such as an auction connected with a gala
Organizations must be IRS-registered as 501c3
Must drive supporters to the site by advertising and marketing
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, and results
Payment within 30 days
Little specific information is readily available on the website
Pricing based on a percentage of net proceeds with CharityBuzz receiving 20 percent
Best suited for charities targeting high-end donors
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.
Several products available at various price points
Unlimited auctions allowed
Access to an ongoing online auction site helps tap a broader potential audience
Detailed pricing and feature information not provided on the website
9-percent fee on auction proceeds raised online
3.8-percent credit card processing fee
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.
Collection of payments, donations, ticket and product sales, print and email receipts
Pricing transparency (most information available on the website)
Excellent user support
Limitations on number of items
Limitations on number of events
Limitations on dollar amount processed
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 is variable based on the 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 can be found 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 are available as well.
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.