An online auction is a great way to raise funds and engage donors
Now more than ever, charities are looking for new remote fundraising ideas and online event formats for donors to get excited about. Why not take the traditional charity gala auction and bring it to an online audience?
A virtual charity auction can be a great way of bringing in revenue and building community. It can also allow you to cater to a larger audience than would be possible with a physical event. It’s much more flexible for both donors and charities, as supporters can bid at any time and from any place. Bidding can be extended, with new items added or bidding staggered to keep people interested. There’s no need to go to the hassle and expense of setting up a venue, and there are plenty of software options with features around promotion, management and engagement.
You may have seen other charities running fundraising auctions online. However, if you’re yet to dip your toes into the world of online fundraising auctions, it can seem daunting. Here is our quick crash course on getting started with successful virtual charity auctions:
Think creatively about how you can make your auction lots unique and exciting – they don’t have to be objects (through items made by volunteers or supporters are low risk and cost-effective), but can be a service, skill or experience offered by a volunteer, trustee, celebrity, MP or local expert.
The possibilities are almost endless. They could include a lesson, mentoring session or meeting, ticket to a future event (physical or virtual), a tour or a certain number of hours of a service for free, on a theme that you decide. Consider soliciting items from local merchants and businesses keen to market their services to a wide audience, gain new customers and attach their name to a charitable cause.
Memorabilia signed by celebrities are popular charity auction items. This can range from big ticket items like film or TV props and replicas, musical instruments, footballs and sports memorabilia, to something fairly simple and inexpensive. Hospice Aid recently ran an online charity auction where they got celebrities to sign trilby hats. The hats themselves cost next to nothing, but the endorsement of celebrities made the items worth bidding on. A small Buckinghamshire mental health charity raised £2,000 through their online auction by partnering with a music photographer who was able to donate exclusive photographs of music celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Stormzy.
The items that you auction will depend on the donor base you hope to attract, by reviewing your donor data and identifying target segments. Their age, interests and the size of the gift they typically give will be invaluable for determining the type of items, packages and services that will grab their attention. If you still aren’t sure, offering a range of different types of values of lots may be your best bet.
Due to the complexity involved in an online auction, charities really need to do their research and find a specialist platform that can undertake tasks such as payment processing, bid tracking and donor management.
Luckily, there are many available with a wide range of features and pricing. They include:
The non-profit version of eBay announced that it had raised over £27m for good causes in the UK last year, with over 1.2m listings from charities. The platform works through PayPal Giving Fund – payment platform PayPal’s donation processing arm which lets charities collect funds without charge.
As well as physical items, charities can auction off virtual, symbolic gifts and provide the winning bidders with a gift certificate.
As well as offering silent tech software for live events, this is a popular online auction event service through which guests can bid via text and web links from anywhere. A big plus point is that it comes with a self-serve data portal for donation reports and opted-in data from donors, and for communicating with them through thank you emails and texts.
A few years ago, Cancer Research UK raised over £50,000 by auctioning off a set of never-before-seen photographs of David Bowie via the Givergy platform. Givergy is designed to be user friendly and you get the expertise of a dedicated account manager to set up and run your auction.
“It’s definitely well-suited as an auction platform for non-profits. Because they are one of the most affordable on the market, Givergy enabled us to keep more of the proceeds from the auction.”
- Stephanie Maddox – Fundraising Manager, Cancer Research
There is a lot that you can do to build excitement for your auction and get attendees to bid big. You may want to consider setting up your auction set up as part of a larger fundraising campaign,
combined with other virtual events that gives supporters more to get involved with and more content to educate and inspire them.
’Gamification’ has become a buzzword amongst marketers over the past few years. Essentially, it’s a way of driving positive engagement with a campaign by turning it into a game and encouraging a bit of healthy competition. Online charity auctions are the perfect place to do this, and it can take the form of a leaderboard with special prizes or content for the most engaged participants, and encouraging people to share their own messages and photos online with the help of volunteer ambassadors.