6 Ways Charity Auction Software Can Support Your Next Auction

Mark Kelly
January 3, 2017
In this article, we'll cover 6 ways that charity auction software can support your organization's next auction.

Charity auctions have been a staple of nonprofit event fundraising for years, but that certainly doesn't mean they've grown stale!

Charity auction software has breathed new life into traditional charity auctions. With technology on hand (and in hand!), planning an auction will be much more manageable for your nonprofit and participating in an auction will be more fun and convenient for your supporters. In this article, we'll cover a few of the many capabilities of auction software and how they can support your event to make it more successful.

Here's what we'll cover:

  1. Centralized planning
  2. Online auction catalogs
  3. Online ticketing
  4. Online auction venues
  5. Mobile bidding
  6. Reporting and analytics

If you need a little more context on charity auction software before we begin, you can consult this resource.

Auction software enables nonprofit organizations to plan their charity auctions centrally, providing numerous benefits.

1. Centralized planning

What is the feature?

The term "auction software" can refer to multiple pieces of technology. However, it's most commonly used to refer to the main event planning module, which includes both the general and specialized event planning features nonprofits need to put together successful charity auctions.

This software provides nonprofits with one convenient place to track and store all event-related data, such as:

  • Basic event details (date, location, etc.)
  • Auction item and package information.
  • RSVPs, seating charts, and tables.
  • Basic attendee data.
  • Bids and other auction-related contributions made by supporters.

In other words, with robust auction software, you should be able to take care of all planning logistics without leaving the platform!

If you're interested in using software to plan your charity auction, then here are two of the top software providers:

  • OneCause - With OneCause's software, you can track your event's registration, RSVPs, and catalog your auction items. They offer features that can support any auction (live, silent, or online).
  • Accelevents - This software provider offers event planning tools to help small nonprofits prepare for your auction. Accelevents has a dashboard that lets you set up your silent auction with quick and easy steps.

Looking for more event planning software for your charity auction? Check out this comprehensive list of 14 providers. 

How can it improve your auction?

There are a few significant benefits to using one centralized platform for planning your charity auction:

i. You'll receive a more comprehensive view of your event.

If you're planning each aspect of your charity auction in different platforms, your organization won't be able to see how all of these aspects fit together to make up your event.

When you can't see the holistic picture, wrangling many moving parts into a cohesive whole becomes much more challenging.

Isolating your data sources will also limit insights into your auction, making it more difficult to pinpoint areas for improvement. While this may not be a huge problem as you're planning your first auction, it can really hamper your success when you host auctions in the future.

For example, say you're tracking RSVPs in an online ticketing platform and manually recording bid activity. While you might be able to see who attended your auction and which items received the most bids, you won't known which supporters bid on which items, who the highest bidders were, and other valuable information that can make your next auction more profitable.

ii. You'll save time.

When all auction data is housed in one place, your organization won't have to waste time switching between platforms, comparing different information sources, and importing and exporting data.

Instead, all event information is right there, ready to be accessed quickly and conveniently!

Additionally, auction software automates many of those time-consuming logistics that nonprofits once had to do by hand (like assigning bidder numbers and generating bid sheets) to make the planning process more efficient on the whole.

iii. It will be easier to upload auction data to your CRM.

Auctions can provide your organization with a wealth of valuable donor data on supporters new and old!

But in order to capitalize on this data, you'll need to import it into your nonprofit CRM after the event so you can view it in conjunction with all of the other donor data you have on file.

When all of your data is housed in one place, transferring it will be much easier.

Not to mention, many charity auction software vendors support integrations with a range of popular nonprofit CRMs, simplifying the process even further.

In summary: Auction software serves as a comprehensive event planning solution that enables organizations to take care of all aspects of planning in one place. Planning centrally gives you a more thorough understanding of your event, makes planning more efficient, and streamlines data management.

Auction software enables nonprofits to put up online auction catalogs, which is more environmentally friendly, efficient, and cost-effective.

2. Online auction catalogs

What is the feature?

Auction catalogs list out images and descriptions of all auction items for bidders to browse prior to the event.

They're important for auction advertising, since they can motivate more supporters to attend. After all, wouldn't you be much more inclined to spend time and money on attending an auction if you knew there was an item you just had to win?

While once these catalogs had to be physically created, printed, and distributed, now organizations can host them online—with the help of auction software, of course!

Here's how it's done:

  1. Your organization creates item records in the item management module of your software. Along with a vivid description, remember to include all important details, such as the starting bid amount, market value, minimum raise, etc.
  2. Your organization generates an event-branded online auction site that hosts your catalog. The site automatically pulls the data you've recorded to create item listings, so setting up your site is a breeze!
  3. Once you've customized and branded the site to your liking, all you have to do to share your catalog with supporters is to send them the link!

How can it improve your auction?

Opting for an online auction catalog over a physical one presents many major benefits:

  1. It's more efficient. Using software to compile a catalog takes easy 3 steps, whereas creating a physical catalog would be a much more involved and time-consuming process.
  2. You'll expend fewer resources. Printing out a catalog means that your organization has to shell out money on paper, printing services, and mailing costs. With software, you'll be able to cut down on advertising expenses significantly.
  3. It's kinder to the environment. Since you're not printing anything, using an online catalog is much more eco-friendly!
  4. You can host an online auction. Online auction sites are a multipurpose tool. You can support online bidding right from your site to host an online auction and increase event profits (but more on that later!).

What are some recommend auction items?

When you're looking for auction items or experiences to showcase in your catalog, it's important to find items that:

  • Play into your donor's interests. If you want your donors to bid, you need to have items that they want. Think about guests that you've invited and request items that they'd be interested in owning.
  • Are rare and unique. When an item or experience is both unique and desirable, it's possible that you could have multiple supporters driving up the price, thus helping your raise more funds.
  • Offer some variety. While it's important to cater your items to your donors, don't let that stop you from providing a variety of different options

In summary: Using auction software enables your organization to generate an online auction catalog, making event advertising more efficient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

With auction software, your organization can sell tickets online to provide donors with a more flexible event experience.

3. Online ticketing

What is the feature?

The auction sites generated by auction software have yet another useful capability: online ticketing.

Your nonprofit can host an event registration form on your online auction site where your supporters can go to purchase tickets whenever they're ready to RSVP "yes!"

Most robust charity auction software should even allow your nonprofit to set multiple ticketing and sponsorship packages (e.g. individual tickets, couple tickets, tables, etc.) so that your supporters can choose the option that works best for them.

How can it improve your auction?

The ability to purchase tickets online will make RSVPing much more convenient for your supporters.

Instead of having to wait in line at the box office, donors can simply turn on their laptops or take out their smartphones to make the purchase. Such convenience should result in a bigger turnout at your event!

Of course, you could always sell tickets online through a third-party platform, but then your ticket data will be stored separately from the rest of your event data (and we already discussed how problematic that can be!).

In summary: Auction software enables organizations to sell tickets to their auctions online, providing their donors with more convenience. Furthermore, all ticket data will be recorded centrally so it can be understood in conjunction with other event information.

Using auction software, your organization will be able to run an online auction, opening up your event to more supporters.

4. Online auction venues

What is the feature?

The benefits of online auction sites don't stop there! As we mentioned earlier, these sites can be used to support an online auction.

All your organization has to do is select the option to open up online bidding.

To get bidding, supporters will have to register by inputting their basic information and payment methods. They can then place bids right from the item listings on your site!

How can it improve your auction?

If your organization is only running an online auction, then auction software isn't merely beneficial; it's necessary.

Using charity auction software is the key for your organization to properly facilitate online bidding.

If you're hosting an in-person event (a live or silent auction), on the other hand, you can also open online bidding to provide more supporters with access to your auction. With all of the bidding taking place online, even donors across the world could feasibly participate!

Of course, having more participants fighting to win auction items should drive up event profits. More people bidding means there's more money to go around!

You can either open up your online auction in advance of the event (and have it close at the same time your event ends), or consequently, you could host an online auction after your live event to sell off any items that didn't receive bids.

In summary: Auction software is a necessary tool for organizations looking to host online auctions. The ability to run an online auction can also benefit organizations hosting live events (live and silent auctions), as they can open up the opportunity to participate in the bidding to more donors.

One type of auction software is mobile bidding, which supporters can conveniently use to bid during a silent auction.

5. Mobile bidding

What is the feature?

Mobile bidding is another type of auction software.

Separate from (but integrated with) the main event planning module, a mobile silent auction enables donors to consult your auction catalog and place bids from their mobile devices during a silent auction. It's a convenient and easy alternative to bid sheets, which require that donors handwrite their bids and bidder information every time they want to bid on an item.

Mobile bidding also includes a number of other useful, secondary features, such as:

  • Text notifications for communicating with bidders during the auction.
  • By proxy bidding (guests can set the software to bid for them on certain items up to a preset amount).
  • Donation portals where guests can submit gifts outside of the bidding.
  • Scoreboards that display item information in real-time so that supporters can stay plugged into the event.

It's a powerful tool that your organization can implement during your next silent auction for ease and simplicity!

How can it improve your auction?

The convenience that mobile bidding provides can help your auction in a number of ways:

  1. It increases profits. Donors will be more inclined to bid when doing so is as easy as taking out a phone (which they're probably already using during the event, anyway!). Having a convenient bidding option results in silent auctions that are about 3x more profitable than those that use bid sheets.
  2. It makes item checkout more manageable for your organization. Trying to close bidding on items, collect bid sheets, determine winning bids, notify winners, and herd everyone to checkout to process payments is a huge hassle. With mobile bidding, however, winners are automatically determined and their payments are automatically processed, making the checkout process much easier on your organization.
  3. You can reach more participants. Mobile bidding adds a digital component to your silent auction. Since supporters can access item listings and bidding online, even bidders who aren't at the venue can participate!

In summary: Mobile bidding can give your silent auction a modern edge, all while helping you increase bid activity and simplify auction-day logistics.

Using auction software, nonprofits can run numerous reports that will help them gain the insights they need to plan more successful events.

6. Reporting and analytics

What's the feature?

Charity auction software enables nonprofits to run reports on nearly any facet of their auctions, from item performance to guest habits to overall event health and more.

The robustness of the reports you're able to run will vary from vendor to vendor, but either way, software should give you the tools you need to evaluate your performance.

How can it improve your auction?

Using auction software is the only way to gain deep, quantitative insights into your event.

Without software, your organization might still receive some observational insight into your performance (for example, you might hear feedback from guests and volunteers, and you'll be able to get a good idea of which items performed well just by keeping an eye on the bid activity during the event). However, the problem with observational insights is that they're also subjective.

The reports you can generate through auction software will enable your organization to more effectively pinpoint areas for improvement, backed by cold hard data. You'll be better able to keep honing your events so that next year's auction will be as successful as possible!

In summaryWith auction software, your organization will be able to run powerful reports to receive the objective insights you need to improve your event performance down the line.

Charity auction software can help position your event for success in numerous ways, both fiscally and when it comes to engaging your donors. We hope that our article has illuminated just what a powerful tool it can be!

To learn more about fundraising software and all of the ways it can improve your efforts, check out this guide.

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