Charity Auction Software: 6 Fundamental Facts to Keep in Mind

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Posted on March 28, 2017 by Harbor Compliance in Fundraising and Grants.

In our last contribution to Harbor Compliance, we provided you with a handy infographic for planning your fall auction!

But if you took our first piece of advice to use charity auction software during the planning process, your organization is probably still wondering: how do we find the right software?

In today’s article, we’ll cover 6 fundamental facts to consider as you’re shopping for auction software:

  1. Auction software is diverse: for-profit vs. nonprofit auction software.
  2. There are multiple types of charity auction software.
  3. Charity auction software can also serve as an end-to-end event planning solution.
  4. Charity auction software must be portable.
  5. Auction software vendors often place a cap on the number of items you can store.
  6. Auction software can give you greater fundraising potential.

By the time we’re done, you should have everything you need to know to land at the solution that will enable you to make the most from your charity auction.

Now let’s start shopping!

1. Auction software is diverse: for-profit vs. nonprofit auction software.

Unpacking the fact:

Auctions are held for many different reasons. While fundraising for charity is a common purpose behind auctions, this money-making model can also have for-profit aims.

That’s why there are two main types of auction software:

  1. For-profit auction software, which was built specifically to enable eCommerce businesses to run online auctions on an ongoing basis (think: eBay competitors).
  2. Charity auction software, which was developed to address the specialized needs of nonprofits and fundraising.

Both of these solutions can facilitate the process of running an auction, but only when applied correctly!

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

There are some instances when for-profit auction software may be more fitting for your nonprofit.

If you happen to run auctions on a regular basis, only host auctions online, and require a high degree of customization on your online auction site, your organization might want to opt for this type of solution.

However, in a vast majority of cases, nonprofits would do better to find a solution that was built specifically to address charity auctions.

While charity auction software still provides the core capability of for-profit auction software (the ability to run online auctions), it also includes many other beneficial features that can help ease the live and silent auction planning process, improve donor stewardship, and increase fundraising potential.

Not to mention, the vendors behind these solutions are experienced in working with nonprofits and can better understand your needs!

2. There are multiple types of charity auction software.

Unpacking the fact:

To complicate the matter further, there are multiple types of software that organizations can use to better their charity auctions:

  1. Specialized event fundraising software. This type of software helps nonprofits oversee auction planning from start to finish. Along with general fundraising event planning capabilities, it also includes auction-specific features such as item tracking, online auction sites, and bid sheet generation.
  2. Mobile bidding software. Mobile bidding affords attendees the ability to monitor and bid on auction items from their smartphones. It’s a handy and lucrative alternative to traditional silent auctions conducted with bid sheets.

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

Your auction software won’t provide much benefit if you’re working with a solution that doesn’t include features to address the specific type of auction (or auctions) you’re hosting.

To help start you off on the right track, let’s match each charity auction format with its appropriate software solution(s) and briefly explain how each pairing can benefit your event!

  1. Silent auctions. If you’re hosting a silent auction, you can benefit from both types of auction software! Event fundraising software will help you get event logistics in order, while mobile bidding software will simplify item checkout for your team and provide your donors with a convenient bidding option that results in higher auction proceeds.
  2. Online auctions. If you’re hosting an online auction solo or in conjunction with a live event, you’ll need the help of auction-specialized event planning software. Using software will enable you to put up an online auction site on which you can list items and conduct bidding.
  3. Live auctions. If you’re hosting a live auction, event fundraising software will make organizing and executing your event much easier. Stay on top of items, sell tickets online, easily make attendee seating charts, and more!

No matter which type of auction you’re hosting, software can ease the stress of planning and help you host a more profitable event. Just make sure you’re shopping for the right solution!

3. Auction software can also serve as an end-to-end event planning solution.

Unpacking the fact:

Auction-specialized event fundraising software isn’t just great for planning auctions; it can also help your organization plan all types of events. If you find a solution that’s general enough, your software should be able to address all of your event fundraising needs.

However, keep in mind that event fundraising software often places a limit on the number of events you can plan each year.

If your organization frequently hosts events and will need a more comprehensive event planning solution, make sure you’re looking for software that can accommodate an unlimited number of annual events.

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

Chances are, auctions are one of only many fundraising events that your nonprofit hosts.

In order to get the most use out of your event fundraising software (and the most bang for your buck!), it couldn’t be more important to shop for a scalable solution.

Plus, it’s advantageous to work with one centralized solution that can meet all of your event planning needs.

You’ll be able to view multiple events side-by-side to receive a holistic picture of your event fundraising and engagement, which will help you plan more successful events down the line.

4. Charity auction software must be portable.

Unpacking the fact:

If you’ve shopped for any type of fundraising software before, your organization is probably already aware that software can come in two different formats:

  1. Onsite, meaning that you pay to own the software, and it’s installed on a device(s) at your nonprofit’s office.
  2. Cloud-based, meaning you can access your software from any device, anywhere (as long as you have an internet connection).

There are some instances where onsite software is preferable. However, a word to the wise: hosting an event isn’t one of them!

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

Your organization is more than likely hosting your charity auction in a remote location. That being the case, your software will need to be portable!

If you purchase onsite charity auction software, you’ll have to leave it behind at the office. That means you won’t be able to access your guest list, consult your item data, implement mobile bidding, or take advantage of any of the other tools you need to run a successful event.

Ensure that you’re shopping for a cloud-based solution so that you’re able to reap all of the benefits of your software!

5. Charity auction software vendors often place a cap on the number of items you can store.

Unpacking the fact:

One of the main functionalities of charity auction software is item and package management. In this module, your organization can list all auction item data and view it in a convenient, centralized place.

However, similar to how CRMs often place a cap on the number of constituents you can store, charity auction software often limits the amount of items you’re able to list.

Vendors usually factor the number of supported items into the cost of their software so that they can provide affordable solutions for events of varying scopes.

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

If your auction software is unable to track all of the amazing items that you’re auctioning off during your event, your organization will be presented with a few major disadvantages:

  • If hosting an online auction, you won’t be able to list all of your items on your event site for donors to bid on (think of the proceeds you could be missing out on!).
  • It will be much harder to keep track of all of your items, since you’ll have to consult multiple sources to receive the full picture.
  • You won’t be able to track bid activity or associated bidders on unlisted items, limiting helpful insights that could improve future auctions.

In short, to stay organized and maximize auction fundraising potential both now and in the future, you should be using a solution that can house all of the items you need.

It can be difficult to pinpoint an exact number (after all, a lot of it depends on the success of the solicitation process), so look for a scalable solution that can be built upon in case you end up with more items than anticipated!

6. Auction software can give you greater fundraising potential.

Unpacking the fact:

Remember earlier when we mentioned that auction software can include other useful fundraising features?

Your software should equip you with tools to facilitate additional fundraising strategies, including:

  • General fundraising. Accept standard monetary donations through a donation portal in your mobile bidding software and on your online auction site.
  • Selling fixed-price items. Got merch? Holding a raffle? Offering signup parties or wine wall pulls? If you need to sell any type of fixed-price item, you can easily put up a storefront on your online event site where attendees can purchase additional goodies!
  • Tickets and sponsorships. Charge an admission price to bring in additional proceeds. With auction software, you can provide your supporters with the convenient option to purchase tickets and sponsorships online.

And these are just a few of many possibilities. It all depends on the features your software possesses!

Why it’s a crucial consideration:

To raise as much money as possible from your auction, it’s essential to provide additional fundraising channels outside of the auction itself.

Think about it: not all of the supporters who attend your auction will participate in the bidding. Even those who are participating might not win an item.

By implementing additional fundraising methods, your organization will be able to appeal to more of your supporters’ giving preferences, thereby increasing the chances that attendees will make a donation.

Not only that, but you’ll making giving viable for more supporters in the first place!

We hope that your organization feels more confident when it comes to shopping for charity auction software. If you’re ready to start looking into solutions, make sure to check out BidPal!