About four years ago, silent auction electronic bidding devices hit land in the USA. It’s been a race for promotion ever since. Nearly once a month I entertain a phone call from a new vendor, eager to show me his new state-of-the-art service.
Interestingly, the technology was pioneered by European companies.1 Event-services company IML was the first to actively promote its offering to US-based charities. It didn’t take long before their competition followed suit.
With the US charity auction market so large … and the European charity auction market so saturated … BidTech, iBidEvents, and Bid-Smart (which has since bought a US text-bid company and rebranded to GiveSmart), all jumped the pond.
Meanwhile US companies formed, splintered, and grew again. To my count, nearly 20 US-based vendors are chasing the e-bidding, mobile bidding, and/or text pledging market.2
Perhaps the largest US-based company is BidPal, which enjoys enormous funding from multiple tech investors. (The company’s cash influx isn’t all that surprising, once you understand that the CEO has an interest and skill set for leading small technology companies into an IPO. One can assume he was brought into Bidpal for that purpose.)
Thanks to the gold in its vaults, Bidpal has been able to dominate in marketing, hiring an enviable number of hungry sales representatives that most start-ups simply can’t afford.
But of course, big doesn’t always mean better. What you really want is the best solution for your needs.
Here’s the good news: With so many vendors to choose from — and many offering compelling services — it’s easy to find the perfect e-solution priced to your budget AND functional for your needs.
Technology changes quickly (vendors go in and out of business…) but below is a partial list of electronic bidding, text pledging, and mobile bidding vendors selling in the USA right now. I’ve connected with many of these vendors, somewhere along the line.
- All in the Loop
- AtomicMobile (text giving)
- Auction Frogs
- Auction Harmony
- Auction Mobility
- Gesture (formerly AuctionsByCellular)
- QGiv (text giving)
- Sophist (text giving)
- Spot Me
- And of course, a growing number of traditional software vendors have upgraded their offerings, either via partnerships or through in-house development, to offer e-bidding in some form or fashion. E.G. AES, AuctionStar, MaestroSoft, GreaterGiving, and others.
- UPDATE SEPTEMBER 17, 2013: In the comments below, I was reminded that some ONLINE auction vendors (not just traditional software vendors) have also embraced mobile bidding, adapting their technology to accommodate the feature. Thanks to Jim at BenefitEvents for reminding me of the oversight.
Did I miss anyone? If so, I suspect they’ll make a point of listing themselves in the comments section below.
P.S. Feeling overwhelmed by the looong list?
Here are two ideas to help your sanity.
- This on-demand recorded webinar simplifies the benefit auction technology market. (Scroll down the page to watch a few minutes of it.)
- Second, for more more personalized help deciding which is the BEST vendor for you, schedule a consultation. I’ve helped many nonprofits figure out their technology needs .. and not just for a mobile bidding vendor.
P.P.S. Have you worked with any of these companies?
How did they work for you? Post your comments below.
 After speaking with a number of Brits who have participated in both USA and European charity auctions, I’ve gotten the impression that European gala auctions aren’t nearly as lively (read: fun) as American ones. One sales rep told me that in her next job, she was thinking of returning to Europe to become an auctioneer. “But I’d be like an American benefit auctioneer,” she said, to paraphrase “I’d have fun activities, and be clever on stage, and do things like they do here.” This leads me to believe that if the European galas are yawners, it’s no wonder that mobile bidding launched there. The technology represented a diversion for the crowd … something ‘new’ and interactive.
 Text pledging is different than mobile bidding, but as a number of mobile bidding vendors offer text pledging, I’m grouping it together in this post.