UPDATE: The telecourse mentioned has passed, but the content below is still valid.
To keep abreast of future calls, subscribe to Benefit Auction Ideas.
What’s missing from the silent auction table in this photo?
There are no bid sheets.
You see four items and no bid sheets.
Your silent auction can now “go digital” through the use of handheld bidding devices. There are a few companies offering this technology and each has its own approach.
At this auction, guests were handed an electronic device (it was the size of a cell phone) when they registered. They carried it with them and when they wanted to bid, they entered the item number and pressed a button to record their bid.
The wireless network allowed them to bid wherever they were … in front of the item, sitting at their table, or in the bathroom.
The devices were used in the silent auction and cash appeal. They weren’t used for the live auction, and generally aren’t.
(For you tech-y readers: I’ve worked one benefit auction in which we did have live internet bidding. That auction used software made for commercial auctions, not benefit auctions. The technology exists for you to use internet bidding in your benefit auction, but most groups don’t use it.)
I wanted to give my thoughts on the advantages of these devices as a preview to Thursday’s FREE technology call.
1. Ease of bidding
By far, the biggest advantage is how easy it is to bid.
Venues aren’t often ideal for silent auctions. They might be ill-sized or too small, making it difficult for your guests to easily see all the items. If you have 600 guests and 100 items all squeezed into an oddly shaped space, the devices make it easy to bid without leaving your group conversation.
My experience has been that guests still like to walk around and look at each item displayed upon arrival, but once they’ve seen it, they don’t go back. They typically place their first bid during their initial walk-around. Thereafter, they bid from wherever they happen to be, using their handheld bidding device.
If your silent auction is crowded (lots of people with no room to maneuver), this technology is a definite plus.
2. Men love them.
Not to say that women don’t like them, but the marked difference here is with the men.
Silent auctions have traditionally been the domain of women, but give a male one of these, and — as one guest told me — “He’s hogging it like it’s our television remote.”
My thought: Can you hand out two per couple, so both partners have a shot at bidding? (Some companies will let you do this. Others aren’t easily set up to accommodate it.)
3. Streamlined appearance on the silent auction tables
As you can tell from the photo, your silent auction tables will look sleek. Without the added clutter of bid sheets and pens, your tables appear clean.
4. Instant gratification of benefit auction results
Because the bids are recorded instantly, you (the non-profit) can immediately get a sense for how well you are doing. No longer do you need to walk around and look at bid sheets; you can monitor your system.
5. Less conflict (maybe).
At some silent auctions, guests will jockey to place final bids on items as the tables close. With these devices, silent auction tables are closed electronically, on schedule. The system “shuts off” at a given time.
If the tables are scheduled to close at 8:30 PM and the guest’s last bid isn’t in the system by 8:30 PM, that guest loses the item because they failed to place their bid in time. It’s hard to argue with a computer.
(That said, we here at Red Apple Auctions have a unique way of closing our silent auction tables that eliminated this type of confusion. So although this point would not be a perk for our clients, it might be a perk for you.)
6. You might make more money.
Here’s my take: If you’ve never worked with an auction consultant who has given you insight on how to properly run your silent auction, you’ll likely have an increase. But if you’ve been making changes along the way and working with an innovative auctioneer or consultant, you likely will not see a net improvement.
For instance, a Texas reader wrote to me that her silent auction was markedly down after using electronic devices.
And one auction I worked, the appeal was down from last year by several thousand dollars, though the yields in the silent auction were modestly higher.
Another client couldn’t justify the change, considering the strong silent auction yields she already got. “I don’t think I’ll gain more than what the system will cost,” she said.
So …. are they right for you?
It depends on your goals. The devices look slicker than a whistle! But you’ll need to make a decision based on what you’re trying to achieve. If “raising more money” isn’t the primary reason to use the devices, you’ll likely be happy.