UPDATE: The telecourse mentioned has passed, but the content below is still valid.
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This Thursday I’ll be hosting the second call of my free 6-week benefit auction technology teleseries. Each week I’m covering a new tool that will help you improve your gala.
This week, we’ll learn about online auction software.
I’ll be interviewing a representative from a company that only sells software that to run online auctions. Before I hear his expertise, I wanted to share my thoughts on this subject.
So as a preview to the call, this post addresses a common question.
“How do we know if we’re ready to add an online auction to our existing event?”
1. You struggle with excessive procurement.
Some of you will read this and think, “Is that possible? We struggle to get XX number of items.”
But some groups – schools more so than nonprofits — do have a problem with procuring too many things. When the call goes out for donations, the incoming gifts become an embarrassment of riches: ten $25 gift cards from the same pizza place … duplicated donations from the same photography studio … multiples of football tickets to the same game.
With too many items, you have the same problems vexing physicists: space and time.
First, you’ll lack enough display space to properly showcase each item.
Second, guests won’t have enough time to browse through 350 items.
When this happens, returns begin to diminish. That’s when an online auction is handy. You can sell some of your duplicates online.
2. You lack onsite help.
Both onsite and online auctions take work. But onsite auctions require more planning and volunteers than online auctions.
An onsite auction requires a venue, food, bid sheets, decorations, sound system, charity auctioneer, centerpieces, check-in and check-out processing onsite, volunteers, security, and so forth.
An online auction- like an onsite auction – requires auction items and volunteers to procure them, but you don’t need the rest of it.
Additionally, the running of the auction itself will likely be handled by one person.
It’s much easier.
(“Then why,” you might think,”would anyone ever do an onsite auction?” There are other benefits gained from an in-person fundraising auction that simply can’t be replicated in an online auction. I’ll cover that in a future blog post.)
In sum, if you have limited access to volunteers, an online auction could be your best decision.
3. Your procurement keeps on coming throughout the year.
Some groups have access to supporters who give them items throughout the year. It might be basketball tickets for a specific game or prolific artists who donate their work often. It might be access to community events that would be appealing to a larger population.
Assume a Board member — a season ticket holder to the Redskins — can’t attend the Redskins/Dallas game and graciously donates the tickets to your charity. You can quickly turn that donation into cash by selling the tickets in an online auction, regardless of whether you had an in-person gala scheduled.
If you tend to see this within your own organization, consider online auction software. You’ll be able to have an auction whenever you need to.
4. Your cause is bigger than your community.
Assume you work for a big cat rescue facility based in Missouri. Turns out that in your research, you learn that the most likely donors of your nonprofit live on the West Coast.
In that case, maybe an onsite gala isn’t yet in the cards for your non-profit. But you can still begin to reach out to those who identify with your mission, regardless of whether they live in California or Croatia.
Hosting an online auction allows you to reach those outside of your community. They can support your charity without stepping through your doors.
Want to learn more about online auctions?
Register for the FREE auction technology teleseries and I’ll “see” you on Thursday.
(Note: From time to time, I hold teleclasses. They are announced in my (free) electronic magazine. Subscribe to Benefit Auction Ideas to get notified of other calls.)