Last month my brother sent me a link to Seth Godin’s blog. Seth had written an article about charity auctions and announced a new auction software platform he was testing.
Seth’s desire to create some software for the nonprofit industry stemmed from observing under-performing charity auctions. In his opinion, guests expect to score a deal on their purchases, and that’s the exact opposite of what charities want guests to do.
To shift the auction into one with more generosity built into it, Seth worked with friends to develop a charity auction software program whereby EVERY BID becomes a donation to the cause. It’s called GoodBids.org.
The top bidder still wins the package (wins = bids and buys), and the losing bids from all other guests are converted into donations to the charity.
* In other words, when you bid, you donate.
* And if you bid again, you donate again.
* And if you bid a third time and happen to be the high bidder when the auction closes, you win the item and donate a third time.
This isn’t a completely new idea. Though the approach hasn’t been formalized into online software, the industry does have a track record with variations of this concept.
1. HOTEL SILENT AUCTIONS: Ever walked into a hotel and seen a table in the lobby overflowing with photographs and sports memorabilia? Wander over and you’ll see bid sheets on the table asking for your name, phone number, and bid amount. If you take the time to read the fine print, you’ll see that “every bid is a winner.” A portion of each sale is sent to a charity.
2. LAST HERO / LAST MAN STANDING / POPCORN: Though it can be played as a stand-alone game, the game is often reserved for the lowest level of the paddle raise at a gala. When the auctioneer reaches the lowest level of giving — SURPRISE! — a prize is revealed. Guests are told that the last person to donate in the paddle raise wins the prize. The catch is this: A guest can raise his hand as many times as he wants as he tries to be the Last Hero. But every time he raises his hand, he’s making ANOTHER donation. In other words, if he raises his paddle three times at $100, he’s made a combined $300 contribution.
In the test auction for GoodBids, bidders could bid on two packages. One package flopped, raising 3% of its value. The other succeeded, raising over 300% of its value.
I don’t think this software will take the industry by storm and replace other systems, but it might find some takers.
Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ~40 existing charity auction software vendors tweak their code to accommodate this style of auction. Their clients could run a regular style online auction or — with the click of a button, run a newfangled auction whereby every bid becomes a donation.
We’ll see what the future holds.