Online fundraising auctions are a great way for nonprofit and community organizations to raise money for a cause. What’s more, they make great virtual fundraising options during COVID, with tremendous fundraising potential.
Let’s outline the steps involved in planning a successful online fundraising auction for your non-profit:
Step 1: Put Together a Fundraising Auction Committee
First, it’s imperative that you get a good team of people together to run the online fundraising auction. Ensure that these are dedicated people who are invested in your cause since you will need passion present in every member in order to achieve your fundraising goals. The earlier you set out to form the auction planning committee, the better. The goal for your committee is to help you raise as much money through your online event as possible. They can do this by helping you find items to auction and by getting their friends to attend the event.
In many ways, virtual charity auctions are easier to plan and host than traditional in-person events. Removing the logistics of venues, catering, and entertainment frees up a lot of time for your committee to focus on other tasks that will more directly determine the event’s fundraising success. The key lies in procuring relevant auction items and creating the same energy online that you’re used to from a crowded gala setting – that’s not so easy.
Step 2: Establish Auction Goals
In the initial stages of planning your auction fundraiser, be sure to establish fundraising goals and objectives for the event.
- How much money do you want to raise?
- What outcomes or goals do you want from your auction? You don’t want to leave these to chance.
- If you’ve hosted an online or fundraising auction in the past, be sure to review what you learned. What worked and what didn’t? What have been your most popular auction items?
- Can you include a Fund-a-Need or mission-driven auction items in your catalog?
After the event, the first thing you’ll want to do is to review these goals and objectives and determine if you’ve accomplished what you’d expected.
Step 3: Procure Fundraising Auction Items that Get Attention
Item procurement is arguably the most important step in planning a successful online fundraising auction. Sure your supporters love your mission, but the actual auction items that you are offering are the main draw for your auction fundraiser. The more you can tailor your auction items to what your constituents want, the more money you’ll raise.
Be sure to answer the following questions when putting together your auction catalog:
- Who are your organization’s supporters and target auction bidders?
- What are the hobbies and interests of your supporters?
- Are there items that bidders are spending money on that can be directed to your organization instead?
- What types of items can your average constituent afford to bid on?
- How much is your average donor likely to spend?
While it’s tempting to just throw up any items you can get donated for bidding, having a clear auction procurement strategy is helpful in presenting a successful auction.
Step 4: Set up a Fundraising Auction Website
Once you’ve made the effort and assembled a great auction catalog, you’ll need to be sure the items are properly highlighted on a charity auction website. Be sure to:
- Use great photos to highlight the auction items
- Set a fair market value and reasonable starting bids and bid increments on all items
- Include information or a link to the business that donated the auction item
- Make it easy for your bidders with easy online and mobile bidding. Look for text to bid as well, where supporters can text a number to get a link to bid on specific items.
Now you’re ready to sit back and watch the bids roll in! Be sure to set a timeframe for the online auction spanning several days to two weeks (rather than a single one-day event). You want to give supporters time to make bids, but not draw out the bidding process too much, so that there is no urgency involved. Many organizations are using online auctions as part of live-streamed virtual gala fundraisers during COVID. They do this by opening up bidding one week prior to the online event, and closing bidding during the event itself. This is a great way to get supporters’ attention and raise more funds.
Step 5: Promote your Charity Auction
Here‘s another step that is absolutely vital to your auction’s success. How can you effectively spread the word about your online charity auction? How can you make your fundraising auction stand out from the crowd?
Encourage employees, sponsors, and supporters to share information with their network of family, friends, and associates. They can easily post announcements on their social networking pages with a link to your online auction helping to drive traffic to your auction website.
Step 6: Clean Up and Always Say Thank You
Just like your mom always told you. After the online auction wraps up, the first thing you’ll want to do is to review the goals and objectives you established prior to hosting your event. See if you’ve accomplished your goals and determine how to do better next time.
Don’t’ forget to thank your donors, winning bidders, and all auction bidders with a personal email. Let them know how much you raised and where the funds will be directed. It makes all the difference!
About the Author
Lisa Bennett is the Sales Director at DoJiggy – a leading provider of fundraising auction software. She joined DoJiggy in 2006 and loves her job. She writes about fundraising event management and online payment processing.