From bake sales and raffles, to community fairs and swanky galas, there are countless ways to raise both money and awareness for meaningful causes of all shapes and sizes. Through the internet charities and nonprofits can reach not only more people from all corners of the globe, but, if they are smart about it, also raise more money than usually is collected from a bake sale. How much more? Well, if you use an online auction it can be exponentially more!
Online auctions are a cost-effective way for charities to expand their reach and engage supporters willing to donate but who for reasons of geography, babysitters or other conflicts find themselves unable to attend the annual gala or other live event.
Who benefits from online fundraising auctions?
Consider the PTO mom who decided she’d had enough with sponsoring bake sales and car washes. She held an online fundraising auction to raise money to buy Spanish language dictionaries for her child’s high school class. They raised $32,000 – more than triple their usual success!
Or consider the health foundation researching remedies for a debilitating disease. Its online fundraising auction brought in $44,000, and expanded the universe of those who are aware of their work by thousands.
There are hundreds of stories that show online fundraising auctions are win-win propositions, benefiting charities and consumers alike. And because they are so much fun, and donors leave with real items and not just a cash receipt, the bidders typically consider their online auction give as outside their usual yearly budget for charitable giving.
Here are some of the winners when you use an online auction:
- Nonprofits – Benefit from online fundraising auctions because they raise more money and reach a broader audience, plus it’s so much simpler to operate than planning a live event staffed with dozens of volunteers.
- Bidders – They benefit from giving twice – once with a gift for themselves and once to the charity. Bidders benefit from purchasing items they want at often discounted prices while supporting their favorite causes
- Sponsors – Here’s a trick to raising even more money – by putting a fundraising auction online, and building traffic to the website, some companies might want to sponsor the site, so they not only have the halo of supporting a good cause but enjoy the online exposure to a targeted audience.
Getting Started – Running an Online Auction
From the weekend volunteer to the seasoned development executive, anyone can run an online auction. They can be easily incorporated into existing fundraising campaigns and in less time, using fewer dedicated resources, nonprofits can enhance existing or upcoming programs.
Use these five simple steps as a basic guide to setting up and running online auction fundraisers.
- Build a website
This is not for the faint of heart - leave the website development to the professionals! They will not only create the site and post photos of the items for bid, but manage the behind-the-scenes bidding and payment processes.
- Solicit Items
Volunteers should reach out and request donations from those with an affinity to the cause – whether it’s school district parents or patients who’ve benefited from a treatment or service. Then, call neighbors and local businesses. From the smallest items to the most exclusive hard-to-find offerings, supplementing online auction catalogs translates into increased revenue for nonprofits. Items relevant to the cause, community or to the “theme” of the auction (if applicable) tend to attract more bidders. Some of the most popular items are tickets to sports events and concerts, dinner coupons, trips and jewelry.
- Customize site pages
These should be educational – the website is an opportunity for a nonprofit to tell its story, to convince visitors (potential donors) that the cause is worthwhile and that every dollar raised goes towards the organization's mission.
- Get the word out
It’s not necessarily true that if you build it, they will come – you still need to promote your auction/ Use your usual channels- newsletters, word of mouth, ads and press releases. The right online auction service provider will also have an email campaign ready to launch, and will monitor daily activity on the event to help determine when and if the auction needs a boost.
- Manage your auction for success
One of the many benefits of running an online auction fundraiser is that it can be adjusted while the auction is in progress, something that cannot happen at a live event. Progress reports and other information can be used to assess and direct efforts to help promote items that may need more bids, and evaluate donor usage. Evaluating the auction while in progress can ensure that revenue objectives are met and exceeded. Once an auction ends a nonprofit can use the statistics generated from the entire auction to plan additional, highly effective fundraisers.
Unfortunately the close of an online auction is no time to rest. Instead it’s time to start planning for the next one. Use what you’ve learned to make the next one even more profitable and buy more text books and keep that batch of brownies for yourself!