Nonprofit Strategies

Complete guide to hosting flawless online auctions for nonprofits

Learn more about online auctions for nonprofits, including the benefits of an online auction and how to run an online auction in 6 simple steps.

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Raised

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Nonprofit Strategies

Complete guide to hosting flawless online auctions for nonprofits

Learn more about online auctions for nonprofits, including the benefits of an online auction and how to run an online auction in 6 simple steps.

$

Raised

Supporters

Teams/Members

Learn more about online auctions for nonprofits, including the benefits of an online auction and how to run an online auction in 6 simple steps.

$

Raised

Supporters

Teams/Members

Reisa Shanaman
October 20, 2022
June 3, 2022
June 15, 2022

Nonprofits have been using auctions to raise money for their good causes for decades. Hosting these fundraising events is now even easier (and more cost effective) thanks to online auction software and mobile bidding platforms. Keep reading to learn more about online auctions and how to run an online auction for your nonprofit in 6 simple steps.

What you need to know about online auctions

An online auction has many of the same elements as a traditional silent auction, but it takes your auction display from the event hall to—you guessed it—a website. Using online auction software or a mobile bidding platform, guests can remotely register, bid, and even check out on their phone, tablet, or desktop. 

As with other charity auctions, businesses and individuals donate all the items, so your organization gets to keep 100% of the proceeds. 

Benefits of running an online silent auction for your nonprofit 

There are several reasons more and more nonprofit organizations are choosing to host their silent auctions online, including: 

  • Keep the bidding going longer: With an online auction, you’re not limited to what you can raise in one evening. Set your event to run for a few days (or longer), and see how high your bids can go.
  • Reach a broader audience: Anyone can attend your silent auction when its virtual. More bidders equals more funds for your organization. 
  • Spend less and raise more: In-person events can get expensive. Online auctions let you skip paying for things like printing materials, renting a venue, and providing food and drink for your guests.

How to do a silent auction online in 6 steps

1. Plan ahead 🔮

Like any good auction, a silent auction hosted online still requires proper planning. Set your fundraising goals, pick an auction theme, and start procuring your items at least three months in advance. Put together a procurement committee, make a wish list of bid-worthy silent auction items, brainstorm businesses and people in your network, and start soliciting. 

2. Choose your online auction software 🚀

There are lots of mobile bidding and online auction software platforms out there. Shop around and choose one that has the customizations, features, and price point your organization needs. If you’re running an online silent auction as a part of a larger in-person event, you may want to select an end-to-end fundraising solution to help with things like ticketing, team fundraising, donor tracking, and marketing automation on top of offering online auction features.

Consider these auction-specific features as you’re choosing software:

  • Outbid notifications and other push notifications
  • Image uploading capabilities
  • Variety of page customizations
  • Automated text and email communications 
  • Donor-friendly registration and checkout
  • Robust reporting features
  • Intuitive backend management

⭐️ Compare the top 10 online auction sites by features, pricing, and more –>

3. Build your online auction event  🔨

Once you've chosen and purchased the right software for your online auction, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with its features. Many platforms have tutorials or help center guides to help you learn the ropes. We recommend putting in the work ahead of time to ensure you get the most out of this crucial tool.

Design your page to make it eye-catching, engaging, and reflective of your organization’s mission and character. Upload high-resolution images, a brief description, the fair market value, and the starting bid for each item.

Once you have the backend set up, register as a bidder to see how the frontend looks. You can work out any kinks and identify what questions registrants might have.

4. Promote your online auction 📣

Since you aren't limited by a certain amount of in-person ticket sales, encourage donors and others in your network to share the auction link like they would a crowdfunding campaign. Here are other online auction best practices to help spread the word far and wide: 

  • Build excitement: As new items come in and get posted on your auction website, share updates through social media and email.
  • Reach new networks: Tag the businesses and individuals who donate items to your auction to extend your reach to their followers.
  • Reach out personally: Connect with major donors, volunteers, and board members to invite them to participate and offer help with registering.
  • Offer incentives: Encourage donors to get their friends, family, and colleagues to register for your event. The more people they refer, the more times their name is entered into a special drawing!

5. Keep the momentum for your online auction going ⏰

Whether you decide to run your silent auction for a few days or three weeks, make sure to have a solid plan for engaging donors and keeping the bids coming. Channel the enthusiastic energy of the proverbial auctioneer through social media posts, emails, and text messages.

Most auction software lets users store a credit card on file for a quick and easy check out, but be prepared to troubleshoot issues that may arise when your auction concludes.

6. Follow a post-auction checklist 🎁

Your auction might be over, but there’s still more to do! Follow this post-auction checklist to keep donors thinking about your online auction long after it ends:

  • Thank all of your participants: Post on social media and send a big thank-you email celebrating everyone who made the auction a success. Include a list of all the winners, shoutout sponsors and volunteers, and let everyone know the final amount you were able to raise for your organization. 
  • Ship out prizes: Reach out to winners privately to coordinate prize distribution. This may include choosing a pick-up location for locals or shipping to winners who live far away. If you are shipping items, send these items ASAP and provide tracking numbers to recipients.
  • Send personalized thank-you notes: Write thank-you notes for your planning committee and anyone who donated auction items. You can also include handwritten thank-you notes with each auction item for a more personal touch.
  • Record your online auction results: Download all of the data your auction software has captured, run relevant reports, and add notes in your donor tracking system to maintain your records and note improvements for next time.

Take your fundraising to the next level with an online auction

An online silent auction is a great way to expand your fundraiser to a larger pool of donors who can bid from the comfort of their home—or even on the go. With proper planning, it's easy to raise big bucks while cutting down on event costs. And with all the free, user-friendly tools in Givebutter Auctions, you can make registering, bidding, and checking out a breeze! 

Learn more about Givebutter Auctions →

With Givebutter, you aren’t just getting an auction provider. You get a full suite of services, including 130+ fundraising tools, a built-in CRM, and marketing automation to help make your charity auction a success. Givebutter is the all-in-one platform that will help you take your fundraising strategy to the next level.

Sign up for your free Givebutter account today to start planning the online auction of your wildest dreams.

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Reisa Shanaman
Author

Reisa Shanaman

Writer

Reisa is excited to use her nonprofit development, communications, and engagement background to help others elevate their fundraising, administrative, and programming proficiencies

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