The Easy Guide to Understanding Charity Auction Software

Charity auctions are classic, incentive-driven fundraisers that can be highly profitable when hosted by the right organizations. If you have the time and resources to pull off an auction, they’re definitely an event worth considering.

Luckily, planning a fundraising auction is more affordable and manageable than ever before, making these events an accessible option for more nonprofits.

“How?” you may be wondering? Charity auction software.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of charity auction software and let you in on how you can:

  1. Plan your entire auction without leaving the platform.
  2. Make auction advertising more cost-effective than ever.
  3. Open up your auction to donors anywhere.
  4. Reduce the hassle of silent auction checkout.


Let’s get started!


1. Plan your entire auction without leaving the platform.

As you can probably infer from its name, the term “charity auction software” refers to any type of technology that was developed to help nonprofits host more effective fundraising auctions.

The main module of charity auction software is the event planning platform, which provides nonprofits with a place to track all auction data and manage event logistics.

With some vendors, this type of software will be highly specialized to auctions. However, many auction software platforms serve as end-to-end event planning solutions that your organization can rely on for all of your event fundraising needs. Just keep in mind: only some vendors will support unlimited events each year, so if you host a lot of events annually, make sure your software can cover them.

To get a little more specific, here are just some of the many tasks you’ll be able to take care of with your auction software:

  • Quickly view essential event information in a dashboard.
  • Manage RSVPs.
  • Track auction item data.
  • Assign seating charts.
  • Sell tickets and sponsorships online.
  • Manage staff and volunteer workflows.
  • Auto-assign bidder numbers.
  • Easily generate bid sheets and table tents.
  • Run reports on all facets of your events.

Being able to plan centrally is a huge benefit.

For one, the event planning process will run seamlessly when managed from one platform. Additionally, you’ll have a holistic picture of your event that’s universally accessible across your team, which will reduce errors and oversights in planning.

Not to mention, using auction software for your event makes data management much more straightforward. Many auction software vendors support integrations with popular CRMs so you can auto-collect event data in donor profiles and view it in conjunction with other forms of engagement.

What you need to know: Auction software acts as a comprehensive event-planning solution. With these platforms, your organization can plan more efficiently, minimize errors, and simplify data management.


2. Make auction advertising more cost-effective than ever.

Another main feature of most auction software is event site generation, which you can use to quickly create event-branded websites.

These sites are multifunctional tools where your organization can:

  • Open up online bidding to host online auctions.
  • Sell event tickets.
  • Educate your donors on mobile bidding.
  • Facilitate merchandise sales.
  • Accept standard donations.
  • Pre-register guest credit cards.

These sites can also really come in handy when it comes to auction advertising. They serve as modern alternatives to auction catalogs that make item and event promotion cheaper, more convenient, and more environmentally friendly.

To unpack some of these benefits more, it’s helpful to understand how this feature works:


  • Create item records. Before you can generate a site, you’ll first have to track all procured auction items in the item management module. Remember to write specific descriptions and list all essential information, like market value, starting bid, minimum raise amount, etc. Don’t forget high-quality photos!
  • Generate your site. Once your records are in order, the site can easily be generated by auto-populating online listings with the data in your item records.
  • Customize your site. Now that you have the framework, you can brand the look of your site to your event. Add a written or video introduction to your homepage, display sponsor logos, and more!
  • Share the link. All you’ll need to do to start spreading the words to supporters is to share the link and encourage them to browse your amazing auction items!

As you can see, advertising your items and events is much easier with software. There’s no having to compile and print catalogs, which cuts down on both staff and volunteer time and printing and mailing costs.

Not to mention, trees will thank you for all of the paper you’re saving!

What you need to know: Auction advertising no longer consists of having to print and distribute item catalogs. By bringing your auction catalog online, you’ll save time, paper, and money promoting your event.


3. Open up your auction to donors anywhere.

One of the biggest advantages of auction software is that it introduces an online element into traditional charity auctions.

By bringing the bidding online, your organization can open up your auction to all of your donors, no matter where they live. And more pockets means more bid potential!

Making your auction more inclusive can be done in one (or both!) of two ways:

  1. By hosting online auctions.
  2. By using mobile bidding during a silent auction.

i. By hosting online auctions

As we touched on briefly in the previous section, online event sites can be used to host online auctions.

Some organizations choose to host online auctions solo, but they’re also commonly paired with in-person events (live and silent auctions).

By including both an online and in-person component, your organization can open up room for more bidding while still getting the opportunity to connect with your donors face to face (which is a major downside of hosting just an online auction).

If hosting an online auction with an in-person auction, it doesn’t really matter how you order the two events. You can either warm guests up on the bidding by hosting the online auction before the in-person auction, or leave the online auction for after the event in case you’re left with items that didn’t receive bids.

ii. By using mobile bidding during a silent auction.

Mobile bidding replaces pesky bid sheets to help organizations raise about 3x more at their silent auctions.

With mobile bidding, guests only have to access their smartphones (which they’re probably checking all night, anyway!) to view items and place bids. The software even supports proxy bidding, whereby guests set maximum bids on the items they want and authorize the software to bid for them up to that amount.

Mobile bidding software also enables your organization to send text messages throughout the night, forging a channel for direct communication with both remote bidders and those in attendance. You can send guests updates on hot items, encourage them to place a new bid if their previous one has been topped, and remind them to make a last-minute push for the item they want when the auction is about to close!

All guests need to participate in the bidding is to pre-register their credit cards and to have access to wifi. Since it’s all online, anyone can join in to support your cause!

What you need to know: Now that supporters can bid online through event websites and mobile bidding, auctions have the potential to be more profitable for nonprofits.


4. Reduce the hassle of silent auction checkout.

With bid sheets, one of the most frustrating and limiting parts of hosting a silent auction has been running item checkout.

Given that there’s so much manual handling of materials and bidder data, the process takes a large team and lots of time, which is a huge stressor for staff and volunteers who are already tired from a long day of handling event logistics.

Not to mention, having to wait in a long line at the end of the night to pay for their items can be a huge turnoff for attendees. If the last impression they have of last year’s auction is being stuck in a long line when they’re ready to go home, they’ll be less inclined to show up to this year’s auction.

Luckily, mobile bidding has taken a lot of the hassle out of the checkout process. Here’s how easy it is:

  1. Items close. Your software will automatically close bidding on items and notify winning bidders. Since it’s handled by a computer, this process is more precise than ever before. No more sneaking in last-minute bids!
  2. Payments are processed. In order to use mobile bidding, guests must pre-register their credit cards in the software. Since their payment information is already on file, the mobile bidding platform automatically processes payments once winners have been settled.
  3. Receipts are mailed. The winning bidders will receive payment confirmation emails just minutes after the auction has closed.
  4. Items are distributed. All your team has to do during this process is check attendees’ email receipts and send winning bidders home with their items!

Another advantage of a shorter checkout process is that your organization can leave the bidding open for as long as possible, since you won’t have as many post-auction tasks to tackle.

By simplifying one of the most headache-inducing event logistics, mobile bidding software has made the idea of hosting a silent auction a lot less intimidating for many organizations!

What you need to know: Mobile bidding makes silent auction item checkout a much more efficient and accurate process.

If your organization has typically been put off by the prospect of hosting a charity auction, hopefully learning about the benefits of auction software has encouraged you to reconsider.

Ultimately, this type of event isn’t right for every organization, but software has definitely made it a realistic option for more nonprofits!

nonprofit apps

Karrie Wozniak

Karrie Wozniak is an expert on mobile fundraising. She is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at BidPal, the leading mobile fundraising software company that helps nonprofits engage more donors and raise more money. Since 2008, BidPal has helped nearly 2,800 organizations raise more than $1 billion and connect with over one million unique donors.

April 4, 2017

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