Host an online auction and raise a lot of money for your school or charitable cause. It’s a low cost, high value, fundraising campaign. If you host a fundraising event, like a golf tournament for example, add a golf-themed auction to raise more with those supporters. Almost any event could raise more by adding a big or small auction. The primary differences between a large ($100k+) or small to mid-size ($10k+) auction, is the number of people helping, great management, and outstanding marketing. Here are some basic things you can do to raise the big bucks with your next onine auction campaign.
The Solicitation Team. First, rally as many staff members and volunteers possible to gather donated items for your auction. The more people you have bringing in donations, the bigger your auction will be. With that said, don’t send your solicitation committee out blind, throwing darts at random companies. Establish a plan, train them, and search out specific kinds of donations that will appeal to your campaign audience, and maybe work well with the theme of your event.
Before you go out soliciting donations, look at your last auction and determine what sold well and what didn’t. 1) You don’t want items that didn’t sell well. Don’t waste your time trying to get them. Consider asking those donors to become sponsors. 2) Try to get even more of the items that did sell well. Not multiples of the same thing, but more in the same category. Obviously, they are the items your audience likes. 3) Come up with exciting items. Keep in mind that very expensive items don’t sell all that well online. They sometimes need an auctioneer in a live setting to garner the big dollars. With that said, trips and jewelry, even if they don’t sell well, add excitement to your campaign.
A Great Online Catalog. Next, you’ll need someone, or multiple people, depending on the size of your auction, to enter the donated items in your online auction catalog. Here you should take a cue from the catalogs you get in the mail. The same things that get your attention in your Pottery Barn catalog will be the same thing that gets your supporters attention. Great pictures and an interesting and exciting description of the item will go a long way to getting bids. Find someone that is a good writer and will enjoy writing colorful and fun headlines and copy. Ask for quality photos from your donors or take photos with your smartphone. They don’t have to be super-high quality, they just need to look good, be clear and it helps if it has a dpi of 300 for clarity. Finally, have a strategy to start the bidding fairly low – maybe 20% of the estimated value.
Market Like a Pro. You can have millions of dollars worth of donated items and make websites that sell on their own, and a great catalog, but you won’t make any money unless people comes to your auction and bid. Make finding your auction easy, and make bidding easy. Just a simple email to your contact list won’t cut it. You need to get creative. Think like a marketer and have fun. Use a theme so you have a consistent look and theme. Always provide an easy link that will take your supporter directly to your auction website. Use your most amazing auction items as teasers and make your supporters want to visit the site to see more. Give them a taste of the products available and the great prices they might get them for.
Promote, Promote, Promote. It’s not enough to send out one email to all of your contacts and hope they participate. You need to do it again and again, at different stages of your auction. You only need a short window to run an auction. Some people will bid when they open the catalog, these are the folks that might enter their maximum bid, so they don’t have to worry about it again. But, the truth is, people like to bid at the end of an auction in the hopes that they’ll steal the item at a cheap price. This doesn’t work out so well when there is maximum bidding going on, so encourage people to max bid, and explain how it all works.
Promote at the beginning, promote again in the middle, maybe multiple times, and then promote again just before the end to encourage last minute bidding wars. You can get even more using, what we call at BidCoz “Overtime Bidding.” This is a feature whereby you can extend bidding on an item when people are bidding at the last minute. With our Overtime Bidding feature (may be called something else with other software companies), if someone bids in the last 5 minutes of an auction, the bidding time is extended by 10 minutes. You can choose to allow this just one time, or keep adding 10 minutes until there is no more bidding. This feature makes sure that no money is left on the table.
Ultimately, It’s About Helping a Cause. Give your supporters more than one reason to participate. Pocketbooks will open and bidding done more freely when the supporter knows that their contribution will go to a good cause. Remind them of what that cause is, how the money will be spent, and who will benefit from their donations. Basically, they are donating their money to your cause through bidding, but getting something in return.
Within your auction software, and on your auction website, encourage cash donations as well. Make it easy for visitors to make a cash donation either instead of bidding, should they not be interested in any of the items in the catalog, and/or by adding a cash donation before checking out after the auction is over. At BidCoz, we offer these features, and make it easy for your supporters to donate cash. But, we just offer the tool, you need to promote this fact and encourage them to do it. Ask them to add anything they can to increase their spend.
Use Social Media. Expand your audience by asking your contacts to share the opportunity with friends and family using Facebook, Twitter, etc. Always provide an easy way to share and the URL to share, don’t leave it to them to figure out how. Consider offering some kind of incentive for early participation in your auction and sharing. Here’s an idea: Tell everyone that registers (required to bid) that, if they’ve registered, liked your Facebook page, and shared the auction website URL with their friends, they will be entered into a drawing for one of the great donations you received. Put your creative thinking caps on and come up with a great idea to encourage social media sharing.
Year-after-Year. If you host a great auction year-after-year, your supporters will come to expect and look forward to participation. However, if your auction looks exactly the same, with the exact same products, each year, people will become bored with it. It’s important that you always put a new spin on it to bring the excitement. With that said, you want to be consistent when it comes to how they participate. Don’t make your auction website complicated and require them to figure out how to bid, buy, or checkout. After they’ve done it once, it should be even easier each time.
To add excitement and increase your fundraising consider adding an auction to other fundraising program you already run. You have the audience there, you can always get them to bid while they register for your 10k!