Five Tips for Online Auctions
For nonprofits, the average online auction nets nearly $16,000 in merchandise bids alone. Significantly less time and labor are required to put on a virtual auction than a live event, and integrating online events into your fundraising plan can be a great way to whip up excitement around your mission — attracting the attention of potential supporters as well as providing extra enticement to current donors.
The online auction makes it possible for nonprofits to reach out to supporters who might not be able to attend gala balls and other live events, while having the added benefit of “bringing together” constituents from across the country — and across the globe — for a single event. Participants in your auction benefit because they have an opportunity to bid for something they believe in. It’s definitely a win-win situation. In a whitepaper titled “Five Keys to Running a Successful Online Auction for Your Nonprofit Organization,” auction-software company cMarket offers some helpful tips on how to best plan for and execute an online auction.
Solid planning is crucial for a successful online auction. Know what you’re trying to accomplish with the event — whether you’re raising money to meet specific or general needs — and the amount of money you need to raise to get there. cMarket emphasizes the importance of bidders knowing where the money raised will go and suggests establishing a theme to the auction — “Library Lollapalooza,” for example — that will pique the interest of constituents and potential bidders.
Planning also means getting everyone within your organization — from volunteers to board members — involved early on in the production process.
According to the whitepaper, “Although an online auction is surprisingly easy to run and can be managed by even a couple people, the more hands the better. Let everyone know exactly what their responsibilities are, and don’t be shy about asking for help.”
Additionally, experience demonstrates that putting on a live auction concurrent with your virtual event can generate greater interest in the items up for bid and has proven to significantly increase an organization’s financial results.
Sponsorship should not be underestimated, both as a way to generate publicity for your online event and revenue for your organization. It can be an incredible boon for your organization, cMarket says, with the average spot on a nonprofit’s homepage bringing in around $1,000 and the average auction revenue generated coming to more than $5,200. Don’t be shy about acquiring multiple sponsors for your auction, and understand that many businesses in your area could benefit greatly from the exposure your event likely would give them.
Sponsorship also can increase your auction’s traffic by providing a usable customer base and network of contacts. Make sure to ask sponsors to advertise your auction on their Web sites.
3. The goods
Never lose sight of the fact that your catalogue of merchandise is the most vital part of your online auction. The simple equation? A great catalogue = a boffo auction! Pay attention to big-ticket items that will generate the most interest — like travel packages, sports memorabilia, art and electronics — but don’t neglect to feature a broad variety of items from the other end of the price spectrum as well. Visitors and participants in online auctions like variety, and it will help if you present them with a wide range of categories.
Furthermore, nonprofits should:
* include in their online auction “buy now” items that bidders can purchase for a set price;
* be keenly aware of regional taste differences when considering merchandise options; and
* provide a handful of unique local offerings — a dinner party put on by a popular local chef, for instance — in their auction catalogues.
Remember that you can never promote your auction enough. The most successful online auctions have a life cycle of three to four weeks, and in that time (and well beforehand) you need to do everything you can to generate buzz about the auction — on your organization’s Web site, on sponsors’ Web sites and through a highly aggressive e-mail campaign.
5. Keep on top of things
Finally, you need to be constantly vigilant of your auction’s progress, especially keeping close watch over items that might need additional buzz. And don’t forget to conduct a review of your auction when it’s all over; a close analysis of your virtual auction’s results will tell you what worked, what didn’t and ways in which you can improve your performance with the next auction.
To read the cMarket whitepaper in its entirety, visit www.cmarket.com/resources.htm