From item procurement to bid management, planning a silent auction demands a detailed strategy. Executing the whole process through silent auction software can make your planning and execution efforts much more manageable and can automate tedious tasks. Additionally, silent auction software can make the experience more streamlined for participants, since they can check in, bid, and pay directly from their phones.
But before deciding which online auction platform is best for your nonprofit, it’s important to understand the basics of the silent auction software. In this guide, we’ll go over these basics and provide our top silent auction software suggestions. Specifically, we’ll cover:
- What is silent auction software?
- How do you plan a silent auction?
- 5 best silent auction software options
Knowing which tools to use for your silent auction requires understanding the basics of hosting your event. Let’s begin!
What is silent auction software?
Silent auction software is a digital platform that manages all your auction information, from inventory details to bid tracking. To get the most out of your software, look for the following features:
- Inventory management: Keep track of each item for sale, including price, placed bids, and the item’s location when it’s shipped to the winning bidder.
- Mobile bidding: This allows guests to bid from their phones. Your nonprofit will sell more when people can participate from any location.
- Online ticket sales: This feature allows guests to reserve tickets directly through your platform and automatically collects contact information and accepts payments for you.
- Volunteer tools: Give your volunteers the tools to manage check in, check out, and payments all from one software.
- Mass messaging: Organize communication by pre-composing messages through your software.
All-inclusive software can consolidate each process for everyone involved in your silent auction. Successful silent auctions are guided by a software that organizes item information, payment details, and messaging between your organization, volunteers, and donors.
Overall, the right software simplifies planning, managing, and concluding a silent auction so that you can focus more on your supporters and meeting your goal.
How do you plan a silent auction?
Even equipped with the right software, your nonprofit still needs an actionable plan to start a silent auction. Utilize relevant features as you take these first steps to plan your auction.
Procure auction items
To get the highest revenue from your auction, you’ll want to secure free or low-cost items. That way, participants’ bids are purely donations to fund your nonprofit’s cause rather than reimbursements for the cost of your inventory.
Consider your nonprofit’s connections who might be interested in donating quality silent auction items for your event. You might reach out to:
- Board members: Start with the people who are directly involved with your nonprofit. Use auction software to send out a mass message to all your board members asking for donations or ideas for item procurement.
- Volunteers: Expand your request to people outside of your internal team who are still heavily involved and support your cause. This can be a great way to engage your volunteers, especially if they have already expressed interest in helping out at your upcoming event.
- Local businesses: Turn to your community for donations of unique items and services. In exchange for their donations, these businesses will gain visibility from your event and create strong connections between your organization and community.
- Auction consignment companies: Some nonprofits choose to work with auction consignment companies to tap into high-end auction items and packages they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This can be a great option for nonprofits who want to procure unique items with minimum risk.
The right software can manage contact information and even send messages asking for donations. Centralizing communication from the beginning of your event can make it easier to keep track of auction item requests and send subsequent messages throughout the auction-planning process.
Price auction items
Supporters won’t be interested in competing for your items if the starting bid is outside of their price range. Price-setting for silent auction items should reflect an awareness of your supporters’ different buying motivations. Consider these categories of participants:
- Looking for a steal: Some participants will arrive at your auction expecting to leverage their bidding abilities to secure high-value items at low prices. Set some starting bids at lower prices to appeal to these bidders.
- Bidding for fun: Silent auctions can be fun, and some attendees just enjoy the competition! Choose some moderate prices to provide bidding opportunities for the reasonable buyers.
- No budget buyers: Some supporters will be happy to give any amount of money knowing that their bids contribute to your cause. Set a few high prices and highlight them as the most valuable items at the event.
Silent auction software can organize your item prices and provide an overview of the price range you’re offering. Provide a wide range to appeal to every supporter and encourage more attendance.
Set up registration for participants
Silent auction software can be especially useful for the registration process. Share instructions on your nonprofit’s communication channels and the software will do the rest of the work for you.
This is also a good place to provide additional context about the event. Provide the following information:
- Explain what it is. Some people are more familiar with traditional auctions. A brief explanation of a silent auction will give them the context they need before registering.
- Provide preparation tips. First-time bidders might benefit from establishing their budgets and browsing auction items ahead of time. Provide quick tips on how to prepare for your event.
- Give bidding instructions. If you’re using your software’s mobile bidding feature, explain how participants will browse items and place their bids.
Promoting your auction’s virtual capabilities can also encourage greater participation, since the convenience of digital bidding will make it easier for some supporters to join.
Promote your silent auction
Your nonprofit likely already has a marketing strategy. Any existing communication channels, like social media or weekly newsletters, can be used to promote your event.
Think of ways to utilize the strengths of each communication tool to best promote your event. Consider these examples:
- Instagram: Social media platforms all incorporate visual elements, but Instagram is especially photo-centric. Post pictures of procured items to capture your followers’ interest.
- Emails: Regular updates about your nonprofit’s work, such as email newsletters, are likely text-based. Use the written word to provide event context and instructions for supporters who want to learn more.
- Direct mail: Physical mail can be a difficult-to-ignore reminder of your nonprofit’s auction. Include a QR code on any printed mail you send to direct recipients to your silent auction platform.
Additionally, your silent auction software can effectively promote your auction through its event landing page. Combine the power of your marketing tools and the software’s unique landing page by promoting the link on your existing communication channels.
5 best silent auction software options
You may know what you’re looking for in your silent auction, but not what software will provide the features you need. Here are your top five options:
ClickBid is an all-in-one charity auction platform that offers a wide variety of features in easy-to-use software.
Highlight: Since auctions are the entire focus of this software, ClickBid’s team gives nonprofits unparalleled support during the planning and fundraising process. Years of experience make this a reliable platform and knowledgeable team to trust with your auction.
Plus, ClickBid’s website provides transparent pricing so you know exactly what package will work best for your nonprofit’s budget.
Pricing: ClickBid’s most popular plan costs $1,295/year, but other options are available depending on the included features.
OneCause is a fundraising software for nonprofits that includes an auction management feature.
Highlight: OneCause offers data analysis for nonprofits to see what went well and what could be improved about their auctions. Overall, it’s most helpful with auction planning and follow-up.
Pricing: OneCause does not list pricing information for their auction software plans, but you can request a demo on their website to get more information.
Handbid is an auction platform that specializes in mobile bidding, but also offers other fundraising features, like text-to-give and peer-to-peer.
Highlight: Handbid offers customization options in its theme editor. Paired with its opportunities for peer-to-peer fundraising, Handbid’s personalization features are great for more tech-savvy nonprofit leaders.
Pricing: Handbid’s cheapest plan starts at $1,396/year, but a more expensive plan is available that includes all its auction features and full customer support.
Qgiv is a fundraising software that includes an auction platform with all of the essential auction-planning features.
Highlight: Qgiv regularly updates its software and fundraising apps, so you’ll know the system is regularly adapting to meet customers’ needs. This is great for nonprofit professionals that like to see updates in software and experiment with new tools.
Pricing: Qgiv’s auction plan is $259/month, or $3,108/year. Any other services, such as peer-to-peer and text fundraising software, can be added for an additional cost.
Auctria is an auction planning tool that specializes in data organization and auction website building.
Highlight: Auctria offers all the basic tools for auction planning, with a variety of plans based on nonprofits’ needs.
Pricing: For a plan that equates to the features offered by the other top providers, Auctria charges $1,150/year. Cheaper plans are available, but limit certain capabilities, such as the number of bidders, amount of income tracked, price of credit card fees, and more.
Once you establish your nonprofit’s goals for its silent auction, evaluate your plan and determine what tools will be the most useful to your organization. Since ClickBid specializes in planning and executing charity auctions, it’s the most effective platform for this type of fundraiser.
All-inclusive software and a knowledgeable team will simplify your silent auction experience. Especially for recurring auctions, choosing the right software is an investment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thoroughly research your options before committing to a platform. If your nonprofit needs more guidance, reach out to an expert at ClickBid for more information.
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