Online Auctions have no physical gathering place - they only exist online - and generally span 1-3 weeks. Your supporters can place bids on items from any device connected to the internet: desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones, but they do so from home (or office, soccer practice etc).
Here are tips and mistakes to avoid when organizing an Online Auction:
Best Practices and Tips:
- Make it as easy as possible for people to participate!
- Send Invitations to Bid to known supporters. Importing or Migrating (Copying) the names/emails of known supporters to your event site allows you to invite them to bid without having to signup for an account or login.
- Direct the public/unknown supporters to the catalog rather than the signup page. They are more likely to browse the catalog if they don't have to create an account first. Let them browse - when they find something they want to bid on - they'll have easy access (and be motivated) to signup to bid in the item details.
- Be sure to update your "From" email address so your invitations don't look like spam in your supporters inboxes.
- Make a plan to promote your online auction ahead of time - then execute it.
- At the mid-point of bidding, reduce the minimum bid on items that haven't received any bids yet.
- Edit the Winning Bid Notification and/or Self Check-out template to provide instructions for how items can be picked up/delivered.
- If Online bidding continues for more than a day - use MAX (ebay-style) bidding which allows everyone the choice to enter the next minimum bid amount OR the maximum they want to pay (letting the software place bids for them as they are outbid).
- It's okay to make your Online Auction visible to the public before your launch date. It's easier for your team to be able to preview how items are displaying in the catalog and no one is likely to stumble across your site if you're not promoting it (if only it was that easy!). Besides - what's the worst that can happen? Someone visits your site early and places a bid?
- Just because the bidding is online doesn't mean you can't show off your items. Display the physical items in a showcase, your lobby, at events - bring them to where your community gathers to pique their interest in your auction.
- Always offer a cash donation option for those that want to support your organization but aren't interested in acquiring more "stuff".
Things to Consider or Avoid:
- Do not create unnecessary hurdles to participation. It's hard to drive people to any website - how often have you clicked on a link - then left because you had to create an account to proceed? Or provide a credit card? Think carefully before requiring a credit card before bidding. If you've run online auctions before - how many items were won by someone completely unknown to your organization?
- Too many Silent items! Bigger is not necessarily better. Since silent-auction procurement is one of the most stressful, time-consuming jobs, you also run the risk of burning out a good volunteer if you try to get too many items for the number or guests and/or money in the room. A good rule of thumb is one silent auction item for every 2-3 bidders (really!) If many of your past auction items have 0-2 bids and/or sold for less than 50% of FMV, you probably had too many silent items.
- Don't make people signup to bid in advance of the launch - if they've made the effort to come to the website - reward them by letting them browse and bid on their first visit.
- Skip the "preview" - once you've gotten folks to your site - let them bid!
- Do not schedule online closing times after 10pm. If you want maximum participation at the closing, 7-8:30pm on a weeknight is a better bet - after dinner when your main competition is prime time tv.
- Make sure you've specified minimum bid and raise amounts for any items with very low or $0 fair market values. The default minimums are calculated as a % of the FMV - and 35% of $0 will be $0.01.