Episode 8: Should You Host An Online Auction?


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Before I get into telling you about what happened when I hosted my very first online auction, I would like to introduce myself.

I'm Lisa Clark and I help nonprofits and fundraisers like YOU raise money through events so you can meet your annual revenue goals! I'm also the host of a free Facebook Group, Raising with Lisa Clark, a free group for fundraisers, NPOs, development team members, volunteers, and supporters. I included a link below so you can request to join right away!

LINK TO FACEBOOK GROUP https://www.facebook.com/groups/112148672944584/

It’s hard enough hosting a silent auction much less entertaining the thought of hosting an online one. Modern technology has allowed us to move our ways of doing business online. It’s wonderful but it’s also more work to consider. Are you leaving money on the table if you don’t host an online auction in addition to your onsite silent auction?

Before I get into this online auction thing, I want to make sure you’ve picked up my FREE mini checklist on how to create a pipeline of new donors for your next big fundraiser. If you haven’t already grabbed it, the link will be in this post!

Ok, now back to whether or not you should host an online auction. Well, that’s a great question. I personally have hosted an online silent auction AND I also previewed my silent auction items online but didn’t sell them online. I know, I know kind of confusing but let me explain.

First, I dabbled in previewing all my silent auction items online and this gave donors/supporters the chance to get a sneak peek at the items we would be offering onsite. It wasn’t much work at all due to the fact that we took photos of every item that would be hosted in our silent auction and we did this regardless of the online auction. This was something we had to do anyway. We also had to write a blurb about each auction item donated so we basically posted the same descriptions and used the same images online that we ended up printing out and placing ONSITE at the event. I do hope this makes sense. Basically, it wasn’t a whole lot of extra work! Bottom line, so worth it. Tips:

  1. Photos taken for online auction can be repurposed and used for your signage at the onsite silent auction and same goes for the blurb you use online. Use that same copy when you do your description of the item for the onsite silent auction.
  2. Hosting an online auction (preview only) is a great way to market your items and give extra advertising to those who donated the items. It’s a great incentive.

I was blessed with having the most amazing four auction chairs. They truly wanted to leave their mark on the event. They brainstormed and masterminded hosting an online auction for the very first time. This would be in addition to the silent and live auction hosted at the event. That means the organization offered 3 auctions. YIKES!

The live auction typically generated $800k to $1M, the silent auction generated roughly $300-$500K. Fund a Need and Underwriting $300-$500k. Me and the auction chairs had no idea what the online auction would generate in revenue. But here are the reasons we decided to host one and some of the decisions we made about the online auction:

  1. Not everyone goes to the auction dinner so this gave all supporters the opportunity to participate in an auction and support the event!
  2. We allowed our board and key supporters to go beyond the organization’s list of supporters to market the online auction and offer new people the opportunity to bid
  3. What we offered at the online auction was NOT offered at the onsite event
  4. We hosted the online auction for only 7 days and closed it promptly the Sunday before the event
  5. We used the online auction to host the smaller donated items such as gift certificates, or services donated, etc.
  6. We reserved our bigger ticketed items for the onsite event
  7. We offered one to two big ticket items for online auction only

So big question, how much did we raise? We raised $130k. Not bad but not as good as the onsite silent and live auction. Was it worth it? Well, I can tell you the organization is NOT doing an online auction anymore.

Does this mean you shouldn’t? Absolutely not! But I will say that you should NOT host an online and silent auction at the same time if you’ve never hosted an auction before.

And, if you’ve never hosted an auction before I say start with an online auction and consider these tips.

  1. Start small. It’s not that hard. I promise! And there is such great auction platforms out there like BiddingOwl that make it easy and affordable
  2. Yes, you do have to pay a hosting and transaction fee for hosting an online auction
  3. Another benefit of hosting an online auction is it doesn’t take up space at your live event
  4. Whatever you don’t sell online you can always bring onsite and give folks another opportunity to bid

Finally, hosting an online auction is just another pipeline of revenue you use to help you reach your annual fundraising goals and get your guests more involved and offer them another way to give to your organization! It can be excited and fun if done right!

As I mentioned earlier here’s my FREE Checklist on How to Create A Pipeline of New Donors for Your Next Big Fundraiser? Click the link to get the instantly downloadable checklist that's easy to implement!


Connect On Social Media Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/raisingwithlisaclark Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/raisingwithclark Check Out My Website: http://risingwithlisaclark.com

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