Technology has changed every business and the mobile bidding/online auction platforms (“OAPs”) have made a significant impact on charity auctions for fundraising. OAPs provide a number of basic features and then each of the products provide some or all of the advanced features. These features include:
- Mobile bidding – bidding from mobile devices (smart phones) during the auction is a basic feature. A more advanced feature allows bids to be recorded by text message.
- Early bidding – bidding from PCs and smart phones before the event is a basic feature.
- Silent Auction in Room Registration
- Post auction processing – this allows the processing of credit cards to winner of auction items.
- Event ticketing – this allows the generation and processing charges (cash, check and credit cards).
- Event staffing – Some OAP companies can provide staff to run the auction for you entirely.
What is important is to understand what your needs are and then make sure you don’t pay for more system than you really need. Other considerations to think about:
- Will you have WIFI and/or a strong cellular signal (from all carriers) at you event? If you will be dependent on internet connectivity for smart phones and tablets at your auction, it is important that there be a strong signal.
- Do you have a strong group of volunteers available for your event? If not, you may want to consider using an OAP that can also augment your staff with their own paid staff.
- Contingency planning is very important in case the Internet isn’t available. Make sure you have confirmed with your venue’s staff to ensure that the Internet is enabled during the event time. Also, perform an event walk-through in the afternoon before the event to confirm that the Internet is functioning. If you are using a paper based back up plan, have the paper bid sheets printed out and a box or two of pens at the ready.
When it comes to selecting an OAP system, it is important to do your due diligence about the system and the company that makes it and provides support for it. Prices for supporting a single event can vary from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand to paying for features you aren’t going to be using isn’t wise. Furthermore, it is important to realize that with most events happening on Saturday nights, the OAP company may be having to support all those events at the same time. If something goes wrong in the software for all those users, they will drown in the customer support and your event will be down the drain—contingency planning is critical. This is why checking references is so important. Ideally, you can get a reference from someone who had called customer service and can tell you about their experiences with customer service.
Finally, remember that using an OAP is about raising more money for your fundraiser and not about just increasing the cost and the work involved. We see a lot of event boards make the investment in using a system and only find out that few people actually used it and the overall impact on the auction money raised was minor.