With the nonprofit sector facing more challenges now than ever, finding new and creative ways to raise funds and engage donors online can feel overwhelming at best. But nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are discovering how fruitful virtual silent auctions can be for raising awareness, fueling their mission, and inspiring donors to up their bids!
Plus, with the advances in technology and the availability of professional production companies, event organizers have the tools to reach and engage a significantly larger audience with a lot more confidence.
Ready to get your auction on? Here’s the ultimate guide for hosting a successful online silent auction:
What Is a Virtual Silent Auction?
A virtual or online auction includes the same elements as a live auction, but the bidding takes place entirely online. Gone are the headaches of paper bid sheets and in-person check-outs. Virtual fundraising platforms and mobile bidding technology now make displaying items, managing bids, and processing payments convenient with the right production partner.
Even better, online auctions eliminate the cumbersome process of organizing and catering a live event. The virtual aspect also gives fundraisers access to a vastly larger audience, increasing participation rates, which ultimately increases the rate (and price) of participants’ bids.
How Do I Run a Successful Virtual Silent Auction?
Running a successful virtual silent auction still requires a thorough planning strategy, but with the right setup, the process will be more efficient and perhaps even more enjoyable than a live event.
The planning process for an online auction contains many of the same components- such as creating fundraising goals, developing a marketing strategy, and outlining the event program- but there are a few important items that need to be prioritized when organizing a virtual auction event.
Find a Production Partner
Perhaps as important as securing quality auction items, finding a quality production partner will have a huge impact on how successful a virtual event may be. As tempting as it might be for an organization to piece together the content, talent, systems, and tools it already has in place, a team of professionals will provide a more streamlined process for a more enjoyable experience for you and your attendees.
Look for a production partner that has expertise in all your checkboxes. You want a partner that can aid not only in technology and broadcasting but in making your event more successful through understanding what talent you need, the ambiance, the engagement, and entertainment. Your partners should be experts in getting your virtual audience engaged and on camera. There are many ways this can be done, and pending your cause, one may be better than another.
Create a Clear Policy
Terms and conditions need to be clearly stated and easily visible on the event platform so that all participants understand the bidding process as well as any extra payment, shipping, or delivery fees that might be incurred. Basic legal clauses should also be presented and accepted by all participants that outline payment and refund policies before bidding starts so that both the event organizers and participants are informed and protected.
Consider the following questions to ensure bidders know exactly what they are signing up for: Is there a cap for the highest bids? Will items be delivered, shipped, or picked up? Who is responsible for shipping charges?
Promote Your Virtual Silent Auction
To maximize attendance for virtual auctions, leverage the optimal communication channels for your target audience. Social media platforms make it easy to promote events and encourage followers to do the same.
A good strategy is to create a silent auction event page on Facebook so that supporters can easily invite and share with friends. Or, if there is a website page dedicated to the online auction, include the link in all promotional content leading up to and during the event. And don’t forget to post teaser photos of the most unique or valuable auction items to build anticipation and get more people talking about (and sharing) the event.
Related: How to Fundraise Virtually
Price Your Items
Some auction veterans believe pricing should not be listed on items for bid. The rationale is that, by omitting the price, the bidder will not be influenced by a fixed amount that might be much lower than their max bid. Or, if the start price is too high, fewer people will bid, thus lowering the chances for a lucrative bidding war to commence. If this is the chosen strategy, products can highlight the organization’s mission and what the winning proceeds will support.
If organizers do decide to list prices, it’s best to leave enough room for bidders to go higher, but not so low as to diminish the item’s allure and perceived value.
Figure Out Your Silent Auction’s Duration
With a virtual silent auction, organizers can choose between hosting a shorter, standalone event or extending the bidding over several days. Both approaches have merit. An online auction gives participants enough time to go through the catalog and bid on what interests them most, while a single event can be more effective for generating interest and excitement.
Many organizations have great success with combining the two. For example, there could be a 45-minute live virtual event where attendees gather and participate in a silent auction at the end, or hosts can open up a 5-day silent auction that culminates in a live event featuring a select few of the most valuable items.
Make Things Engaging
To keep the bids coming, event hosts need to keep the participants engaged throughout the entire experience. The trick is to keep cranking up the suspense until the very end while simultaneously enticing people to actively participate in the moment (and reminding them to share their experience with their social following).
Incorporating trivia, contests, and other fun segments will not only keep viewers tuned in but will also set the stage for some friendly competition. To turn up the suspense even further, send alerts via text and email each time a person has been outbid. These features are available on any event platform and are extremely effective for revving up excitement and audience participation.
Host Your Virtual Silent Auction With Van Wagner
Holding a silent auction is a fun, lucrative way for nonprofits to raise funds, engage donors, and advance their mission. And with the right virtual fundraising technology and techniques, organizers just might enjoy the event experience as much as the highest bidder.
Regardless, everyone involved will walk away feeling good about giving back, and nonprofits will have a proven strategy to add to their virtual toolbox.
Ready to host your virtual silent auction or other virtual event? Get in touch with Van Wagner to make your next event unforgettable!