A new dimension to fundraising auctions

Oct 08, 2007

Online auctions also offer a more quantifiable value proposition to donors and sponsors. They also dramatically expand the marketing reach for organisations, creating a greater awareness of the cause and a greater fundraising capability.

Add it up and you get more money being raised and deeper donor engagement. The benefits are too significant to ignore.

Charities, constantly looking for new ways to raise much-needed funds from a wider audience, are increasingly using the internet to organise fundraising events on-line. But for the thousands of smaller, local charities without teams of people and sophisticated infrastructure, it can look very daunting and out of their league.

With the right research, preparation, people and support, however, it can be very successful and funds raised far exceed those raised at conventional fundraising events.

On-line auctions are proven to work and have overwhelmingly redeeming virtues. They can raise significant money, on average 20-40 per cent greater prices for the charity items. With more people competing for merchandise, you’re likely to attract higher bids. They are highly entertaining for participants, a truly ‘pleasurable’ way to give and, very importantly, they are one of the primary ways non-profit organisations have to tap household spending budgets.

An online auction has three big advantages. First, it removes the barrier of geography enabling you to access a new, global audience outside of your traditional fundraising reach. Donors can live far away and still participate.

Second, it removes the barrier of time. Online auctions run 24-7. Lastly, online auctions are highly measurable, producing valuable information about what item categories receive bids. That information provides a map for improving your next auction.

In some ways on-line auctions are easier than traditional fundraising because you have the option of eliminating the ‘real life event’ component. In other ways, it’s exactly the same – you have to solicit donations, sell them and receive payment.

Research shows that the typical online fundraising auction performs best when it runs between one and three weeks. This greatly expands the marketing footprint of an event from hours to weeks, making a big impact on the donor base.

Another interesting piece of research shows that an overwhelming majority (71%) of bidders at on-line auction sites are women. Focus groups reveal that women don’t enjoy the competitive, high testosterone bidding environment at the live event and are more comfortable browsing and bidding from home.
The success of your online auction will be determined by preparation and organisation. You will need to get as many staff and volunteers as possible and designate tasks such as sourcing donations, photographing merchandise. Local businesses can be called upon to provide the technical knowledge and backup and advice on on-line selling, marketing and public relations, which differ to conventional methods.

The first task before you put all of this into action is to do your research and gather facts and figures to support your wish to hold an on-line auction. The next step is to secure the support of your colleagues and friends and instill them with your enthusiasm by sharing the size of audience reach and benefits of the on-line marketplace.

Auctions work. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will gain a competitive advantage and take your fundraising auction strategy to a whole new level.

For more information, visit www.jardine-michelson.com

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