Converting Your Gala to a Successful Online Auction

Some organizations are considering cancelling their gala events due to the coronavirus. That’s a difficult choice to make. And as we mentioned in the email we sent to all of our customers earlier this week: while there are way too many factors involved in this decision to tell you what you should do, we can weigh in on what you can do if you decide that you don’t want to move forward with your gala.

All SchoolAuction.net, Tofino Auctions, and PartySupporters customers can run pure online auctions. If this is of interest to you, here’s how to get started

While online-only events can’t replicate the energy that drives up bidding at in-person events, there are some steps you can take to maximize their fundraising potential.

Run your online auction in stages, starting with a well-curated Silent auction.

A well-curated auction includes items that have broad appeal, display well in your catalog, and are likely to generate lots of bidding interest. If you have a large selection of gift cards, be aware that these don’t often yield much online income. But you may be able to combine some of those gift cards with other items and create more interesting auction packages. For instance, if you’ve received a lot of restaurant gift cards, you could create a Give the Cook a Month Off package. 

When it comes to online auctions: less is more. Ideally, you want to get 5 – 9 bids per silent item, in order to maximize earnings. This means offering fewer items. Think about the number of people likely to bid in your online auction, and limit the number of items you’re offering to 35% of that amount. That means if you expect 100 people to bid, you’ll want about 35 Silent online items in your catalog. If you’ve already procured more items than you need, set some aside for a future event and/or combine some of them into more appealing packages.

Follow up your Silent auction with an online “Live” auction. Convert your Live auction items to Silent items and set up a separate bidding group for them, so that they open after your Silent auction closes. 

Promote the heck out of these items. Be sure to send your supporters an invitation to bid. Remind them to bid high and bid often to support the good work your organization does. Update and resend your invitation to bid daily with a list of who leads the bidding for your most competitive items. Include a list of items that are “too-good-to-be-true” deals to goose bidding on those. The goal is to spur a sense of heightened competition among your bidders.

Use the Extended Bidding feature, so that any item with active bidding near closing time automatically remains open to capture last-minute bids.

Use Max Bidding so that bids are placed faster.

Be sure to turn on outbid notices! (Plus/Premium subscribers can enable outbid text messaging.)

After your online “Live” auction closes, tally up what you’ve earned from your Silent and Live items. How close are you to meeting your goal, or to what you typically earn at your gala auction?

Now it’s time to launch an online invitation to give. This will serve as your virtual Paddle Raise. Edit your invitation to give to thank everyone for their support thus far. Let them know how much they’ve raised already, and how much your organization still needs to meet its goals. Remind them of all the great things their donations support.

You can raise money for a single fund or for multiple funds. And Plus and Premium subscribers can set up recurring donations on their sites.

Finally, make sure to edit the text at the top of your Give page to highlight your appeal. If you want to produce a short video appeal to appear there, we can help you embed that at the top of the page.

We hope this helps.

Stay healthy out there.

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