UPDATE: 6/10/2020: Very exciting news! We’re starting to rollout our new all-on-one-screen Virtual Live Auction interface! I can give demos to interested groups; you can book one here: https://schoolauction.appointlet.com/s/vla
We’re also working on a revision of the whitepaper linked below; please fill out the form at the bottom of the page to be alerted when it is ready.
UPDATE: 4/3/2020: The first edition of our whitepaper on Virtual Live Auctions can be downloaded here. Please fill out the form at the bottom of the page if you want to be notified when a revised edition is published (and we anticipate publishing one in a month or so).
Currently, the need for social distancing is preventing almost all of our customers from holding gala auctions. Some are postponing; most are converting their gala to an online auction. Some of those are adding in a Virtual Live Auction to the mix. Let’s talk about these, and the way that they work.
First, let’s talk about Online Auctions: these are available to all SchoolAuction.net, Tofino Auctions, and PartySupporters customers, regardless of subscription type. Online auctions can be bid on from any device with a web browser – computers, tablets, or phones. (“Mobile Bidding” is not included in our Standard Subscription – but that’s kind of confusing – when we use the term “Mobile Bidding” we are referring to smartphone bidding at a gala – which requires a few extra tools.)
I’m getting a lot of questions from groups who are holding their first online auction this year. So I want to take the time to answer three of the most common ones here:
How Long Should My Online Auction Be Open? I have part of an answer for you, and with that, you should be able to calculate your own answer.
Realize that the key tactic you need to be working throughout your online auction is promotion. Your bidders will likely eagerly go to your online auction when you first open it – and they will probably spend a bit of time there. But then the phone rings, and it’s time to make dinner, and… life. It distracts. So you need to gently bring your bidders back to the auction again and again, by emailing them updates and encouragement. One of the most effective techniques is to talk about a specific sub-group of items that are about to close soon – everyone needs to go place their final bids if they want these specific items.
So break your online auction up into multiple closings – no more than 12 items in each, and let each group of items have a day and a half or two days before you close it.
From here, the answer to the original question is just a matter of arithmetic – how many items do you have to auction; divide by 6, 8, 10, or 12 (depending on your preference) to get the number of closings; plan for one and a half to two days per closing.
What’s The Best Way To Sell Raffle Tickets In An Online Auction? First, find the regulations in your state that address selling raffle tickets online in your state. In some jurisdictions, this can qualify as “online gambling” and it requires a separate type of permit. So we don’t actually allow raffle tickets to be sold using online/mobile bidding – but there is a workaround. If it’s okay for you to do so, contact our support team and they will send instructions.
Can I Require Bidders To Enter A Credit-Card Number Before They Can Bid? Yes, if you are a Plus or Premium subscriber. This is an option you can set in your site – login as an Admin then go to Admin > Site Settings > Online Bidding > Signup and Invitations.
In addition to having an online auction that lasts a week or more, some groups are adding in a Virtual Live Auction – a webcast of your auctioneer and emcee hyping the live auction items, while bidders at home watch the stream, and place bids through the auction software.
Here’s why groups want to do this: gala fundraising auctions are philanthropy as spectator sport – bids go higher because there is a crowd cheering on the bidders (especially in the live auction, but also in the silent); because there is head-to-head competition within a short time frame, and because the guests at your event are feeling relaxed and happy about being at a fun party. And at most of the ones I go to, there are alcoholic beverages being served. Which definitely helps your guests decide to make one more bid on that class project, or signed basketball, or bottle of rare Pinot Noir.
Traditional online auctions have a very different feel for the guest – it’s very easy to get distracted away from the auction; it’s NOT a very social event, and the guests are as likely to be drinking a Diet Dr Pepper as a microbrewed beer.
So then the question becomes: how can I emulate the best elements of a live event online? And the answer that seems to be emerging as the best option is a Virtual Live Auction. (Here’s a video with a sample that happened recently – not our customer, but the auctioneer is one we work alongside often, and she did good work here.)
We have a few tips on Virtual Live Auctions, but we will also be collecting and developing more as time goes on – next week we will have a whitepaper on the topic that you can download for free. If you want to be alerted when we publish that, you can use the form below to register for a special email announcement. We won’t use it to send you anything other than this information.
For now, here are a few tips we feel confident about passing along:
Be careful about opening the bidding on your live auction items too early. One of your key goals is to get your bidders to all sit down and watch the livestream of your Virtual Live Auction at the appointed time. One of your best lures is going to be those live auction items. You may be tempted to open the bidding early, but resist that temptation – you’ll need the draw of the items to get people to commit to being there at the right time.
Include A Paddle Raise (aka Cash Contribution Fund). This is probably obvious, but bears noting anyway. Set it up as a catalog item, and use the Display Order field to make sure it is the first item listed. This item you can feel free to open up for contributions well in advance.
Learn The Expected Latency of Your Livestream. “Latency” refers to the delay that occurs between the time your auctioneer is speaking, and the time your viewers hear/see them doing so. If you are using something like Facebook Live, this can be 20-45 seconds. If so, then your auctioneer is going to want to take this into account when directing the action – they may wish to forego “calling bids” and concentrate more on simply fostering excitement around the items.
We’ll have more tips in our forthcoming whitepaper; please fill out the form below if you want to know when we publish it.