Auctions have the potential to raise a ton of money for your foundation, charity or school. Nonprofit event planners said as much when we surveyed them for Software Advice's 2015 report, “Which Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit?"
That's the good news. The bad news is they're a ton of work.
You have to get auction items from donors and promote your event through email, social media and every other channel at your disposal to ensure a good turnout. On the day of the auction, the fun really starts: registering guests, capturing bids, collecting payments and writing receipts. Oh, and don't forget the government's cut. They'll want to see all of those 8282 and 8283 forms come tax time.
It's enough to make a short-staffed organization avoid auctions altogether.
If this struggle sounds familiar, you may want to invest in dedicated auction software—applications specifically designed to help users better manage their auction events.
In this Buyer's Guide, we'll break down auction software definitions, common functionality, pricing information and more to help you decide if auction software is right for your organization and what system might best fit your needs.
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Auction software helps users with the event planning, bid capturing, payment processing and compliance management aspects of auction fundraisers. This kind of software can help with a one-time event or ongoing online auctions.
These platforms offer a central hub to track item and registrant data and facilitate collaboration between members in your organization. They help make auction events run more smoothly, and improve the effectiveness of your fundraising initiatives.
The various features found in auction software are designed to help users manage the entire auction cycle, from pre-event planning to post-event analysis. Here is a list of some common functions to look for in auction software systems:
|Event & item management||Track and store auction event details, RSVPs, seating charts and more. Procure, tag and list items for auction.|
|Auction type customization||Online or offline? Live, silent, reverse or sealed bid? 'Buy Now' items? This software helps you manage a number of types of auctions.|
|Website creation & user registration||Create a branded auction event website and allow users to register for auctions online for easy bidding and payment.|
|Automatic bid capture||Capture and update bids on auction items in real time. Automated outbid notifications encourage participation.|
|Payment processing & receipts||Process payments immediately upon sale. Email receipts and acknowledgements to donors automatically afterwards.|
|Post-event analytics & reporting||Gain insight and generate necessary forms. For example, you can find out which items did better than expected and what times had the most bidding activity.|
Auction software integrates with other systems within your organization, whether it be fundraising software to see how much an auction contributed towards your goals or accounting software to easily capture event expenses in your general ledger.
If you never do auction fundraisers or don't rely on them for significant funding, dedicated auction software can seem unnecessary. On the other hand, if big ticket auction events make or break your organization every year, dedicated auction software becomes a vital investment.
Here are three ways auction software can help you run and manage auctions:
It would be great if every auction software vendor got together and agreed to price their software using the same method, but unfortunately that's not the case. Some common pricing methods you can run into with auction software include:
There are other factors besides the software license cost to consider as well. Some vendors may limit the number of items you can put up for auction in a certain pricing tier or charge a “performance fee" (similar to what you'd pay an auctioneer). Others can charge extra for things like customer support or training.
When researching options, pay special attention to how and when you'll be charged for the software to budget accordingly.
Nonprofit organizations (charities, foundations, schools) are the primary purchasers of auction software, but they're not the only ones. Here are some other types of auction software buyers from commercial businesses, along with examples of products that cater to each audience:
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