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Live Auction Software
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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What Is Auction Software?
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.
Auction setup in BidPal
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.
Common Auction Software Functionality
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.
Benefits of Auction Software
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:
- Make your auctions more flexible. Traditionally, if attendees miss your auction event they can't bid on items. Guests can also get wrapped up at your event and forget to walk over and see what items are on the table. With features like mobile bidding and the ability to host auctions online, auction software offers more flexibility for participants.
- Encourage participation. Auction software can send automatic push notifications when a person has been outbid and periodic reminders to guests to donate towards your worthy cause. The result? Higher final sale prices on your auction items and more fundraising overall.
- Securely capture auction data. Bids, payments, receipts, acknowledgements, appraisals, RSVP lists, catering lists, donor information—losing track of any of this information can sink your auction. Auction software not only offers a place to securely store and process this information, but also weaves them together in an intuitive way to create efficient process workflows.
How Much Does Auction Software Cost?
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:
- One-time cost (i.e., perpetual license)
- Flat monthly or annual fee
- Per-user monthly or annual fee
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.
Types of Auction Software Buyers
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:
- Manufacturers. If you need to run a reverse auction to get the best bid from competing suppliers, check out systems like ProcurePort.
- Auction houses. If you want to create a private online auction to sell off real estate or industrial equipment, look for platforms like Sharp Auction Engine.
- Car dealerships. If you need to run an auction to sell off vehicle inventory, research products like Auction123.
- E-commerce businesses. If you're looking to build a long-term auction business online like eBay, consider software like Easy.Auction.