charity auction sites?
September 29, 2011 10:10 AM   Subscribe

My non-profit holds its gala benefit soon. In lieu of our usual clipboards-and-pens silent auction, we were thinking of using an internet service such as Bidding for Good. Good idea? Bad idea?

It's hard to find any info online, despite the size of the company ($120 million in auction sales total). What was your experience? Good/bad/indifferent? Do you know of another, better service that provides online auction support for nonprofit charity auctions?
posted by HeroZero to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no experience with internet auction sites like this, but I've been to lots of silent auction benefits. Half or more of the fun of the clipboard-and-pen kinds of silent auctions is going around to see who's bid how much on what, and if you're going to win or lose the item(s) you've bid on. I've had some delightful chats with people as we hover over the clipboards for stuff we want. I can't find how that would work if it's done over the internet - there are some intangible benefits to the clipboard ones.

Is there a reason why you're thinking of using an internet service like this?
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know anything about Bidding for Good, but I do have experience with more than one non-profit organization that decided to simulcast their auctions on the internet, allowing online bids. In the 4 cases I know of the auction proceeds remained steady (no appreciable increases in proceeds). However, the attendance at their events plummeted to alarmingly low levels. YMMV
posted by txmon at 10:24 AM on September 29, 2011

Word on the street is that it's a revenue-booster, and that you can also pay for services (probably out of my group's league at this point) in which each gala guest is given a smart-phone-ish thing and they get notified when other people bid against them. Bells and whistles stuff.
posted by HeroZero at 10:34 AM on September 29, 2011

Word on the street is that it's a revenue-booster,

I'd take that with a huge grain of salt, unless/until you can confirm that (and the confirmation should not be from the companies that run these things). If it boosts revenue from the auction, but you get fewer people attending (paying for tickets, pulling out their checkbooks at the event to make on-the-spot donations, getting schmoozed by a board member for a Big Donation of cash or something else, etc.), then have you actually gained anything?

I'd say skip it for this year's event, and spend the next six months doing serious research on companies that do this so that you can do as complete an evaluation as possible.
posted by rtha at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's exactly it, rtha....I should say that I'm getting pressure from board members and my boss of the "Aw, man, wouldn't it be cool if we had iphones like they had at this other benefit we went to?" variety, and I'm pretty dubious.
posted by HeroZero at 11:03 AM on September 29, 2011

Oy, the pressure - "New! Shiny! All the other kids have one! Want!"

Tell them that yeah, it would be cool! And you'd really like to take the time to research this as fully as possible so that your org can get the most bang for their buck, and you'll be happy to present your findings/recommendations at a future (post-this-year's-event) board meeting. If you know of other local/similar orgs that have used it, definitely start reaching out to their events/development folks so you can hear what they *really* think. Good luck!
posted by rtha at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2011

One thing to consider is simple demographics. There is a correlation between higher age and more expendable income to give to charities. There is also a correlation between higher age and reduced adoption of new technology.

By adding in the technology requirement, you may be making it harder for your most likely donors to contribute.
posted by halseyaa at 12:37 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Aw, man, wouldn't it be cool if we had iphones like they had at this other benefit we went to?"

At least some of your potential donors may be cranky sorts like me, who would look at it and say "Wait, you're making having [an iPhone/a Facebook account] a minimum requirement if I want to participate? Nope, not gonna. I'm sure there are other groups who will be happy to accept my money without insisting that I [pay a bunch to have a smartphone/give up my privacy] to do so."
posted by Lexica at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2011

I'm in charge of the technology side for 3 events that raise significant each year and this question comes up every time. Though I don't have the ultimate say, I've always voted no for a couple of reasons.
-The "big donors" are fairly consistent and they will show up regardless. Last year, our black-tie gala got postponed due to a blizzard and I think we made more money that day than we normally do. People who give money are typically invested in making it to the event. What's important here is I believe those big donor's presence encourage others to give. When Sam is sitting at a table next to you who just wrote a check for $5,000 and everyone at your table is talking about it, by george, that's going to encourage me to donate!!!
-Where's the technology going to come from? I already have to pilfer 20 or so laptops from our school to get enter the data of live & silent auctions- luckily those are "free" resources. Now you want me to magically come up with the funds for 20 iPads, too? Where's the money for that going to come from??
-Part of the point of our events is to make it a community event. We want those people there, rubbing elbows, and talking. Showing off our pilot 1:1 laptop program looses its charm via satellite. But showing up to the event and having hundreds of laptop cases on the stage? "OHHHHHhhhhh, AHHHHHHhhhhh." And remember, you're not just getting donations that night- you're also retaining lifelong constituents. That personal interaction will mean much more in person, I reckon.
-I've talked with our auction company about your people's ideas. It costs money. I did some looking at the cost and decided it simply wasn't financially worth it.

Of course, my opinion may very well change if we implemented the idea and I would make it work. But for now, I kindly ask them to get off my lawn.
posted by jmd82 at 2:33 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

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