Choosing the right event for your nonprofit to host can be a challenge. You need to find an event that supports your fundraising goals, donor stewardship initiatives, and overall supporter engagement, not to mention cultivating new donors.

If you’ve decided to host a silent auction in conjunction with your next event, you’re already on the right track to creating an exciting opportunity to bring your community of supporters together and raise plenty of funds.

A fundraising professional already has so much on their plate, from planning the auction to running other fundraisers. We totally get it. Using quality auction software will make your job less complicated, and gives your guests a better experience. In this article, we’ll show you six things to look for when choosing your silent auction software.

1. Mobile Bidding Tools

If you’re using paper bid sheets in your auction, it’s time to let them go. They’re a huge headache, and they will create more work for you and less money for your organization. Even if you’re hosting a fully in-person silent auction, guests can bid much more easily using their phones or tablets that your nonprofit provides.

The best auction software will include these mobile bidding features:

  • Easy-to-use app: Look for a platform that includes a native mobile app in addition to mobile-friendly web pages. The app houses all of your auction items and information, and allows attendees to bid directly in the app.
  • Automatic bid updates: Your app should automatically list each item’s current winning bid, the next minimum bid amount, the fair market value, and buy now price, where applicable.
  • Push notifications: Choose a platform that automatically tells bidders when they’ve been outbid on an item. Opt for push notifications over email alerts so bidders get updates in real time and you don’t crowd their inboxes.
  • Ability to pay in-app: Simplify the payment process for your guests by letting them pay in the same app they use to bid.

Consider adding a QR code to your promotional flyers that takes guests to an app download page or to your event registration page within the app. This way, they won’t have to spend valuable time at the auction downloading the app. They can jump right into bidding!

2. Intuitive Auction Catalog

According to Handbid’s silent auction software guide, a user-friendly interface is at the top of the list of things to assess in silent auction software.

Your auction catalog needs to be easy for bidders to navigate on both the app and web browser versions. Look for a platform that improves the user experience with features like item search, and that divides items into categories. Bidders can swipe through on their phone, scroll through your entire catalog on a desktop, or search for any items they already know that they want.

3. Live Streaming Capabilities

Live streaming can add an element of community that virtual attendees would otherwise miss out on. You can use live streams to add excitement, share auction updates, make announcements about your organization, and make those at home feel included in the action.

Setting up a live stream can be a lot of work for your staff and volunteers. To make the process easier, look for auction software with live streaming capabilities built into the app or website.

4. Secure Payments

Make sure guests can check out directly in your auction website or app by choosing software that integrates with established, safe payment processors.

The software you choose should be:

  • PCI-compliant: Payment card industry (PCI) compliance is mandated by credit card companies to help ensure the security and integrity of all credit card transactions. This will help you keep your donors’ information safe, reduce fraud, and avoid fines for noncompliance.
  • Support multiple payment types: Give your donors and bidders a variety of payment options, including credit card, Apple Pay, and an option to mark them as ‘paid’ if they want to pay by check.
  • Optimized for mobile: According to one statistic, “mobile-friendly donation pages yield 34% more donations.” Imagine the return on investment from software that provides an auction catalog website optimized for mobile devices!

The more layers of security you add to the payment process, the more comfortable your guests are going to feel placing bids. Communicate your organization’s commitment to keeping your donors’ information safe, and you’ll build even more trust, potentially raising more money.

5. Real-Time Reporting

With real-time reporting features, both bidders and organizers can quickly get up to speed on what they need to know. Look for software with that addresses everyone’s reporting needs:

  • Guests will need guest dashboards that report how much money they’ve bid so far, along with the current status of each of their bids.
  • Organizers will need overall revenue reports to easily see progress toward fundraising goals.

Reports generated by your auction software can also help you improve your next auction. Analyzing your data through reports will show you which auction items and categories performed the best, giving you a better understanding of what your guests enjoy. It will also help you hone in on bidders who may turn into repeat guests, or even major donors, in the future.

6. Guest Engagement Opportunities

If you’re conducting a virtual auction or even a hybrid event, pay attention to any additional features that will make the experience more exciting or inclusive for guests. Virtual bidders don’t want to feel like they’re alone. Any opportunity to engage with guests and increase feelings of connection with a community will help your auction succeed. These features might look like:

  • Live leaderboards showing items with the most bids (or the least!)
  • Messages you can send to all guests throughout the auction to let them know the time remaining and other important updates
  • Tangible ways to visualize fundraising progress and inspire more donations

Engagement features like sharing items directly to social media pages and peer-to-peer campaigns can also provide added marketing opportunities and create more visibility for your auction. You might even get new bidders and supporters through these efforts.

People get invested in a goal when the goal is clearly stated, and when they can see its progress and feel like they can contribute to its success. Regularly update your fundraising progress, or even highlight auction items with no bids, on social media to grow your support base and get people invested in your organization’s success.

Silent auction software comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, with many additional features out there. Be mindful of your nonprofit’s budget and organizational goals, but don’t be afraid to spend a little money in this area. The right auction software can save time and energy for everyone involved, making the benefits far outweigh the cost, whether you’re hosting an in-person, hybrid, or fully virtual silent auction.

About the Author: Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter, Founder & CEO of Handbid, has spent 18 years in the nonprofit industry. In 2004 he founded the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado where he still resides as board chair. Jeff learned early on that nonprofits desperately needed better and more affordable fundraising solutions. Leveraging his software background, he built most of the tools his charities used, and in 2011 he launched Handbid at his own fundraising event. The goal was to improve the guest experience, reduce administration and increase revenue. Handbid accomplished all of those goals, effectively doubling revenue in its debut. Nine years later, Handbid’s suite of tools has delighted over a half-million guests, generated millions of bids, and helped thousands of charities raise well over $100 million.