The increased frequency of online virtual events has spawned a new way for organizations to raise funds. In addition to donations and pledges, which most non-profits feature on their websites, online silent auctions have taken a seat at the fundraising table.
There are various platforms online dedicated to silent auctions, however some provide these services at a hefty price, as much as 30 percent of the funds raised in addition to set-up fees. Production World, a live event production company, began producing online virtual events and have achieved much success. As part of their arsenal of services, they offer a silent auction platform.
Generally speaking, all the platforms are similar. The creation of a silent auction item online is not very different from any product installed on an e-commerce website. There are some key things to consider in order for a silent auction to generate a satisfactory amount of revenue.
- Product Diversity
There is no such thing as too much variety. The more the merrier: gift certificates, jewelry, gift baskets, memorabilia, sports items, dinner packages … there is always something that appeals to a bidder; however, too many gift certificates can dilute the appeal of the auction overall. There some who believe that the number of silent auction items should fall between a dozen to twenty. In Production World’s experience, they have seen successful silent auctions with over 100 items.
- Product Description
Keep it short and specific. Make sure that disclaimers are included. Certificates should not have an expiry date. Photographs should be as high as possible in resolution. Include additional photos of major details.
- Pricing and Value
The rule of thumb has been to set a starting value equal to 30 percent of the retail value of the item. However, if a starting value is too high, bidders will be less inclined to jump in. The retail price of items can be as high as a few hundred dollars. Anything over $1000 is better suited for live auctions. We recommend a starting value between $10 and $40. Production World has seen items with a starting value of $100 untouched by bidders.
When setting up products online, include the retail value in the main title of the product unless it is implicit, i.e. a $50 Gift Certificate.
You can decide if you want the bid increments to have a minimum, such as five dollars; however, in our experience, we have found this to be unnecessary.
- Shipping and Taxes
If the auction is open only to people who have registered for the online event, them most of the participants will be local. However, if the auction is opened up to people from anywhere, then consideration has to be given to shipping fees, depending on the size of the item and how far it may have to travel to get into the hands of the winning bidder. Generally, taxes are not applied to silent auction items.
- Getting Paid
Ideally, the website hosting the silent auction should accept major credit cards and PayPal. Stripe is a very reliable payment platform and a favorite for e-commerce sites built in WordPress.
- About Auction Platforms
Most online auction plug-ins provide three key auction notifications: a bid confirmation notification to the bidder, a notification to the auction manager, and a bid-up notification.
- Auction Times
During a virtual event, viewers will be focused on the event for the most part. As such, schedule to silent auction to end sometime after the event ends. We suggest no more than an hour. Also, there is nothing stopping you from opening up the silent auction in advance of the event from a few hours to a few days.
Most products will generate bids between 30 to 50 percent of the item’s value. Of course, there are always surprises.
And with that — we bid you adieu.