Fundraising Blog

Your Comprehensive Guide to Online Fundraising Terminology

Vic Birch
Passionate fundraising storyteller

Online fundraising has become a vital part of charitable efforts, however you might find some of the terms and confusing.

Confused about fundaising jargon? We're here to help!

Don't worry - to help you navigate your next online fundraising conversation with confidence, we've put together this guide to must-know terms in the world of fundraising, auctions, and more!

Fundraising Auction:

A fundraising auction is a common method used by charities and non-profit organizations to raise money. Items, both physical and experiences such as vacations, experiences, or goods, are made available for people to bid on. The highest bidder wins the item, and the proceeds go to the cause.

Online Auction:

An online auction is a virtual space where fundraising auctions take place.

Participants bid for items via any web browser, often from their mobile devices, often in real-time. Online auctions offer the advantage of participation from anywhere, not just the event venue. Bidders don’t raise their hands or a paddle to place bids as they do in a live auction. In an online auction each item is listed with the highest bidder’s name and the current highest bid amount. 

Online Silent Auction:

An online silent auction, online auction or a silent auction are terms that are often interchangeable.

The silent aspect of the auction comes from the fact that bidders don’t raise their hand or paddle to bid. Before the availability of online auction platforms, bidders in silent auctions wrote their names and bids amounts on bid sheets next to the item at a physical silent auction display area.  Now that silent auctions are typically held online, they can be easily integrated into an in person fundraising event or conducted as a standalone exclusively online auction, without any associated physical event. 

Fundraising Auction Website:

This is a dedicated website that hosts online fundraising auctions. It provides an online space for participants to view and bid on items. Ensure that the auction website platform you choose aligns with your mobile compatibility needs.

Live Fundraising Auction:

A live fundraising auction occurs in person at a fundraising event and is usually facilitated by an auctioneer or master of ceremonies (MC).

Bids can be submitted through raised paddles, hands. Live auction items are often included as display only items in an online auction. Some fundraisers allow pre-bids to be submitted online in advance of the live auction.

Also, winning bids are sometimes added to the fundraising platform allowing a participant to have a single invoice including all their fundraising activity - donations, live auction items won and silent auction items won. 

Prize Sourcing:

Fundraisers obtain prizes for their auction through various means, often by reaching out to businesses and supporters who donate items, such as spa packages or gift certificates.

Fundraising Prizes (Consignment Items):

Fundraising prizes, also known as consignment items, are prizes provided on a sale or return basis.

They are often high end items like holidays that are challenging to source. The are tried and tested items with broad appeal that have proven to attract high bids in auctions. Suppliers provide these prizes to organizations to sell, and the cost structures can vary.

Some providers, like Galabid, offer fundraising prize packages on a guaranteed profit and no-risk basis, meaning there's no cost to the organization if the prize doesn't sell. The cause also earns all proceeds above the cost of the item. In the event of only one bid on the item the cause still earns a profit as a donation is built into the starting bid.

Fundraising Prize Catalog:

Online auction platforms frequently feature prize catalogs that bidders can access to view available items. Some catalogs even facilitate the bidding process.

Cash Donation:

Many fundraising auctions incorporate a cash donation component. Supporters can make direct monetary contributions to the charity or non-profit through the online auction platform.


In real-time bidding, bids are registered instantly as they occur. A seamless, no-delay bidding process is crucial, especially in high-demand situations where competition is intense.

Starting Bids/Minimum Bids:

To ensure that items don't sell for less than their value, auction organizers establish starting or minimum bids. For example, a luxury vacation in Bali might have a starting minimum bid of $1,000.


Let’s use an example to explain this one. A starting bid of $1,000 may be set. Whilst this allows bidding to start at $1,000 if a reserve price of $1,500 is also set the item will not be sold to the highest bidder unless the bid reaches or exceeds the reserve price. Online auction platforms typically allow the organizer to decide whether to share the reserve price or simply display when an item has not yet met its reserve price.

In Summary:

With this comprehensive guide to online fundraising terminology, you'll be well-equipped to engage in discussions and activities related to silent auctions, fundraising events, and more. Don't hesitate to seek clarification and expand your knowledge to become an informed and effective participant in the world of online fundraising.

Our online chat team are ready to answer any questions you may have and give you guidance on online fundraising best practices. Feel free to talk to us anytime.  

About GalaBid

Ideal for donations. Perfect for Raffles. Awesome for Live and Silent Auctions! GalaBid’s online fundraising platform is designed for fundraisers of all types and sizes. For over 10 years we’ve been helping non-profits, charities, community clubs, churches, schools, and individuals to raise more and make a difference.

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