Good question! Fundraising auctions can make a huge difference to an organisation's revenue. For many charities, a fundraising auction is their primary annual revenue raiser. Simply put, a fundraising auction will offer prizes that bidders can win by making the highest bid. But with auction types ranging from paper bids to sophisticated digital platforms, which auction type is right for you?
Paper based or sealed bid auctions mostly take place live at a fundraising event. Bidders write down their maximum bid amount on a paper bid sheet. Bids are placed in a sealed envelope and given to the organisers. After a fixed time, and when all the bids are collected, event organisers open the bids. Winners are determined by who has placed the highest bid for each item. Pros: Paper or sealed bids are cheap and easy to organise. Because the bidding is 'blind' i.e. nobody knows what bid level they are competing against, winning bids can be higher than you might expect. Cons: Paper based bids can be difficult to manage. Bids can get lost, handwriting is sometimes difficult to read and paper is easier to tamper with. It can be time consuming and waiting for people to complete and submit their bids can interrupt the flow of the event.
This auction type happens at an event with bidders in attendance. Unlike the sealed bid auction, live auctions are often lively and dynamic. Items for sale will be displayed at the event for guests to view. An auctioneer or MC will manage proceedings by announcing the item for sale. He or she will generate interest in the prize item by giving an enthusiastic description or showing the actual item. Once bidding is underway, bidders will be acknowledged and thanked by the auctioneer. Non-bidders will be encouraged to get higher bids in! Pros: A live auction is fun and exciting. A competitive atmosphere can send bids sky high as bidders try to outdo each other (in a friendly spirit of course!). Cons: Time constraints mean only a limited number of items can be sold at the auction. These items tend to be high worth to maximise returns (which can exclude some guests from participating).
Online auctions are exactly that. Everything, from item catalogues to bidding takes place online. This auction type (also referred to as a 'silent' auction) can take place over an extended period of time (days, weeks or even months). The auction will open and close at specified times and dates. Bidders may receive bid and outbid notifications via email or SMS. Pros: Online auctions are super flexible and can potentially be open to anyone, anywhere in the world! There are no space restrictions so numerous items (of any shape or size) can be displayed online. Bidders have the comfort of bidding from home, which is perfect for anyone who finds the spotlight of a live auction environment uncomfortable. Cons: Generating momentum and excitement is harder online. Organisers need to keep the auction front and centre in bidders' minds via frequent and effective marketing e.g.updates and promotion via social media.
Combined auctions are a mix of the above auctions e.g. a combined online and live auction. Fundraisers set up an online auction in advance of a live auction event. The live auction prizes and online auction prizes can be displayed in the same place via a dedicated webpage (but the Live prizes may not be open for bidding). Pros: Fundraisers can maximise returns with a combined approach. They can increase the number of bidders and give people, who may not be able to attend the live auction event, an opportunity to support the cause via the online auction. Cons: A combined auction type increases the logistical demands. An online auction and live auction require careful planning which will include venue booking, catering and building an online platform. Tip: If a combined auction is too daunting to take on alone, an experienced service provider, such as GalaBid, can help make sure the process is easy and smooth.