Incorporating Mobile Bidding: 5 Top Charity Auction Tips

Incorporating Mobile Bidding: 5 Top Charity Auction Tips

By Joshua Meyer

When your nonprofit needs a blowout event to open or close an important campaign, there’s no event like a charity auction to help push you well on the way to meet your fundraising goal.

The process of a charity auction is a time-tested standard: supporters show up to place bids on donated auction items, the highest bidder leaves with the item, and the nonprofit takes the profit from the bids.

How can your nonprofit update the reliable charity auction event, even if it’s your first time putting one on? Try mobile bidding!

Instead of relying on bid sheets, eliminate both environmental and financial cost by allowing bidders to participate in your auction with their mobile phones. It’s convenient and engaging for a number of reasons, but how can you get started with mobile bidding? Read through our best tips for incorporating mobile bidding into your auction:

  1. Invest in mobile bidding software.
  2. Incorporate mobile bidding into registration.
  3. Market mobile bidding ahead of time.
  4. Encourage participation with mobile bidding scoreboards.
  5. Take advantage of the “mobile” in mobile bidding.

Ready to take your charity auction to the next level with mobile bidding? Let’s get started!

charity auction

1. Invest in mobile bidding software.

There are so many moving parts you have to account for when planning a charity auction. It might seem like adding software to the mix would complicate your planning process even further.

Luckily, the right mobile bidding software solution will make it easier for you to run all elements of your auction, not just easier to accept bids.

When searching for charity auction software, make sure the features support:

  • Auction item tracking, packaging, and marketing
  • Bid number assignment, individually or en masse
  • Bid history viewing for individuals
  • VIP guest access and reporting
  • Pre-event bidding on auction items
  • Sponsorship logo placement
  • Live mobile bidding scoreboard

With these features centralized in the same software solution, you can streamline your auction from beginning to end.

Think about some of the behind-the-scenes elements of your charity auctions you typically manage in separate solutions, wasting time and presenting opportunities for data to get lost in transfer.

For example, think about how complicated sponsorships can be to coordinate. What if you could do it all in one place, from selling sponsorship packages to procuring donated auction items to embedding your sponsors’ logo on your mobile bidding screens? With the right charity auction software, you can.

Or what about volunteers? By offering a “volunteer” ticket option and asking your volunteers to sign up through the normal registration process, you have a great way to organize your volunteers. Plus, you can use the information they provide on their registration form to follow up with them about corporate volunteer grants programs after your event.

So while the primary purpose of mobile bidding software is to make the bidding process quicker and more convenient, there are a host of other benefits to your auction overall!

2. Incorporate mobile bidding into registration.

Your registration process isn’t just your way to sell tickets to your charity auction.

When planning your charity auction, be sure to pay close attention to your registration process and the myriad ways you can adjust it to your advantage. You can set your event up for success by incorporating mobile bidding into registration in the following ways:

  • VIP packages: If you’re offering a VIP ticket package (recommended by OneCause!), consider making some auction items only available for VIP attendees. You could also open up bidding to VIP attendees earlier than regular ticket holders.
  • Raffle tickets: A great addition to any charity auction is a raffle, especially if you’re looking to engage supporters who want to support your cause but can’t bid on your top items. Offer raffle tickets at registration to encourage these supporters to attend.
  • Onsite registration: Some of your attendees won’t actually have registered before showing up. Make sure you provide a quick, simple way for anyone to register once they arrive without holding up the check-in line.

You should also follow general best practices of registration form design to ensure that your supporters don’t abandon the form. Ensure that your branding is prominent and that the entire form will display properly on a mobile device.

The charity auction software you use for registration should be able to provide the level of customization you need.

Of course, you can’t implement these smart registration strategies if your supporters don’t even make it to your donation page. That’s why you have to ensure that you get the word out about mobile bidding through a smart marketing strategy!

3. Market mobile bidding ahead of time.

When your supporters see that you have a charity auction planned, their mental image is probably of a traditional auction setup with paddles and bid sheets.

There are lots of exciting elements you can incorporate into your charity auction when you implement mobile bidding. Your supporters might not think of these initially, so it’s your job to get them excited about the possibilities.

The best way to quickly shift any preconceived notions about charity auctions is to share photos and videos of bidders using your mobile bidding software. Your supporters can take in visual information faster and easier than paragraphs of text.

Include pictures and for the auction on your:

  • Nonprofit website
  • Event microsite
  • Direct mailings
  • Email communications
  • Social media profiles

Take advantage of the strengths of each platform. For instance, you have a significant amount of influence over the design of your website. You can embed highly impactful videos easily on your homepage, upcoming event page, or Ways to Give page.

With the right charity auction software, you should also have significant design influence over your event microsite as well as your emails. These platforms are most effective for sharing photos and hyperlinks to your mobile bidding software provider for curious attendees.

When marketing mobile bidding on social media platforms, you have less control over the design. You should choose visually interesting graphics and use action verbs to encourage your supporters to stop and read your post instead of scrolling past it on their feed.

However you market your mobile bidding ahead of your charity auction, make sure you provide a way for your supporters to sign up before arriving. The more attendees who get their mobile bidding setup out of the way before the event, the more smoothly the event will run.

4. Encourage participation with mobile bidding scoreboards.

Once your charity auction has begun, you have plenty of tools at your disposal to engage your bidders in the event, from an engaging emcee to speeches by beneficiaries.

Mobile bidding software adds to your toolbox. You can send push notifications or text messages directly and automatically to your attendees’ phones when:

  • The bidding opens.
  • The attendee is about to be outbid.
  • Bidding for a particular item is about to end.
  • A bidder wins an item.

All of these strategies keep your donors engaged in the charity auction even if they get distracted with a conversation or their dinner.

One of the top mobile bidding engagement strategies is live scoreboards.

We all know that a little friendly competition goes a long way toward encouraging more (and higher!) bids on auction items. Live scoreboards harness the power of competition by displaying real-time updates about current bids for everyone in attendance to see.

Many scoreboards will also display your overall progress toward the evening’s fundraising goal. So if the bidding for an individual auction item doesn’t get a donor into the spirit, the race to meet the greater fundraising goal for a worthy cause by the end of the event might do the trick.

Even better, some live scoreboards integrate with your social media profiles, so everyone, not just those in the audience, can stay up to date. This functionality comes in handy especially when you host an unconventional type of charity auction. Read on to the last section to learn more!

5. Take advantage of the “mobile” in mobile bidding.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! When you implement mobile bidding, you can get more creative with your charity auction and open up opportunities for increasing your revenue.

While we might think of live auctions as the standard, there are other kinds of charity auctions as well that mobile bidding makes possible. Notably

  • Silent auction: Auction items are laid out on tables around the room and, if you’re using mobile bidding, in a catalog within your mobile bidding app. Participants write their bids next to the item on the table or send in an anonymous bid using software.
  • Online auction: Take a silent auction into cyberspace, and you’ve got an online auction! Instead of showing up at your venue, participants log on from anywhere to place their bids exclusively through mobile bidding software.

It’s clear to see how these types of charity auctions benefit from mobile bidding functionality. The bidder doesn’t have to be within eyesight of the auctioneer for their bid to count — they just have to be logged on to the software solution!

The options don’t stop here! You can also incorporate mobile bidding into charity auctions that take place alongside other fundraising events. For instance, if you host a golf fundraiser, your donors can participate in your silent auction while they’re on the course, giving them more opportunities to place bids and resulting in higher revenue from the event as a whole.

Bonus! Does a golf fundraiser sound like a good fit for your nonprofit? Check out this golf tournament checklist from OneCause before diving in.

Mobile bidding is a flexible fundraising strategy that’s sure to boost revenue from any charity auction. All you need is smart marketing and registration processes to get your donors excited, and a little creativity to implement the software solutions to their highest potential.


Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.

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