The Covid-19 pandemic and strict social distancing norms have had a debilitating effect on fundraising revenues with organizations having to explore new avenues to keep their programs and projects going. Typically, events, fundraising campaigns, and other similar initiatives like gala dinners, movie and theatre shows, and on-premises auctions have been canceled and the in-person events moved online. This is where free online auction sites have evolved as a blessing in disguise and have been a lifeline for fundraising efforts.
Initially, the experience of free online auction sites can be a bit overwhelming when matched against traditional live auctions where hundreds of people milled around a display hall and sat closely together to place their bids. How can you replicate raising a paddle on a website? How will the items be collected after winning a bid? How will the same energy be generated by people in a crowded room and around a bar? However, all these facets have been taken care of and free online auction sites offer an experience that is no less exciting than before.
Free online auction sites – are they really free?
One point has to be made here before moving on. Are free online auction sites really free as they profess? Online auction sites levy various charges on the organizers. These include a commission on each sale made, administrative charges for conducting the auction like displaying the items on the site, and for shipping and delivery. Free online auction sites, on the other hand, do not have these fees apart from that concerning third-party service providers like payment gateways and couriers. These sites, therefore, are a big boon to charity fundraisers for whom every dollar saved goes for a worthy cause.
Benefits of free online auction sites
The transition from on-premises auctions to free online auction sites has mainly been a smooth and seamless affair because of the many benefits they offer. Here are a few of them.
- Range of buyers from different walks of society: There is a large audience to be tapped that can participate in online auctions. Buyers come from all sections of the populace and might be young or old, stay at home and bid people, and more.
- Larger reach: Free online auction sites are not restricted by geographical borders and fundraisers get access to an audience that is spread out all over the globe. Items will be sold faster as there will always be some to cater to different tastes.
- Convenience: Buyers can bid from anywhere like the comfort of home and participate in multiple auctions simultaneously. Every item of interest is well cataloged on free online auction sites making selecting and bidding a breeze.
- Quick engagement: Bidders need not be bogged down by an auction the whole day. They can go from any work they are doing online to bidding and back again at the click of a button. Participation in online auctions is therefore higher.
- Longer bidding time: Fundraisers can keep the online bidding open for as long as they want. It provides an option for the bidders to carefully weigh their options, do their homework, and arrive at decisions about what to bid on. On-premises auctions, on the other hand, rush participants through the bidding.
- No items in transit: All items for the auction are displayed, sold, and picked up from the same place. It might be from the local merchant donating them for the auction or anywhere else from where the goods are sourced. Substantial amounts are saved in moving and shipping charges.
Participation in free online auction sites is so interactive that there is always a strong possibility for all items being sold out if there are around 200 people only registered for the bidding.
How to hold an online auction
After checking the benefits of free online auction sites, how are auctions online conducted?
Follow these steps for the best returns.
- Select a reputed and credible online auction site: Most sites will charge a fee for the auction that includes displaying the items on the site, registration of bidders, using payment gateways, and placing bids within a set time. You will be responsible for shipping goods to the winners.
- Get the goods: The concept of a fundraiser is that you get the goods for free. Solicit the items from your board members and volunteers, or the local merchants. Anything interesting goes in online auctions, from vacation packages to craft items.
- Set a goal forthe number of items: You can choose to have any number of items as you want as you are not limited by physical space. But consider how much you can handle and feasibly store and ship. Think also of the size and financial capacity of the registered bidders.
- Evaluate fair market prices: Ensure that you get the value of the items from the source so that you can set the starting bids. These should be in simple amounts like $2, $5, $10, or $20, approximately 25% to 50% of the market value. Base the increments reasonably so that you can reach the market value of the items.
- Promote the auction: You have to promote your auction well through email, newsletters, and most importantly, by creating a buzz on social media. People generally do not visit free online auction sites unless it is to support their favorite charity.
The final stage of holding online auctions is to arrange for shipping and delivery. It is not a big task though international couriering can be quite complicated. To avoid this issue, restrict the bidding to people within the country.