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Monday, August 3, 2020

3 Ways to Improve Engagement at Your Online Auction


With COVID-19 in full force, nonprofits have gotten creative with fundraising techniques to adhere to social distancing guidelines. With their work as important as ever, organizations don’t have the option to pause their efforts. Luckily, today’s technology simplifies the shift to online fundraising, even charity auctions!

Online auctions are a fantastic way to gain momentum for your cause. They enable donors to show support from a distance, and the right tools make recreating the engaging atmosphere of an in-person auction a breeze. 


Instead of canceling events altogether, let’s explore three tips for engaging your audience remotely.

1. Provide a Mobile Bidding App to Your Attendees.

An intuitive web interface is a great step toward engagement, but you’ll need to take your efforts further with mobile bidding options. After all, people are constantly checking their cell phones—96 times a day to be exact. Moreover, mobile users spend nearly 90% of their time on apps, so a mobile bidding app is your smartest option.


In addition to convenience, mobile bidding offers several benefits:


  • Instant push notifications allow bidders to act when outbid without constantly checking the app. If possible, send push notifications, but as a fallback, automate text updates.

  • People who can’t attend in-person auctions can participate from wherever, even without cellular signal. So long as there’s an internet connection, an app stays logged in.

  • Apps are engaging, faster, and easier. Apps have access to phones’ sounds and vibrations and keep people connected to services they rely on (including bidding!).


Think of it this way: allowing bidders to bid from anywhere is a great start, but allowing them to bid from anywhere using a smartphone app is even better. 

2. Connect with Attendees by Live Streaming.

One of virtual fundraising’s major obstacles is limited face-to-face interaction. Restore that element with live streaming. When incorporated strategically, streaming allows you to engage guests similar to an in-person event. Try out live streaming with these suggestions:

  • Coordinate a virtual gala where you discuss your nonprofit’s efforts and share heart-touching videos.

  • Incorporate a live auction portion where you present items while attendees bid in real-time.

  • Host a finale stream where you thank guests and highlight top bidders.


For optimal results, combine these suggestions. Remember, the right auction software will allow you to stream directly within the platform, so bidders don’t have to access it elsewhere.

3. Use Gamification to Motivate Bidders.

Some friendly competition may be just what your digital event needs to keep energy high. The premise behind gamification is that users are motivated by game-like elements, boosting engagement.


While your auction should be fun, it should also challenge bidders to continue participating. As you get started, keep these gamification options in mind:


  • Leaderboards. Appeal to attendees’ competitive nature by showcasing top bidders, encouraging everyone to compete for the top spot.

  • Countdown timer. Make those final few moments count! Adding a clock creates a sense of urgency, driving last-second bids.

  • Outbid notifications. Notifications let bidders know to respond when outbid, which may lead to a high-dollar bidding war!


When used strategically, gamification drives motivation and maximizes revenue. Just be sure to learn what motivates your supporters to appeal to their interests.


Shifting your auction to the digital space doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. So long as you’re backed by intuitive tools, your team can host successful online auctions and sustain operations.


If you pull one off successfully, consider hosting online auctions even after the pandemic dissipates. Go into it with a positive attitude mixed with best practices, and you’ll capture support in no time!


Josh Thurmond is the Director of Client Services at Handbid. He has over 15 years of nonprofit and government management experience and a Masters in Public Administration. 


Before he entered the not for profit sector, he worked as a professional chef. Be sure to ask him for a recipe!

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