Mobile Bidding Revolutionizes Charity Fundraising
At charity galas these days, you're likely to see a lot of obsessive cell phone glancing. Sure, they might be checking email, or the score of the Dodger's game, but more likely they are waiting to pounce on that auction for the chef's table at The French Laundry. Welcome to the brave new world of competitive philanthropic consumption.
The ease of use and added engagement of bidding-by-gadget are obvious draws, but in addition to replacing clipboards, paddles and bid sheets, mobile bidding allows participation to extend beyond the event site, allowing anyone, anywhere to place bids. For many non-profits that have added mobile bidding to their charity galas, the results have been higher bidder enthusiasm, more accurate post-auction analytics and, most importantly, exceeded fundraising goals.
Here is a quick look at four of the most important players in the mobile bidding game.
Indianapolis-based BidPal is a fast growing, tech-forward player in the mobile auction landscape. Guests bid via their own smartphones or an iPhone-like BidPal device pre-loaded with item descriptions, photos, values, bid increments and donor information. Smartphone access allows bids to be placed before the event begins, from any location. Bidders create watch lists and receive notifications when they are outbid. They can also set maximum proxy bids. Event organizers can also offer a "Buy it Now" option.
BidPal's mobile app also includes a "Make a Donation" button, allowing attendees to give cash on the spot. It also features a scoreboard showing real-time donation revenue.
At the close of the auction, BidPal enables instant checkout and provides post-event auction data to event organizers to help them understand what worked and what did not, enabling them to improve performance at future events.
When the iPad was introduced in 2010, Brooklyn-based fundraising company ibidmobile took notice and conscripted the new device into service for non-profit auctions. Roaming iPad valets interact with event guests to take bids and encourage participation.
Before the event, credit cards are swiped at the registration desk to streamline the bidding process.
ibidmobile also allows synchronized bidding via web and smartphone, which enables pre-bidding and offsite participation.
Top bids appear simultaneously on each iPad, an electronic leaderboard and on the auction website. Outbid notices are immediately sent to mobile devices so that participants can quickly rebid, on or offsite. There is no need for guests to hover over a clipboard in fear of being outbid on that Napa vacation.
eCheckout begins immediately at the close of the auction. Unsold lots may be offered for sale to increase revenue via the auction website or at the event.
Ibidmobile offers post-event analysis and bidding data to help identify potential donors and improve performance at future events.
Asked about the impact bidding by device has had on his clients' auctions, Todd Weiner, founder of iBidMobile said, "Ninety two-percent of our clients [are] making more money, anywhere from thirty to fifty percent on average."
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, BiddingForGood uses Smart Bidding - a fluid app that allows bidders to participate from their mobile devices or from laptops and tablets stationed at the event. Smartphone users can also use the app for offsite bidding. Guests with standard mobile phones can bid and receive alerts via text.
A leaderboard at the event highlights items and displays progress toward the fundraising goal in real time, which builds excitement and promotes bidding.
Combined with the BiddingForGood ticket feature, Smart Bidding streamlines the checkout process. Bidders supply their credit card information when buying a ticket, reducing lines at registration and checkout.
BiddingForGood charges a scant $200 to add mobile bidding to an event auction. The package includes consultation, training and support.
New York City's Charitybuzz boasts a client base of more than 1,500 non-profits. Auctions tend to focus on celebrity encounters, exclusive music, theater and sporting event packages and even walk on roles in film and television shows. The company's bread and butter is in traditional online bidding via their website, but they also offer flexible packages of integrated live event bidding components. Clients can choose between a roaming staff of iPad attendants who will mingle with guests or a dedicated auction area outfitted with laptops, or a combination of both.
Mobile bidding is a relatively new addition to charity fundraising, but it has already transformed the way silent auctions are conducted. As handheld technology rapidly evolves and companies compete to assist non-profits in exceeding their fundraising goals, the click of the touchscreen will ring louder than the crack of the gavel.