1. Why Online?
It is important to emphasize that your auction event, whether on or offline, is a key method for building and motivating your community. Your online event is aa additional marketing tool that is inseparable from, and supports, the promotion of all the opportunities for giving and involvement that are accessible on your website. Online events leverage and enhance your social media visibility.
If you already do a traditional auction fundraiser, every important task is addressed and made easier or more successful: registration, ticketing, cataloging, bidding, and auction administration. Event visibility, marketing, promotion and enthusiasm will all benefit.
Online fundraising is a new opportunity that expands the the opportunities available to development staff. We support and encourage the development of online fundraising initiatives, and we will help you develop an online strategy that is appropriate for your organization.
If you do not currently raise money via an auction, the ability to create virtual auction events of any size, and at any time, represents a new (and economical) income stream for your organization. In-kind donations can be accepted and pro-actively solicited. Online auction infrastructure converts in-kind donations to operating funds. It is frequently the case that potential donors have goods and services they will generously contribute, even when cash is in short supply.
2. Why BenefitEvents?
Our technology is excellent. But our support is unique. We are hands-on from start to finish; on-call at all times; and will design any customization your event requires. BenefitEvents has 15+ years experience in custom e-commerce solutions, and, since 1999, we have dedicated our efforts to providing nonprofit organizations with e-fundraising infrastructure. Our auction platform has been developed during this time in an ongoing exchange with our clients: nonprofits in all sectors, across the US. Our experience enables us to be actively engaged in the planning and strategy for your event. We offer unlimited support, at no charge. Our proprietary software is customizable to address any auction scenario. Our e-fundraising infrastructure is available 24/7 for any initiative.
3. Why not Ebay?
It's true, ebay is ubiquitous! And if all you want to do is auction off a single item for which you have absolutely no audience within your community, eBay is a good place to seek a buyer. But, to address your needs with respect to community and member development, event creation and management tools, customer support and consultation, custom design, and privacy, you must use a custom platform. Period! Two examples: eBay does not share bidder information with you -- all development and community building ambitions for your event go unrealized. Private and/or Password protected auctions are not supported. It's the difference between ready-to-wear and couture!
4. Will we make more money using your services? And, if not, how do we justify your fee?
Excellent and very FAQ! BenefitEvents will not promise you that your first foray into online auctions will raise more $ than you realized previously. Differences between items offered and the state of the economy from year to year make such a comparison futile. What we do promise is that you will broaden participation and visibility for your event and for your organization, simplify administration, and that you will be completely satisfied with the results and anxious to do it again next year. If this is not the case, we will reduce any fees due by 50%. Our satisfied clients are the best testimonial to your likely successes, and we encourage you to contact any of them and find out why they value our services and what you may expect for your event. Remember: your satisfaction will be reflected in achieving and exceeding your marketing and development goals, not just dollars raised.
5. I am a complete technophobe; do I have a future in the world of online fundraising?
Yes. The BenefitEvents bidder and administrative interfaces are designed with a person of average computer skills in mind and they have been refined over many years to fully realize that goal. At your convenience, please try the Demo Auction to experience the bidder interface. BenefitEvents staff is available at all times by phone or email (unlimited customer support at no charge) to guide you if you have questions about any aspect of the auction process -- strategy or administration. We assign a dedicated staff person to you who is on call from the first day to the last. You are never, ever, left on your own.
6. Can I sell tickets to my event online?
Yes. The same form used to register bidders can manage ticket sales. The registration form is customized to reflect the requirements of your event. If you are only having an online catalog and preview, you may also sell tickets online.
7. OK! Where do I start? How fast can I get my auction online?
You begin by signing a client agreement (download sample agreement) with BenefitEvents. We like to schedule new auction events as much in advance as possible for best service, especially with the seasonal nature of traditional events. However, it's not uncommon that putting an event online is a decison made late in the planning stages, and we are happy to get you up and running as fast as necessary. We can put your event online in less than 24 hours, if needed!
If possible, we recommend having most cataloging completed within 1 week of opening of online viewing or bidding; and customization of the various auction related pages (i.e. Splash, Registration, Conditions of Sale, etc.) started 4 weeks in advance.
8. How do I create an online catalog? I am already using (Maestrosoft, AuctionTracker, Access, Excel, Filemaker, Joey's Dad's Homemade Database c.1992) to catalog data locally, can I transfer this data to the online auction database?
Yes, in all cases. You may export from any local database or auction management software to the BenefitEvents auction database. (Or you may catalog directly in the online database from any computer, at any time.) Typically, a date for batch transfer of your local database contents is decided upon, and once this transfer is made, you may continue to add, delete, or edit items directly online at any time before and during the event. At the conclusion of the event, you have the option of importing the entire online catalog back into your local database for any post-event administrative tasks. Transfer of data in both directions is via Excel or CSV files.
Please note that particpant data can be imported from BenefitEvents into any "CRM" software such as Raiser's Edge, Convio, Get Active, etc.
All item descriptions may have web-links to Donor (or any other) web pages.
8a. & 8b.Can I sell multiples of a single item? Can we create "Fund-an-Item" with multiple donors and giving levels?
Yes. Our interface permits a range of multiple purchase, donor, and donation options. Let us know what you would like to accomplish and we will customize the interface as required, at no cost. Multiple purchase items can be set to a specific number and then close out when there are none remaining.
9. What about images to accompany item descriptions?
Images are essential for many items, and enhance every other. Images typically come from the following sources: digital photos; download from Web; donor provided. We recommend that images be 600-800 pixels in height (min. height 350 pixels). Banners from the web, or company logos may be overly wide relative to their heights and may need some editing - please contact us for guidance. You can enter up to 6 images for each item. (Maximum file size approx. 300K). You may also add images or icons for each auction category as well as your organization logo. We can manage your image needs if requested.
11. How do I create an introduction page for my auction event? How do I link to it?
As part of the Set-up, BenefitEvents will custom design with you an event introduction page. You may supply any text and images, as well as any sponsor logos and links you wish to feature (Intro Sample). You may also supply the entire splash page as a single graphic.
Your introduction page will have a unique URL. A link to this page is prominently featured on your organization home page. In most cases this will be the starting point for your community, thus your event will publicize your own URL. At your request, auctions that are open to the general public will be promoted on our home page. Your Introduction Page may reside on your server for regular updating.
12. Can our event be private? Can we have public and private sections?
Most of the events we support are by invitation only. In addition to having an URL that is only accessible from your homepage, your event can be further protected with a unique password. It is possible to keep some parts of your event private and some parts open to the general public.
13. How do I publicize my event? Do you have mass email capability?
All the traditional event promotion tools must be employed. In addition, the value of email in this context obligates you to maintain a reliable email list to promote your event and to distribute an "Auction Newsletter". Every auction needs an auctioneer, even one that's online, and the newsletter is yours. Sent everyday (at your discretion) during online bidding to registered bidders and other subscribers, it stokes enthusiasm and updates the status of selected items. We have integrated BenefitEvents registration process with the Constant Contact email program (www.constantcontact.com) to give you the highest rated email marketing capability, at no additional cost.
Publicizing an event is as much about eliciting and maintaining the enthusiasm of your community, as it is about expanding your audience for ongoing support.
14.What are the Bidding options?
There is a continuum of "event" bidding scenarios in the online environment, some examples are:
A - Online catalog, with online pre-bidding or absentee bidding, with bidding concluding during live "gala" in the traditional manner. In this case the highest online bid becomes the starting bid on your bid sheets.
B - Online-only bidding on selected or all silent auction items, bidding on these items concludes online typically prior to gala but may continue post-gala as well.
C - All silent auction bidding is conducted via computer terminals and/or smartphone at gala; bidding concludes at gala; non-attendees may be invited to bid as full participants.
Proxy bidding (Smartbid,Autobid) and guarantee price bidding (BuyNow) are options for all bidding scenarios. Retail sales, Wishlists and Direct Donations, can all be managed by the BenefitEvents auction software.
In addition, our infrastructure is continually available for your ongoing use. You may create virtual events of any size from one to many items at any time and for any duration. You may, for example, "crowdfund" throughout the year. Please contact BenefitEvents with new event ideas, we will be happy to help develop strategy or software to realize them.
15. Can We Print Catalog and Bidsheets?
Yes. Item and current bid/bidder data from the online auction database can be converted into an auction catalog or into bid sheets.
(Catalog Page Example); (Bid Sheet Example).
Catalog and Bid Sheet templates can be custom designed for your event.
16. What Are My Winning Bidder Payment Options?
There are three primary options:
A - Pre-registered credit cards: BenefitEvents is integrated with the Stripe payment platform. At the conclusion of online bidding, you have spreadsheet of winning bids and bidders and can excute payments via your Stripe account. No fee to set up Stripe.
B - Client may open merchant account with BenefitEvents' gateway partner that accepts batch payment from Excel. One click processing of all payments. Favorable terms and no set-up fees.
C - If you have a merchant account (or Paypal) a direct hyperlink to your payment page can be part of the email that is sent to all winning bidders, which contains all items won and the total amount due.
[BenefitEvents is not a fiduciary for your funds, nor receives any transaction fees with respect to auction payments.]
17. Is a Credit Card required for Bidding?
Please see above. The Registration form (Sample Registration) is customized to reflect your payment options and any other unique information you wish to solicit.
18. Can I create an auction event that involves multiple organizations, or multiple branches of the same organization?
Yes. Our auction tools have been uniquely designed to facilitate any scenario of cross organization auctions or cooperative events under a national umbrella.
19. What is the Cost?
All-Inclusive Standard Fee:
10% of the total online winning bids (or high prebids) up to $25K and 5% of such bids above that amount (further discounts for high $ auctions are offered).
(New clients receive a 10% discount on fees due, for their first event).
Note: Auctions whose total online bidding is less than $5000 pay a flat fee of $500. This minimum fee is typically paid as a deposit upon signing of auction agreement.
Also: Our fee is based on your cumulative total bidding if you have multiple auctions or sales during any one year. The minimum fee is paid once during any one client year and will be credited to additional events, if your first event takes in less than $5000.
There are NO OTHER FEES (no set-up or yearly fee) for online auction hosting or unlimited customer support and consultation with a dedicated account manager. Fees include custom designed event introduction page, customization of catalog template, page navigation and registration form, custom bid increments, and sponsor logos.
*** What Have I Forgotten to Ask?
Each organization produces their event differently. We will provide you a solution that meets your unique needs. If you don't find an answer in this FAQ, or an example already on the BenefitEvents site, please contact us. We can customize an auction solution for any scenario and are always interested in supporting new ideas. And maybe you'll find your question has become part of this FAQ!