I like to think of myself as an early adopter. I got into the internet game in the very early days. I was on the original team at AltaVista when it was the hottest search engine online in 1997. Those were the heady days of the first internet bubble. Since that time, I’ve seen many new sites come and go. I was an early member of Facebook, I Tweet, I use LinkedIn quite religiously, and the list goes on. But Pinterest… Wow. This site has taken off like wildfire and I know why.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well take one look at Pinterest and you’ll see the power of pictures as a sharing tool. Here’s the concept: Pinterest is a site where you can collect images of things that interest you and share them with your network of friends and connections. You create “boards” by topic and invite the community to look at your boards, comment on them, “re-pin” your images, and share them.
So my boards include “Celebrating Nonprofits,” “Places and Spaces,” “Delicious Food Ideas,” “Infographics- Marketing,” “Books Worth Reading,” and “Burning Man Baby” - I’ll tell you about that one some other time. You can create boards on any topic that you are passionate about.
Why should you care? Well some of the most popular topic categories actually mirror the item categories on BiddingForGood. Fashion, home decor, sports, travel destinations, entertainment, and more. There are already hundreds of images on Pinterest that have been “pinned” from the BiddingForGood site. They've basically been cut and pasted from the BiddingForGood site onto Pinterest. And we're working on a BiddingForGood Pinterest page, which you can follow as well. We’re just getting started so help us fill up our page with your pins.
But now, let's think about this from the point of view of an auction committee that is getting ready to share their auction and get more bids and bidders. Many of you already share items and your auction link on Facebook and Twitter. What you are doing is merchandising the items in your auction, promoting them to the people who may want to bid on them. Now you can “pin” your items on Pinterest. Oh, and did I mention that the site already has 12 million users and the numbers are growing like crazy? It is incredibly addictive and “fun” - two great features of a winning website. So jump in. Try it out.
Want to see what I’m passionate about? Click here and take a look: www.pinterest.com/perryallison
Happy Pinning and Happy Fundraising!
BiddingForGood has a wealth of tools to help you run a high-performing auction. I’m here to tell you all about a very useful part of our suite that you might not know much about: reports!
For example, the Sponsor/Donor by Item Report gives you a list of all of the items you have entered and their donors. The Registered Users Report provides a list of everyone who has registered to bid on your auction and anyone who has placed a bid or submitted a donation. However, there are also a couple of reports that are extremely valuable that require a little more digging to understand. The Auction Activity Report and End of Auction Report are the two I’d like to take a closer look at.
The Auction Activity Report is one of the most important reports available to you. It gives you a summary of:
- Total dollar amount of high bids
- Number of bids placed so far
- Number of items with bids
- Which items have bids
- Number of bids on each item
- Which items have watches
- Number of watches on each item
You should check this report daily during your auction, because it gives you valuable insight into how you can increase the bid activity on your auction. If you find there are some amazing items that have no bids but a lot of watches, you should feature those items on your homepage and in your emails. Post about them on Facebook or Tweet about them. Take those interested watchers and turn them into bidders!
If the end of your auction is approaching, and you see that there’s a category where none of the items have bids or watches, you may want lower the opening bids a bit. You can then promote the markdowns and it may be just the nudge bidders need to start bidding.
Your Auction Activity Report can offer you a concrete look at how your auction is doing. If it’s day three of your auction and you feel nervous about how you’re doing, you can take a look at the report to get some numbers. You may find you’re doing much better than you thought you were!
Be sure to keep an eye on your Auction Activity Report in the final days of your auction. (Don’t’ forget to send out those final reminder emails). You’ll most likely see a major uptick in bidding in those last few days!
The End of Auction Report will offer you a wealth of information about your online auction’s performance once it has ended. It will even offer you some comparison data about how you’re auction performed compared with others in your cause group. Some of the key information on this report includes:
- Bid Activity Per Day: A graph illustrating where the peaks and valleys were in your auction’s bid activity.
- Key Auction Metrics: Gross revenue, net revenue, percentage of items sold, etc.
- Audience Engagement: Bids per bidder, items sold per bidder, watches on items, etc.
- Top 10 Performing Categories: Number of items sold per category, revenue raised per category, bids per category, etc.
- Email Activity: If you sent emails through our tool, this will show you the delivery rate, open rate, and click rate of your email sends.
To give you an idea of what you can learn from the report, the Bid Activity graph will allow to find out if the bids went up on the days you sent out your emails or when you Tweeted. Did starting promotions six weeks ahead of time pay off? If you see a major surge of bidding on the first day, you can be certain it did.
Your Top 10 Performing Categories will also show you which items were the money makers. Work on getting more of those items for your next auction, and you’ll likely see even more success.
There’s a lot of information here, so if you’d like some help interpreting it, you can schedule an "end of auction consultation" with your auction expert to go through the report. If you aren’t sure who your auction expert is you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, Bryan wrote a great post about creative messaging and engaging your supporters. And it got me thinking (since it's the holidays, I had to think a little harder because all I want to do right about now is eat cookies and open presents): what are some ways to get creative with your messaging? Besides traditional email campaigns, letter campaigns, etc - what else can an auction administrator do broaden their reach? Well, you're in luck because I have a few ideas!
1. QR Codes – What the cool kids are doing:
QR Codes (Quick Response Barcodes) are a great way to connect your print marketing materials to your online auction because they can link directly to the site. I’m sure you’ve seen them on various ads, postcards, etc. I even saw on recently on a ketchup bottle! These were completely weird looking and foreign to me about a year ago too. But after I read a little more about them and downloaded a QR reader on my phone, I'm now that person who has to stop whenever they see a QR code, scan it and see where it takes me. Just "because."
What is a QR Code you ask? A QR code is a barcode that someone can scan using their smartphone’s QR Code reader (many phones have one already installed; if not, it can easily be downloaded) and then automatically opens the website in their phone’s browser. If you want to try it out, scan the code above! (Don’t worry – it’ll take you to our mobile site: m.biddingforgood.com!).
Here are some easy ways to incorporate QR codes in your auction:
- Create one for your auction’s URL and include it on all of your print materials, advertisements, posters, invitations, etc.
- Use it as a main article image, so people can easily get to the site from their phone.
- Create QR codes for specific items. You can upload them as one of the item images and then people can easily link to it from their phone. Also, our Item Sheets now automatically include QR Codes, so you can those at your live event and encourage mobile bidding.
If you’re ready to hop on the QR Code wagon and use them for your next auction, HubSpot recently posted the steps to create your own QR codes along with some helpful tips. Happy QR code-scanning!
2. Twitter is important - Take it from Ochocinco!
Last week, Patriots player Chad Ochocinco treated a social media class from my alma mater, Emerson College, to dinner and spoke to them about how he uses Twitter and how it’s helped his career. While he did have some helpful tips on his Twitter success, the fact that a football player/reality TV star/celebrity was able to connect with a class of college students is pretty awesome and shows the power and reach of social media. Your organization may not have 3 million+ followers like Ochocinco, but that shouldn’t deter you from developing a strong Twitter, and overall social media, campaign for your auction.
- If you haven’t already done so, create a Twitter and Facebook account so you can start building a supporter base on both sites. From there you can start publicizing your auction!
- I mentioned it before but hashtags are a fun and easy way to start a conversation over Twitter about a topic. Now that you have a Twitter account, think about a fun hashtag to use for your event. To get others involved, include the auction specific hashtag on any auction-related correspondence.
- Besides tweeting to your own followers, tweet about the auction to others, such as your item donors, sponsors, even BiddingForGood!
*If you want to combine QR Codes and Twitter, you could create a QR Code to your Twitter URL or better yet to your hashtag discussion! (I don't know about you, but I may have just blown my own mind!).
3. Referrals - That's what she said
With social sites like Yelp, Facebook and Twitter, it's easy to see what stuff other people are recommending. Many of the restaurants or businesses I visit are because one of my friends told me about it and recommended that I check it out. The same concept should be applied to your auction.
As Thomas explained last week, you should think of your auction as a business. And since it's a business, you should try to get referrals and recommendations. Ask your supporters, even co-workers and friends, to post about the auction on their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Their friends are more likely to visit the site and check out the items if it's coming from someone they know.
Have you had any success using any of these ideas? Do you have any other recommendations? Please share in the comment section below!
As a non-profit, you’re presented with various challenges… how to get people involved, how to extract every dime out of anyone whose attention you have, how to get the most out of limited resources, time, budget, people, iron ore, etc. Old news, right? Here’s where I’m going... these challenges are begging to be solved with some creativity!
To set the stage, there are literally over 1.5 million non-profits in the United States (and that number is constantly growing). According to the 2011 World Giving Index, 65% of Americans are giving money to non-profits and 43% are volunteering their time… don’t you feel like you should have a larger slice of those pies? While your mission is likely compelling in its own right, you are in a heated competition. Competition… that doesn’t sound very non-profity? Embrace it. You’re competing for those dollars, for those volunteers, and the important first piece of the puzzle… for attention.
The first step in selling someone anything is getting people to listen to you long enough to understand what you’re talking about in the first place. That’s right; grab their attention - and it doesn’t need to be something wacky and over the top (but it can be). You can roll some creative, attention grabbing techniques into what you’re doing right now. Are you sending a newsletter? Are you making presentations? Are you hosting events? Doing an annual mailing?
If you’re thinking, “there are only so many ways we can send out this newsletter,” I’m going to present you with my challenge: be creative. It would be great if you had a fantastic marketing department like we do at BiddingForGood (the people that are responsible for this work of art), but not everyone has that luxury. If you take a stab at thinking outside the box for an e-mail, or one of your blog posts, or at a presentation, you may be surprised at how you can engage and reengage your supporters.
Here are some tips that we employ over here to keep our minds working, our message fresh, and our audience engaged:
- Use an analogy that seems like a stretch, and then bring it home
- Create some content that breaks the ice and is a talking point
- Have a company-wide brainstorm session to tackle problems (you could be pleasantly surprised where the ideas come from)
There are probably 300 other entries that can be added to this; please share any other ideas you have in the comments section. You’re likely taking at least a few days off in the coming weeks to recharge the batteries… spend some time thinking about how to revamp the same old same old, and come back to that 2012 kick-off meeting with some new, fresh, creative energy!
And Happy Holidays.
This past week, Alice and Bryan both presented some really great ideas for making the most of your BiddingForGood subscription and running more than one online auction.
But what about if this is your first auction? How do you make the most of your subscription from day one? Well, I'm here to tell you that one of the best ways is to give yourself at least 90 days to start your first auction.
From time to time I speak to a new client who is simply raring to go and wants to start tomorrow! In fact, earlier this week I had a conversation with one of my new clients about what their fundraising plans were and when would be a good time to run. She was really eager to start her auction right away in order to take advantage of holiday shoppers.
Now, while I can appreciate her positive, energetic attitude and under most circumstances I would say "A holiday auction is a wonderful idea!" I actually told her that she may want to give herself some more time. Now before you start shaking your head and asking why on Earth would I tell someone to not run right now, I can explain:
Even though the average online auction runs for about 2 weeks, there's a lot of prep work that goes into getting it ready:
1. Item Acquisition: Many donors ask that you contact them for an item donation at least 6-8 weeks before your auction so you'll need to account for that, plus the time it will take for you to compile a list of businesses, friends, family, other contacts to reach out to for donations.
Also, your catalog value should be at least 2 to 2.5 times your goal. So, if you're hoping to raise $15,000, you're looking at a catalog with $30,000 worth of items. It's going to take time to collect that many items.
2. Publicity: Whether it's your first, fifth, or hundredth auction, you have to promote and publicize your auction. We recommend that you start promoting at least 30 days before your auction's open date. Especially if it's your first auction, this is completely new to your community, so you need to get them warmed up to the idea. Encourage your community to check out the site to preview items and register early.
Before that 30 day mark though, you'll need to come up with a publicity plan - at least a rough one. Your plan should include emails, using social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), and printed promotional material.
Now, I don't mean to be a "Debbie Downer," "take the wind out of your sails," or any other saying about being pessimistic toward those that are eager to hit the ground running and start their auction immediately. I actually think it's great to want to start working at full force, however you should channel that energy towards preparing for a successful auction. The more time you spend on getting good, quality items and on properly publicizing your event, the more money you'll raise and the happier your community will be with the great auction you've pulled off. And you'll see that it paid off just by taking some extra time to do it right.
For those of you out there who are part of the team assembling a catalog for your auction, online or otherwise, you know the following to be true: When donation requests are made, it is humbly asked that the donor provides the item by a certain date that will allow your team ample time to do what needs to be done to use that item in your auction…(see where this is going?)
The majority of your donors are able to accommodate that! However, there are always some donors that read “by a certain date” as “we’re a non-profit, so really whenever you have a chance to look at this request and approve it, even if it is after our event has happened, we would be so grateful to have it.” Now, there’s some shred of truth to that, non-profits are extremely resourceful and will certainly find a use for the item…but it would have been great to have this item on time, right? If that is what is really running through your head when you see gift certificates and baskets trickle in after the event, you are not an ingrate (nor are you alone). What’s a non-profit to do!?
With BiddingForGood, you have options! You can actually add a late item to your online auction up until the last day (or moment, really). Let’s say, however, that these items are coming in way, way too late. Why not take advantage of the fact that you can run as many auctions as you want throughout the year! Try putting the latecomers in what is known at BiddingForGood as a “one-off” auction?
One-off auctions, like their robust counterparts, take on all different shapes and sizes in the real world (like this one and this one, for example). They could truly be comprised of one item (the cooler the item is, clearly the more successful it is likely to be) or you can run a miniature version of the larger auction you just ran. Sometimes you only have a certain amount of time to get some great tickets to the highest bidder. Whatever the specific reason for your one-off, it gives you an opportunity to coordinate another marketing push and continue to familiarize your community with the online auction technology that you will be using for next year’s event.
You may be thinking, “I have to do this all over again?” No! You are able to copy your settings, homepages, and even unsold items into a new auction with a few clicks. Instant one-off auction. Now when an auction item misses the cutoff date, instead of thinking “Where am I going to keep this for an entire year,” you can already have your homepage copied and an e-blast waiting to clear your Outbox!
While watching the rain continue to come down from my BiddingForGood cubicle, I was pondering how I could brighten up your day and shed some light on the auction front.
I have been with the company for just under 18 months and have learned way more in those past 18 months than any other Intro to Biology or Philosophy class taken at my Alma Mater. (Go Eagles!) What I have learned is the importance of promotion in auctions. At least once a day, I see things that could have been done differently and, in turn, yield much greater success in each of these auctions that I try to uncover and decipher. "Thomas, I just don't think I picked a good time to run an auction!" or "We never really got enough activity in our auction." COME ON PEOPLE! WE CAN DO THIS!
All organizations want to make as much money as possible through auctions. Promotion is HUGE in gaining the maximum revenue. I will discuss what I want to see with my current clients (Hi all!) and all other organizations looking to raise money in the future. Promotion can be broken down into 3 time periods: Before, during and after.
The calm before the storm: This is where the rubber meets the road, or whatever that expression is supposed to mean, and things begin to come together. You have items, you have your pretty homepage, and are ready to promote. How? Easy. Social media is huge and you'd better do it in every which way possible. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Organization's website, etc. The more social media coverage you have, the better. Previewing what items are in the auction is another important step in the pre-auction phase. Giving an idea of what will be in your auction will give your constituents a sense of excitement, even before the auction begins. Lastly, promoting in the "real" world is key. Flyers at the school, posters around the office bulletin boards around the community center are all great ideas to make people aware of your auctions and online auctions.
The 7th inning stretch: Your auction is live! Don't panic...you are raising money as you are reading this. Important steps can be taken during the auction in order to increase revenue. Market your high ticket items. This will attract everyone going to your auction and peruse other items you have to offer. If you get a new item during the course of the auction, send out an email, update your twitter, and Facebook it! This will bring people back to your auction and make them look at it in a new light. Before the auction closes, do NOT be afraid to send out a couple emails letting people know the close time. You won't want to kick yourself knowing that you could have got that extra bid because you didn't send one last email to Mom. Promotion is essential during the auction to keep your auction upbeat and new!
Now what?: Now that you are full of glee from your auction results, what do you do now? Keep these people on a short leash! Continue to promote to these people throughout the year. You have their email addresses, so send those updates. Send them updates about the next event you have coming up. These people have shown that they will support your organization and there is nothing telling me or you that they will not do that again. You want to capture them and keep them on your radar.
These are a few basic tips all should follow before, during and after your auction. The auction is a great source of visibility. Promotion is key to increasing this visibility and putting your organization on the map.
I confess: I'm a sucker for gossip magazines and reality TV. While I'm waiting at the doctor's office or getting a pedicure, I'll grab the latest copy and indulge myself. Even while I wait on line at the super market, I'll at least scan all of the headlines and if it's a long line, well I guess there's enough time to read an article or two. It's a guilty pleasure of mine, ok?
If you indulge in this as much (or as little?) as I do, I'm sure you've noticed that there are some recurring characters on the covers for one reason or another - Guess who's filing for divorce? They cheated with whom? They've lost a lot of weight! Are they pregnant?
It's gotten to the point where I ask, what are they actually famous for again? Maybe they were on a show years ago or they dated someone famous. But, for many it seems like their 15 minutes will just never end.
There's a lesson to be learned. Televising your wedding on the E! Network is not that the best way to reach your fundraising goal. How can you bring your auction up to celebrity status? The good news is that you don't have to be involved in a scandal or questionable behavior to get some attention!
Create a brand - Your organization is a brand on its own, but you want to develop an identity for your auction. One way to create a brand is to develop a theme for your auction. An auction theme can range from pretty general, i.e. "A Garden Party," to very specific, ie."The Totally Rad 80’s Prom Night."
When you have a brand, it's much easier to create a message. Can you create a fun tag line to use on your site and print materials? Going back to the "80s prom" theme you could incorporate some 80s references and slang in your invitations and other promotional pieces, encourage people to dress in old prom dresses and tuxes, and play 80s music.
Go Viral - Social media is everywhere these days, so it's imperative that you incorporate Facebook, Twitter, etc when promoting your event. If you don't already have a Facebook or Twitter account for your organization, you should set one up right away. Besides promoting your event, it's a great way to spread awareness about your organization as a whole and create buzz.
On Twitter, create an event specific hashtag and use it whenever you tweet about your auction (To learn more about hashtags, click here). Encourage people to use the hashtag when they tweet too. For example, during the BiddingForGood mobile webinars, we use the hashtag #B4GMobile and encourage others to include that hashtag when they tweet their questions. This not only helps us keep an eye on what people are saying, but it's a great way to start a conversation with your followers over Twitter.
Create an event on Facebook for your auction. Invite all of your supporters and encourage them to forward it to their friends too. This is an easy way to communicate about your auction, share links, and keep people engaged.
Have fun - If you're looking to get more supporters, participants and attendees, you'll need to think of creative ways to attract them. This will also help create a more memorable event, so that the next year people remember how much fun they had the year before and all the cool stuff there was. For those of you who watch "Parks and Recreation," you might be envisioning something by Entertainment 720 with fog machines, NBA players, dancers, a hot tub, etc. But you don't need to go that over the top to create something memorable!
I recently went to an event in my town and the week before the organizer emailed everyone who purchased tickets with directions, will-call information, etc. In the email, he also asked everyone to wear orange to the event, since it was part of their theme. It's something small, but it can help create a sense of camaraderie - plus seeing a bunch of people in orange is pretty neat!
Remember you don't need Tiger Blood or Adonis DNA, nor do you need to hire paparazzi to follow you everywhere. By incorporating these ideas in your next auction, you can bring it up to celebrity status!
As a marketing specialist and graphic designer at BiddingForGood, I'm here to show you a few easy design tweaks that can keep your auction looking as good (and profitable) as possible.
1. Fix Those Blurry Images
What the auction holder thinks: "Well, it's a little blurry, but this is the only photo I have so I guess it will have to make due. It still gets the point across."
What the bidding community thinks: "I'm not bidding on that! The quality of the item probably matches the quality of the photo: poor and unprofessional."
Solution: This photo is an example of an image that was originally smaller than the size it's shown at now. In order to avoid distortion like this, make sure all photos you upload to BiddingForGood are at least 336 x 235 pixels. If you're not sure how big your image is, use your mouse to right click and "Get Info". You can then see the width and height of the image. In the event you need to change the size of your photo but don't have the correct software, create an account on a photo hosting site like photobucket which gives you access to their easy to use and free editing program!
2. Stay Away From Crazy Color Schemes
What the auction holder thinks: "I love that BiddingForGood allows me to customize the colors of my auction site! These colors match my personality perfectly!"
What the bidding community thinks: "This page is really distracting. It's hard to focus on items with all these colors, and I really can't read the details very well."
Solution: Because everyone's style is different, the general rule is to be conservative when choosing colors schemes. You really never need more than 3, and they should compliment each other instead of causing contrast which can be an eye-strain.
3. Customizing Your Auction Banner
Leaving your banner blank is one of the worst mistakes you can make, because you miss out on a huge opportunity to express who your auction is, and what you're all about. Remember, 65% of the population consists of visual thinkers who grasp concepts visually.
Here are 4 great examples of what you can do with your auction banner:
Banner Health Foundation
Boys and Girls Club
These designs are complicated, but well worth the extra effort. If your organization doesn't have access to a graphic designer, or someone well-versed in design programs, consider using one of the many free banner maker sites on the web, or contact your auction expert to ask about our design services.
With these 3 design tips, your auction will not only be successful, but bound to impress potential donors!
When you sign up to run an online auction with BiddingForGood, you are assigned an Online Auction Expert , like me, as your Account Manager. We are here to help you reach your fundraising goals and to make your auction a success. But how exactly do we do that?
First, we offer you an Initial Consultation. This is a scheduled call to talk about your auction and what you can do to make it a success. This consultation is important because before you start building your auction it makes sense to first have an auction strategy. Don’t worry, we offer lots of tech support too. We have training videos and print materials, a huge Knowledgebase addressing FAQ’s, and a tech support line that you can call. You’ll learn more about these resources in our next blog, this Wednesday! Your Account Manager can help you with technical questions to, but we are predominantly here to be your auction consultants.
Some of the questions we’ll answer in our Initial Consultation are: “Which items do best online?”, “What’s the best way to promote my online auction?”, “How long should I run my online auction for?”, and “How do I charge the winners?” and many others! We have documents addressing all these questions such as our Project Checklist and Tip Sheets. But it’s still important to talk with your Account Manager, so we can brainstorm how to make your specific auction a success. Each organization is different and we want to be a member of your unique Auction Team.
We’ve helped run thousands of auctions over the years and can also use that experience to guide you. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “We have an idea, but we don’t know if it’ll work well online or if anyone has tried it before.” I hear their idea, and I can almost always tell them it’s been tried before and how successful it has or hasn’t been. Sometimes I hear a brand new idea, and it’s exciting to talk about trying it out We’ve collected lots of data that helps us understand what makes an auction a success and that we use to guide our clients. We also have a tremendous amount of one on one experience with other organizations to share.
Whether your brand new to BiddingForGood or have been running with us for years, we want to help you make every auction you run with us a success. Auction Experts also offer End of Auction Consultations to help you improve your next auction results. Before you know it, you’ll be a part of the wisdom we have to share with all our clients!
Alice Curley, Senior Online Auction Expert