Mobile Bidding Software to Enhance Virtual Fundraising: Part I

Kristin Smith

Mobile Bidding Software to Enhance Virtual Fundraising: Part I

How can you efficiently register virtual viewers, collect donations and sell online auction items and revenue streams? Mobile bidding software. 

When nonprofits take the plunge to virtual fundraising, the first question is usually this: What is the best, easiest and most effective way to collect funds and manage donor data? It’s a critical question and the perfect place to start!

There are many options when it comes to mobile bidding software, and it can be overwhelming when you don’t know what you don’t know. So we’ve taken the liberty of dissecting the ins and outs of bidding platforms so you don’t have to.

Here are the most common questions we field:

What is mobile bidding software?

In the simplest terms, mobile bidding software is a paperless, cloud-based method of bidding, buying, donating and registering donors. The software allows them to register, donate, bid and buy directly from their devices, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop or even a SmartTV.

Do we really NEED a mobile bidding platform?

This one falls in the “essential” category, folks, assuming you’re doing more than just collecting cash donations (which you can accomplish solely through your website or a donation landing page – if you don’t want updated donor data). Selling raffle tickets, auction packages, sign-up parties, and registering for virtual events do require mobile bidding software, to store or vault guests’ credit card and contact information. That way they can easily register, participate, place bids, purchase revenue streams and make donations. 

Plus, there’s organizing and reporting of data – two extremely important functions of good bidding software. Good software should also allow you to see and sort donations and bids in real time, so your Dynamic Duo (emcee/host and auctioneer/fundraising ambassador) can recognize and thank people by name from the stage.

What are the major differences between fundraising software programs?

Mainly, the overall look – what viewers actually see – is the main difference. But there are other differences with regard to functionality.

Adding pictures and video to the bidding platform or software is important for marketing packages to potential buyers and easily catching (and keeping) their attention. Free or less expensive software is limited, both in terms of visuals AND capabilities. Be leary of free – just like anything, you get what you pay for. How information is shared also varies from software to software. Be sure to vet all potential solutions to be certain they offer what you need and want.

If offering a live or online auction, can donations and bidding be seen and/or displayed to viewers live?

Depends on the software. Some solutions are functional and simple, covering basic needs like mobile bidding and donations. But they don’t have those little extras – like that dynamic giving thermometer, that everyone loves to watch rise! Some are far more comprehensive, with features you may never use, even if you knew how. Ask questions and decide how much you want to pay, because there’s a wide range. Which brings us to…

How much do mobile bidding solutions cost?

Depends on what you’re after. Some software companies offer nonprofits a basic package for free. Some more robust programs cost up to $5,000 (and everything in between!). Some are one-time use only; some offer subscriptions where you can use their services all year long, or use it for unlimited events. This might be a good option if you’re planning to host multiple events in a calendar year. And some software companies will reduce those prices if you agree to a multi-year contract. So ask!

How do mobile bidding software companies determine fees and fee structure?

Also remember to ask about costs and hidden fees, because these can vary widely. If you opt for the yearly subscription, expect to pay about 2.5%-3.5% of revenue earned – in addition to your subscription fee. Some software companies add an additional “per transaction” fee. And many consider credit card processing fees as a separate expense – so be sure to KNOW what you’re getting into. Some give you the option of passing that cost on to the donor. Some don’t. The overall credit card processing fee is usually based on the number of dollars you’re processing. A general rule of thumb: The more money processed, the lower the CC fees. 

What is peer-to-peer fundraising? Does mobile software offer peer-to-peer options?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a multi-tiered approach to crowdfunding, where individuals can create personal fundraising pages for your cause’s behalf. This can send revenue back to your organization as a whole, or to a specific campaign or event.

Peer-to-Peer fundraising campaigns are becoming more popular for orgs in this new virtual world. There typically is a fee, however, some are free (though limited in functionality). One Cause and Classy are both examples of more comprehensive platforms. Though widely varied in price, both have amazing support teams and help you set up your initial event. Give Lively also has a simple and free version. Peer-to-peer fundraisers are gaining momentum these days, and that’s a trend we don’t see going away any time soon. There are several different ways to conduct them – one is similar to crowdfunding, but with multiple pages. You start your own and encourage your friends and supporters to start THEIR own, as well. More and more people hear about it, and ideally, more and more people give! 

Who are reputable mobile bidding software companies to vet?  

Ready for referrals? A few of our favorites are listed below, as well as the most frequently-used software by nonprofits in our market. Do keep in mind, it’s NOT an exhaustive list – we’d be here all day! (Let it be known that we are not affiliated with and take zero commissions or kickbacks for referrals from any software companies – including those listed below.)
Offers comprehensive software – an all-in-one virtual option, with all the features you need to host a virtual event. This includes viewing the livestream within the software, eliminating the need for two devices (one to watch on; one to bid from). also allows you to choose your own VISA processor – key to keeping hidden costs to a minimum. This is a fantastic all-in-one solution at a very reasonable price. 

Greater Giving
Greater Giving offers many of the same functions as – at a more premium price. However, GG does offer more tools you can customize yourself, if you so desire. You will pay more, but you’ll wind up with more extensive reporting capabilities – though be prepared to be married to GG’s VISA processor. Some argue GG offers a better visual look overall. We’ll let you do your own research and decide for yourself!  

Give Lively
Your go-to option for extremely tight budgets. It’s free for nonprofits – there’s no annual fee or subscription required – however, there are fees assessed from your deposit amounts. Give Lively accepts cash donations and provides peer-to-peer fundraising features. But the platform is limited in most other capabilities. You won’t have many visual options if you choose this route.

One Cause
This one is a very comprehensive platform that can host a full virtual event, peer-to-peer fundraising or a race (in-person and virtual races). One Cause can handle any sort of fundraising you want to do with video hosting. The peer-to-peer platform, with social media sharing features, makes it easy to increase donations. It also provides a lot of additional features you won’t find with other software companies. But don’t forget, those features will cost you!

Other notable (yet not as widely adopted) mobile bidding software companies that get our endorsement for virtual events:
Trellis, Give Smart, Event.Gives, Auctria, Bidding Owl, Bidding for Good and Paybee.

Do folks have to register to watch or participate?   

You do need folks to register or sign up to participate and view virtual events, IF you’re streaming your event through the software. And most orgs WANT guests to register, since they can’t technically donate or bid if they don’t. You’ll also have more accurate contact info if donors are allowed to register and edit their own information on the front end. But there might be some who might not want (or be in a position) to give, yet still want to watch, offer moral support and chat. So even if you’re streaming through software, it’s best to also stream to an additional viewing platform – YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo, etc. These are places folks can watch without registering, since you don’t want to leave anyone out AND you get the added bonus of having a permanent recording of your event online that anyone can watch at any time.

How do mobile bidding platforms differ from in-person event software?

Remember live, in-person events? Remember bid paddles? (We do!) Guests raise them to place bids. The winning bidder numbers are recorded on paper, then manually entered into the event software at the registration table. The software package will be set up for event day data-entry, but there’s still a delay in reporting revenue and recording winning names. 

Contrarily, mobile bidding platforms track data immediately, digitally. All bidders receive alerts in real-time via text or email. Bidders know RIGHT AWAY if they’re being outbid OR if they won! They can pay and close out accounts on the spot. Setup for mobile bidding software is more labor-intensive on the front end, but on the back end, it’s much faster.

Pro Tip: Use beautiful pictures and pithy descriptions to accompany online auction items and raffle tickets for sale (like the ones that appear in the catalogue at in-person events). Often orgs don’t bother to load these words and pictures into the software, but they can and should as we note increases in revenue when they do.  

Which mobile bidding software is right for our org and our unique event?

Fantastic question! Before you make this major decision, ask yourself the following eight questions:

1. How do you want your donors to give?On a phone, computer or Smart TV? Directly from your website donation page? Something else? 

2. Do you intend to host an online auction only or are you planning a live Virtual Gala (VG) or fundraising event?

Online Auction – Goals: promote and display details for auction packages for online bidding, sell raffle tickets, collect donations
Virtual Gala or Fundraising EventGoals: support a live streamed event featuring an auctioneer or fundraising ambassador and an emcee who may feature, promote and/or sell live auction items live in real-time. Bidders at home watch the stream and place bids before, during, and sometimes after the VG

3. What revenue streams do you wish to offer? Will you sell auction items? Raffle tickets? Sign-up parties or events? Will you offer a special appeal (paddle raise, donation-ask)?  

4. If you are planning for an “ask” only model (with no auction items or sales featured), do you wish for donor names to be recognized LIVE, as donations are made in real-time? Or offer a dynamic giving thermometer that rises as the money comes in?

5. Do you or your donors care if they’re watching and bidding on the same device, or would you (or they) prefer to bid and view on separate devices?

6. Do you want to add peer-to-peer fundraising as an optional revenue stream or enhancement? 

7. Do you want guests to be able to interact during the program via a chat feature? Special appeal or donation-only events allow you more choices and may not need a fully-functioning mobile bidding platform. They are the simplest and most direct way to raise funds (and our data suggests that the majority of 2020 virtual fundraisers were appeal or paddle raise only). Displaying donor names in real time so your Dynamic Duo can call them out, however, is key. 

8. What functions can mobile bidding platforms handle or perform for a VG? Pretty much everything that’s tedious for a sentient being! Mobile bidding, raffles, cash donations, special appeals, multi-sale package sales… Software can keep track of sign-ups for a dinner delivery or a wine-and-chocolate accompaniment during the VG. Let software track sales and raffle information for the Department of Justice – that’s a legal requirement in our state. Let software handle data – for instance, comparing what someone paid for an auction item against the real value of the item, determining who gave what at what level, what they gave last year, etc etc! Basically, use software for the tedious tasks and preserve your humans’ time and energy for relationship-building and other fun, creative stuff! 

Software is a complicated business, even if you’re using it in its most basic form. We hope this Q&A session has you thinking more about what software is best for your org and your unique event needs. But this is only Part I and it’s just the tip of the iceberg! Keep your eyes peeled for Part II and keep reading for more on this expansive topic. Do reach out with questions. We’re here to help you change the world!