Auction action - big results for small charities

publication date: Jul 19, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Taking an auction online cheaply, easily and quickly remains a distant hope for many small charities. Add the wish list of instant alerts when bidders are outbid, email reminders that the deadline is near, and instructional messages to winning bidders, and that hope might seem like a distant dream.

But Australian Dean Kirkland is set to make that dream come true with, an online auction site for charities.

Personal generosity inspired site

It all started when Kirkland, an investment banker, wanted to auction some valuable personal items to benefit a children's charity. He couldn't find an existing website with the exact features he needed, so he had a developer build one. Now he's made that site available to charities around the world who want to create their own customized online auctions.

He's built in several functions to stimulate bidding. "Successful bidders receive an email to confirm they are the highest bidder," he explains. "If they're outbid, then they receive an alert that they are no longer the highest bidder." Other optional emails can remind all bidders that the auction is about to finish or give instructions to winning bidders.

Wrap up online or take it live

Kirkland emphasizes that bidders don't need to create a personal account before bidding, a feature that he believes generates more activity. And the auction doesn't have to conclude online. Some of his clients have transferred the winning online bids to a special event where they've continued the bidding action in a live or silent auction.

"At a live event," he notes, "digital equipment can be hired for thousands of dollars to facilitate a silent auction. These days with iPads and MyMiniAuction, it costs only $100."

MyMiniAuction in action

CEO Stephanie Lorenzo of Project Futures highlights the ease and the greater audience reach that MyMiniAuction brought to her small charity. "We had quite a few people bid before the event and then it went pretty crazy on the actual night," she recalls.

"What I found was great about the site was that it was super-easy to use and did not take long to place a bid. We only had four computers the night of the launch and we had over 400 people, so the technology worked perfectly for what we had. . . . There were definitely people who re-bid once they were outbid. The site made it very simple to find that out by sending email alerts, and with iPhone technology, all the bidders had to do was keep posted on the night."

She contrasts that with the organization's previous experience of silent auctions: bids restricted to the attending audience, lower revenue and the challenges of deciphering illegible handwriting on bid sheets.

To make the most of MyMiniAuction, Lorenzo recommends marketing online and through social media to reach people most at home with the technology. She added corporate sponsor acknowledgements and information about Project Futures to the bidding site as well.

Flexible, easy to customize

The site supports a great deal of detail for each item posted: the auction end date (which can be extended), a picture, text description, starting bid, bidding increment and bidding history. It supports all time zones and several currencies. An organizational account costs $100 AUD for a year, no matter how many auctions are held.

Kirkland has drawn 20 clients so far, a mix of charities and individuals fundraising for charities. He was particularly pleased to help Accor Hotels raise funds for Queensland flood victims and Japanese artists raise money for tsunami relief.

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