Virtual Event Fundraising: Online, Live Auction & Paddle Raise

Published on 17 Sep 2020 by Auctria

Groups have continued to fundraise through COVID-19 and regularly have met and exceeded their goals. We are seeing schools, theatres, choral groups, animal advocates, rotary, boy & girls clubs, community services that are fundraising. People are looking to help, give them an opportunity to do so.

Auction fundraising events are a very effective and efficient option for fundraising activity. It may take a different form than what you are accustomed to, however virtual gatherings and online auctions and donations are still flowing. This is a unique opportunity to gain supporters and attention through virtual activity. Social media and website presence are even more important now. Doing a good job now will yield a growing audience for years to follow.

You only can spend dollars that are in the bank, you can’t spend dollars that may come in the future so don’t cancel the fundraiser.

Just as live events range from fancy galas to simple silent auctions, the same holds true for virtual events. Simple or complex depends upon the time, team, and resources available. Simple would be an online auction with donation buttons. The more complex would include a virtual live event to pair with the fundraiser. These pieces can be stacked together to make an even grander fundraiser. Auctria helps make the fundraising part of the process easy. It’s up to the auction team to determine how much further they want to build-up the surrounding structure.

Either way, you will need to draw in supporters to the fundraiser and ask them to contribute money in the way of bidding for auction items, purchases for items, or straight donation.

Online auctions typically include:

  • Online auction
  • Donation buttons
  • For sale items

Live Virtual Auctions typically include:

  • Planned programming-entertainment
  • Live auction
  • Paddle raise

Online Auction

Online auctions typically span over days or over a week’s time. The bidding process is completely online. Adding donation buttons give supporters an opportunity to donate directly to the cause. If you will be conducting a virtual live event the online auction should remain open through live activity, and sometimes even longer. This too is variable, some groups like for the online auction to conclude at the same time as the live auction, some like to let it run a few more hours or into the next day.

There are multiple right answers when it comes to running the online auction. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions to help you consider some possibilities.

Q. How long should an online fundraiser run?

The goal is to get as many people to view and bid or donate. You want to be able to reach people at least with two solid messages. So if you are a school or group that meets or sends out weekly email blasts, or robocall once a week then consider using the begin and end time to encompass two occurrences.

Q. Where should we start the bidding at?

Auction items beginning bids should be low enough to encourage the first bid with room for some back and forth bidding activity. For ordinary goods start at about 40-50% of retail price then divide the remaining value by 5 divide upon bidding increments. More examples for auction item pricing can be found here.

Q. Bids are slowing, should we lower starting bids?

Most likely not, especially if they are already at a discounted level. With online auctions, there is usually a surge of bidding activity when the auction opens, then a lull till the last day and last few hours. If bids slow on items as the winning bid gets higher it may make sense to lower the bid increment. Experience has shown, the online auction will be a flurry of activity as the closing time approaches.

When the donation request is paired with an event fundraiser the event is a reason for the supporter to tune-in. An online auction with fun auction items brings the audience to the website for a reason. Since online auctions tend to span multiple days provide a reason for donors or bidders to come back multiple times, meaning there are multiple times to ask for donations.

Online auction boosters can really propel the final bids and movies raised.

  • Proxy bidding accelerates the bidding so more bids go higher, faster. The greater the number of bids, the higher the auction fundraiser proceeds. In a standard auction after each bid is placed the outbid bidder does receive a notification but then NEEDS to do something to then be back on top.
  • Anti-Sniping extends the active bidding past closing time. Have you ever been running an auction and as the bidding is closing there is a surge in activity? The winner is the one that got that very last bid in at the instant before the auction closes. The winning bidder is super happy but how much higher could the bids have gone?
  • Auctria’s mobile bidding application is available for Android and Apple devices. Mobile bidding allows bidders to view the catalog from their personal device via an app optimized for the experience.

Live Virtual Events

Live virtual events have a few components for the fundraising portion, the Livestream and the actual production. Live Virtual Auctions typically include planned programming-entertainment, live auction and a paddle raise.

Live events do have an additional level of required to engage and retain an audience. Consider including previously recorded pieces as well as live speakers. Some groups even include fun facts, trivia and raffles to keep the audience tuned in. The live portion of the event is the show so be sure to practice with the people and the technology.

Virtual Event Spotlights

The timeline and tempo should be discussed in the early stages of planning.

Live Event Planning
Decisions to be made:

  • What fundraising component do you want to include? Live auction, donations?
  • Where do you want the Livestream output to broadcast to? In other words, where will your community watch the activity?
  • How produced do you want the program to be? In other words, do you want to show video or streams from multiple physical locations or programs?

Virtual Live Event Programming & Production

Live auction events can be a simple zoom-like meeting where there are a few speakers and a screenshare. This lends itself to a more casual vibe where those joining can see other people in their own zoom boxes and carry on a lively conversation in the chat stream.

Auctria for Fundraising
The fundraising portion of the event, live auction, and paddle raise can easily be handled with Auctria. Use these singularly or stacked together.

Live Auction

A live auction that would traditionally be at a gala or party can still happen!
Auctria recently released a Live Auction Controller to be used during the live event. The Admin controls the items are open for Live Bidding. The bidder remains on the "Live Auction" screen while the Auction Director opens/closes the auction items. It's the same screen for Paddle Raises too.

Using Auctria’s Live Auction Controller during a live event you the administrator can control what auction items are open for live bidding. The bidder remains on one screen and the auction director opens and closes the auction items. The bidder stays on that screen for the paddle raise too. It’s a quick tap to bid, or a quick tap to donate. After the auction, a secure payment link is provided for easy collection.

In summary- the bidder watches the live event on a larger screen then uses a smaller device, phone, tablet for bidding.

Paddle Raise

Any fundraising event that does not include a request for direct donations may be leaving money on the proverbial table. At a live event fundraiser, the paddle raise can bring in ⅓ to ½ of the needed funds. A skilled auctioneer or emcee calls from the stage the paddle raise activity to begin. Getting results with a paddle raise is achievable with a sound structure and plan.

Finding Auction Items Now

Auction items are still out there. You can continue requesting donations from willing businesses. Be sure to generously and openly thank those who have already committed, as well as focus on what you can legally do for them in return, such as sharing/reposting their news.

Auction items are still available. Using third party sources makes the ask a little easier and can fill the catalog with attractive items. We recently conducted a roundtable with some experts, here is the playback and resources. DonationMatch, Jewels With a Purpose and TravelPledge, and are worth exploring to find auction items without the hassle. If you are apprehensive about asking for donated items face to face there are alternatives.

Promoting a Virtual Fundraiser

Going online or with the fundraiser opens up other avenues you can use to communicate with your supporters. Since there is no longer a seat limit or ticket for entry the net can be cast much wider. Take advantage of this opportunity to reach even more people.

Leverage Social Media

Ensure your online event is shared everywhere you have an online presence: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.


Communicate with all stakeholders: donors, sponsors, volunteers. Communication is key.
Use the dedicated auction website to post a video message about the status of the auction fundraiser. If you are converting to an online auction clearly state the dates and next steps.
Ask sponsors to remain as sponsors for the online event. Offer to give them some extra attention on the online website and/or auction emails & notifications.

Include a special Sponsor Page or customize the emails with links or messages about your sponsors, Make it worth their while to continue the support. To really sweeten the deal, offer an extended appreciation at your next event or throughout the year.

You can win the sponsorship race, here is an full webinar with useful tips and advice.

Use video and photos throughout the entire promotion and follow-up of the fundraiser. Your dedicated auction website can include a video. Tape a short but sincere message to be seen by all your donors, sponsors and bidders. Post it front and center on the homepage of the auction website.

Fundraising is Still Flourishing

We are seeing schools, theatres, choral groups, animal advocates, rotary, boy & girls clubs, community services ALL fundraising- People are looking to help- give them an opportunity to do so.

Live event fundraising is a very viable and healthy way to raise much needed funds. Using LIVE as an acronym here are some guiding principles.

  • L- Lead with the mission and purpose and you will never feel uncomfortable or awkward for asking people to join in the opportunity to help
  • I- Invite everyone to help, or share in any way possible to publicize the event and cause
  • V- Virtual event is possible, and great way to show impact to an even broader audience
  • E- Embark on a new chapter, let’s write the book together!

Fundraising can still be conducted, just do with sensitivity and focus to what the needs are to continue the mission -- be forthright about immediate funds usage & continuation of your beloved cause.