Our organization made a very last minute decision to put on a silent auction, when the fate of our fundraising event was in jeopardy due to planned PG&E power outages in northern California. I looked at about a half dozen software options for doing this (I was surprised at how many were out there) and was shocked and dismayed by the high initial costs. We anticipated proceeds in the $6000 range, so those initial fees, plus %, plus credit card fees, seemed to eat up a lot of our potential proceeds.
I was ready to go with one of these options when I found Bidding Owl. I was able to set up the account, create an online auction and enter our 50 items in less than 24 hours. Taking the photos was the hardest part. We created a QR code so people could scan it and go directly to our auction. A few people had trouble signing up as bidders at first, but that seemed to be user error.
The things I liked about Bidding Owl:
1. Low fees, obviously.
2. That we could set up with our already existing PayPal account instead of having to establish with a third party credit card processor.
3. That we could accept payments other than credit cards...bidders did not have to enter a credit card in order to set up their bidding account (though this does mean some extra work in getting paid by those bidders it does save us PayPal fees to get paid by check).
4. That it was a central location to store our auction donation data. We did not use it for our onsite silent auction, but I think I would next time. It can print the bid sheets and track the information. I am going to enter my donor details so I have it for next year.
5. Buy it Now feature, which we used a lot.
Here are the things that would make it even better:
1. Ability to place a reserve price.
2. Some better reports for managing everything once the auction is over. I had to keep track of what was paid and what was picked up and there didn't seem to be an easy report for this. At some point I exported all our items and just kept updating an excel sheet...or maybe I missed something?
3. A way to generate emails to bidders during the auction.
4. A way to package multiple donations into a single item for bidding. We had one item that was two very nice things, a rafting trip and cabins, from different donors, and I would have like to be able to highlight them both equally.
5. As a bidder, I wish that the system would go back to the page of the last item I clicked on, instead of always going back to the beginning. This seems to be a problem with other software also.
All in all, it was a good experience. I think that online auctions are a really good companion to a fundraising event for our type of organization as they allow more people to participate. I have participated as a bidder in online auction using other software and I think that the Bidding Owl look and format were every bit as good. The site looked good on both phone and computer, and was easy to use. And the fee structure makes it low risk for an organization to try it out...you only pay on what you raise.
We will use Bidding Owl again.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
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