Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 41 seconds

auctionAuctions are great fundraising tools for non-profits, but they require an enormous amount of planning and organization. For years, many non-profits relied on a complicated system of notebooks, files, binders, or if they were lucky a spreadsheet or Microsoft Access program to keep track of all the auction information.

Now, Eileen Hayden, Owner of Event Solutions, explains auction software is making it much easier to run an auction “No more spreadsheets. Let the software do all the work.”

Auction software has all the tools necessary for the successful planning and implementation of an auction. The software is available either as a module to a donor management system or as a stand-alone auction/event management program.

For example, Raiser’s Edge from Blackbaud offers an event module to help organize the event. It coordinates everything from the invitees to the seating. It can even help track travel arrangements. Raiser’s Edge also integrates with AuctionMaestro Pro and MaestroWeb to provide everything necessary to host a successful auction either at the gala or online. With the software, it is easy to track donations, organize committees, manage bids and print reports that detail the expenses and revenue associated with the auction.

Eileen Hayden uses a stand-alone auction tool, Auction Tracker. She explains that Auction Tracker “Can handle whatever her client needs”. She likes the flexibility the software offers. It is available as for installation on the nonprofit's computers or the nonprofit can chose to have it hosted at Northwest Software.

Hosting it at Northwest gives the nonprofit the flexibility to access the software from anywhere via the internet. With a single entry system, the software tracks everything for the event, donations, gifts in kind, attendees, sponsors and seating in one single database. The nonprofit can even print all the event documents such as display sheets and photos with Auction Tracker.

With over 200 reports available, all of which can be saved as either PDFs or  spreadsheets, it is easy to track the success of the event. Auction Tracker also has the ability to track applicable sales tax and it prints all the necessary IRS documents. Many nonprofits are integrating an online feature into their auction events and Eileen notes that it is simple to tag items in Auction Tracker for use in an online auction.

Another option in stand-alone software is Software as a Service (Saas), like Tofino Fundraising. Roger Devine of Northworld LLC and developer of Tofino, wants nonprofits to have as many options as possible, so he offers Tofino as a one-year web based subscription.

Tofino makes it easy to track procurements. It includes a way to recognize cash donor, by designating them the receipt sponsor. Every receipt-which is a tax document-includes the receipt sponsors name on bottom of it. As a web based service it can be accessed from anywhere, any time. The nonprofit can set up special limited access accounts for volunteers. It is not “the keys to kingdom” says Roger; just what each volunteer needs to complete their job. This give volunteers the ability to help the nonprofit when it is most convenient for them.

Tofino tracks ticket sales and offers the option to do online registration. On event night Tofino checks in guests, tracks bids and processes checkout. Roger is quick to point out that Tofino charges no transaction fee for credit card processing. The nonprofit uses a credit card merchant of their choice and they pay any fees from their bank, but Tofino doesn’t charge anything for being the middleman. Roger charges for software but believes “upside belongs to the nonprofit”

Another option for event night is a company like Bidpal. Bidpal provides a handheld device for each auction participant. The devices are preloaded with photos, descriptions and value of the items. Guests can bid anytime, from anywhere during the event.

Sarah Goshman, Assistant Director, Jacob’s Cure used Bidpal for their silent auction at their inaugural gala. Sarah felt they were able to keep the bidding open much longer thanks to these devices and they saved a huge amount of space because there was no longer a need to have clipboards in front of each item. offers something similar, but also provides staff armed with iPads to walk around the auction encouraging people to bid, and ibidmobile also includes a text message bidding application.

No matter which program is used, auction software certainly makes it easier to host a gala fundraising event.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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