Read this article to learn the top strategies for inspiring healthy competition for online school auctions.

How to Stir Healthy Competition for Online School Auctions

Online auctions have grown in popularity due to their flexible fundraising format. After all, an online auction does not require the same level of planning and preparation as a traditional gala. There is no need to secure a venue since bidders can participate from the comfort of their homes.

However, there can be one noticeable downside to online auctions: decreased competitive interaction. Because bidders are not in an auction environment, they can get easily distracted and lose the sense of urgency of an in-person auction.

So, how can you keep your online bidders on the edge of their seats? By following these four tips to engage your school community and stir up healthy competition:

  1. Communicate Expectations
  2. Promote Desirable Items
  3. Set Competitive Bids
  4. Use Software to Gamify Your Event

Remember one of the best ways to make your auction competitive is by sourcing items that appeal to your unique audience. Get to know their interests and hobbies, and find items that align with them. Prioritize getting these details from your previous high-impact donors by setting up an auction item brainstorm. Then update your supporter records for future years.

With this in mind, let’s dive in!

Communicate Expectations

Bidders can only stay competitive if they know the rules. To keep a level playing field, ensure your online attendees know what to expect from your event, how to place bids, and what to do if any technical issues arise.

As a starting point, you should review these auction basics:

  • Registration expectations: Let bidders know how to register and provide terms and conditions for them to review upon signing up.
  • Bidding procedures: Educate bidders on rules for final sales, closing bids, minimum bids, and any other bidding features that may be relevant.
  • Bid cancellation policies: Remind attendees that their bids are considered binding, so they should carefully consider each bid amount before acting.
  • Payment and shipping policies: Bidders should know all payment options available and understand additional shipping charges may apply.

Remind bidders to read through all items’ entire descriptions before bidding as some prizes might come with specific restrictions like blackout dates for travel packages.

Promote Desirable Items

As the main attraction, your school auction items should take center stage in your promotional materials. Highlighting them keeps bidders informed, so they can strategize and go after the items they want most.

Use a downloadable, comprehensive auction item catalog for bidders to refer to as the online auction nears. To make your catalog stand out, consider implementing the following elements:

  • Clear photos: Capture photos of your items with clutter-free backgrounds and illuminating lighting, so bidders can see them in detail. For items like vacation packages, use high-quality teaser photos of the travel destination.
  • Compelling descriptions: Let bidders know what makes each item special, whether it’s a package for a date night at a new exclusive restaurant or a one-of-a-kind signed baseball.
  • Catchy titles: Amp up your catalog with fun titles that transform a “Travel Package” into an “Exclusive Lake Getaway”.

Many schools choose to partner with a silent auction software vendor to easily create and organize their online auction catalog.’s list of vendors suggests looking for a platform that’s user-friendly and comes with additional features designed for charitable events, like recurring donations and sponsorship packages.

Once you’ve begun finalizing your auction catalog, you can begin promoting your event with teasers and behind-the-scenes looks at various high-value items. Opt for a multichannel marketing strategy to create a buzz for your upcoming event.

For example, you could post teaser images on social media to attract a wider audience, then email your school community a few pages from your item catalog for the prizes you previewed online. From there, you can track which items are causing the most engagement and plan a competitive bidding strategy for them.

Set Competitive Starting Bids

Does your pricing strategy encourage competition? While high-value items can drive competition naturally, an effective pricing strategy can start bidding wars earlier and encourage them to reach greater heights.

Usually, starting bids are set at 35% fair market value (FMV) for each item. Reference your data to determine which items are likely to be the most popular for your school’s community. For these items, set the starting bids lower (20% FMV) to encourage bidding wars. To discover which items will attract the most bids, consider these factors:

  • Item value and market price: Research the value of the item being auctioned and consider factors such as the item’s brand and rarity.
  • Previous performance: If an auction item performed well in the past, take a look at the bidding patterns that encouraged the final bid.
  • Audience preference: Which type of items would specifically appeal to your audience? Maybe a new gift certificate for athletic wear or a wine and cheese basket?

Be sparing about which items you give lower starting bids to attract bidders without devaluing your prizes as auctions are not the place to find deals. Instead, identify only a handful of high-value items to set lower starting bids at to incentivize competition.

Use Software to Gamify Your Event

For online school auctions, software is a must. To encourage bids and foster excitement, choose a software platform that offers gamification features like:

  • Livestream bidding: Give bidders the option to chat and bid on a single screen to increase camaraderie throughout the event.
  • Outbid notifications: Let bidders know exactly when they’ve been outbid for their top items so they can act quickly before the bidding closes.
  • Blind online bidding: For an extra level of suspense, you might opt for blind bidding and keep participant profiles a secret until the auction ends.

These features can simulate an in-person bidding experience and draw more support for your school.

You might also consider adding a few extra finishing touches to make your online auction memorable. For instance, as your budget allows, you could send participants food or drinks to enjoy while bidding or drop a link to a carefully curated bidding playlist Or, you could send a school swag bag of items and apparel as a thank-you for participating.

Keeping your bidders engaged is the key to a successful online auction. Prioritize creating an environment that is conducive to competition by making expectations clear and promoting desirable items for the best school fundraising results.

Set thoughtful pricing strategies and look for additional ways to amp up bidding wars with gamification features. Above all, go the extra mile to create a memorable guest experience for each bidder. Happy fundraising!