The Big Decision: Sealed Paper vs Electronic Bidding

Posted: 20/06/2017 in Charity Auctions

With the rapid advance of technology in the 21st century, it is no surprise to see this being echoed in the third sector especially when it comes to silent auctions. Where once paper sealed bidding was the norm, now ever increasingly electronic bidding is pushing its way into the grand ballrooms of Park Lane and beyond. However, despite the initial glitzy impressions of electronic bidding, is it really the most effective way for a charity to profit with a silent auction?

1. Timings
One initial aspect to bear in mind is time. There are few events where a tight timings schedule isn't adhered to. You know the situation... main courses have just been cleared and somehow we're running 30 minutes late. Paper bidding is great as it lends itself beautifully to this concern. A guest simply make his or her maximum bid in a booklet and that is it for the evening. In contrast to this, electronic bidding requires the guest to frequently check whether he or she is still in the highest bidder and if not whether or not to continue bidding. This can obviously lend itself to an exciting final 10 minutes with frantic last minute bids occurring, but it can often lead to frustration with guests believing they were the winning bidder only to be pipped at the post - believe me we have been at the end of the disgruntled bidder's wrath! It is also of little use to the guest who has needs to depart early to make the last train back or those conscious of the important meeting the following morning. Electronic bidding requires a significant amount of screen time, often limited in availability, and can serve as a distraction to the many other important aspects of the event.

2. Logistics
Logistically electronic bidding does make a lot of sense when it comes to larger guests numbers, especially if you are planning to accommodate over 1,000 people at the Grosvenor House Hotel. Keeping a track of winning bidders and collecting the vast number of bidding sheets can be a headache from a management side. The bright lights of the tablets keep attention to the silent auction running throughout the night and have pop up displays when a new bid is received.

3. Profitability
Following on from the previous point, larger guest numbers are generally imperative for electronic bidding to achieve the desired level of bidding activity. For all the items to bring significant charity profit it requires at least two very keen individuals to develop a bidding war. This is also great for people that like to draw attention and have some fun but in reality occurs less often than believed or desired. A key positive of sealed paper bidding is that is only takes one bid for an item to sell with a huge charity profit as any other bids are a mystery. The only problem that can occur is where a bidder places 5 or 6 bids but may only be interested in maybe 3 items but this is a very infrequent occurrence.

4. Bargain Hunters
Despite raising money for charity it's not hard to come across the odd guest who's out for a deal. Naturally, cheeky low bids occur in paper sealed bidding but guests assume that most items have received several bids. When confronted with tablets, there's always temptation for a guest to wait right until the end if there has been no previous interest. The result being that an item in the auction sells but leaving little charity benefit.

5. Cost 
Cost and outlays are important to the organiser of any fundraising event. Electronic bidding inevitably costs more meaning that the silent auction items need to attract more bidding as a whole. Another key element here is risk. At Superstars we can offer a subsidised electronic bidding service however there is normally some cost involved and it will never be risk free compared to our sealed paper bidding service.

Both styles of bidding carry their pros and cons and it is important to really think about what is best on a case by case basis. If you are holding a huge annual fundraiser the glitzy iPads may well be the answer. However, unless your event is full to the brim with very high net worth individuals, sealed paper bidding is probably the way to go. In essence, sealed bidding takes fewer people to have a larger impact and therefore when it comes to charity profit, and unless the event is seriously well established, seriously reduces potential risk.


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