If your charity auction is seeking to be more environmentally conscious, one strategy is to reduce your reliance on printed materials. Here’s one basket ideas for silent auction idea: have guests bid electronically in the silent auction and you’ll eliminate the need to print bid forms.

This article provides an overview of the idea.

Though they are often used interchangeably, e-bidding and mobile bidding (also called handheld bidding) are different. E-bidding may or may not be mobile, but mobile bidding (or handheld bidding) is always electronic.

With e-bidding, guests bid on silent auction items using a device. The device might be an iPad (which would be mobile, unless affixed to the silent auction table), a personal cell phone or a phone provided by the vendor (also mobile), or stationary terminals set up in the silent auction area (not mobile). For the latter, the usual arrangement is one stationary terminal (a “terminal” meaning an iPad or touch-screen computer) per handful of silent auction items.

My suggestion is to make the bidding mobile, unless you’re prepared to set-up a stationary terminal for each silent auction package. A one-to-one ratio is important. After all, who would want to move to an “improved” e-bid technology, only to have guests to line up in front of a terminal, waiting to place a bid on an item? That wouldn’t be progress.

That said, buying 100 iPads for your 100 silent auction packages wouldn’t be financially savvy, either. Borrowing is a better option. You might approach a potential underwriter to loan you dozens of iPads for the gala, for instance. Or use sponsorship dollars to rent them yourself.

On the handheld bidding front, vendors present several approaches.

Vendors offer text bidding, web-based bidding, and combinations of the two. Additionally, some vendors will set up a private wireless network in your venue, while others rely on existing networks.

Without diving too deep into the technology, recognize that you’ve got to fit your system to the venue. You’ve probably been in a location where you could send a text, but the signal wasn’t strong enough to make a phone call or browse the Web.

If your venue is in an area with no coverage, you’ll need a vendor which can set-up a private wireless network for guests to use (or you could forego the mobile bidding option and use stationary, wired terminals).

If your venue offers some coverage, text bidding could be a more affordable option.

And if you’ve got great coverage on all networks, celebrate! Guests can text or bid via the internet.

In all cases, it’s a good idea to have a few bid helpers with portable handheld bidding terminals (like iPads) available to assist guests. Inevitably someone will forget to bring his phone or will experience a dead battery, rendering him without the ability to bid. Your helpers can proffer a terminal, granting guests a means with which to participate.


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