6 Hybrid Auction Best Practices for Better Auctions

Woman raising paddle at an auction

Nonprofit hybrid auctions can be a great fundraising tool. You’ve collected great auction items, found a way to live stream the event to virtual guests, and have a top-notch bidding system in place. You’re off to a great start! But how can you make your hybrid auction even better? Use these 6 hybrid auction best practices to get the most out of your nonprofit auction event.

What is a Hybrid Auction and Why Does This Type of Fundraising Event Matter?

A hybrid auction is an auction event that attendees can participate in both in person and virtually. This option blends the best of both worlds to create an accessible, responsive event that guests can attend from anywhere. The option to bid digitally opens your auction up to a wider audience, which increases the number of bids and drives up the value of your items. A hybrid event can boost your fundraiser’s performance significantly while still offering in-person entertainment for those who can attend. 

Hybrid Auction Best Practice #1: Host a Pre-Event Practice

Hybrid events are profitable for nonprofit organizations, but they can be tricky to pull off. Setting up a pre-event practice to go over the entire event proceedings is essential to your fundraiser’s success. You need to make sure that your technology is primed and ready for your online guests and that your in-person guests are guaranteed a good time.

And don’t forget to include a practice round for bidding on auction items in your pre-event preparations to test that everything is ready. This helps to ensure that there are fewer surprises during your actual event. This hybrid auction best practice can catch showstoppers before they happen so you can make a plan to overcome any auction obstacles that show up.

Hybrid Auction Best Practice #2: Make it Easy to Bid Online and in Person

Perhaps the most important aspect of your auction event is the bidding. The ability to drive bids up on your auction items means that your nonprofit organization makes a larger profit on the items you put up for auction.

But it’s hard to drive bids on auction items if the process is cumbersome or difficult. Look for an auction fundraiser software that bidders can quickly and easily use to make their bids. You’ll want to make sure whatever solution you choose looks great on mobile devices because your in-person guests aren’t going to have the luxury of using a laptop to place bids at your fundraiser.

You can do even better at driving bids if your solution offers push notifications that allow you to draw attention to underappreciated auction items in your inventory. 

Hybrid Auction Best Practice #3: Offer Non-Bidders a Way to Get Involved or Help

There will be people who attend your event strictly because they care about your mission. They may not be interested in bidding on auction items to take home because they have everything that they need. Instead, be responsive and offer ways for these non-bidding participants to get something out of your event. Add a fund-a-need item or paddle raise to your auction to give non-bidders a way to donate toward your cause without bidding on auction items. 

For a fund-a-need item, you’ll need to determine what your nonprofit organization or its constituents are in need of. Then, determine the cost to provide the item. Finally, “sell” the item to your fund-a-need participants at the auction event. Instead of taking home the items they buy, they’ll be donating the money they spent to you so that you can meet the need. This option works especially well if there’s a certain dollar amount you need to reach or a number of items you need to supply to those in need. 

A paddle raise works similarly to fund-a-need, but instead of selling an item, you sell your cause to those attending your auction event. During a paddle raise, you’ll ask for donations in order to achieve something big at your nonprofit. This method can be used to raise significant funding for your programs or to start breaking ground on a new building. All it takes is asking your participants to raise their paddles and pledge a donation to your cause.

Providing different ways to engage is a hybrid auction best practice that will elevate your donor stewardship at these events. 

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Hybrid Auction Best Practice #4: Give Yourself Time to Prepare

One of the major pitfalls of hybrid auction event planning can be the lack of time you have to make everything as close to perfect as possible. It’s imperative that you give yourself a significant amount of time in order to find items to put up for auction, identify sponsorship opportunities to fund your event, and entice your donors and community members to attend your fundraiser. 

This can take a significant amount of time, so if you’ve only given yourself a month or two to pull everything together, you may feel the pressure as the event date draws nearer. We recommend taking at least six months to start the planning process. Do a little at a time to stay on schedule for your auction event. The more time you give yourself for planning, the more breathing room you’ll have to plan the perfect hybrid auction event.

Hybrid Auction Best Practice #5: Find Enticing Auction Items

Your auction items have the ability to make or break your hybrid auction event. If you offer up items that no one wants to bid on, you’re unlikely to raise enough to reach your fundraising goal. Conduct a little research about your community and what they’d be interested in before you start searching for auction items to offer up at your event. Listen to the signals your supporters give you, send out surveys, and just chat with members of your community. 

You’ll want to get these items for as close to free as possible, so it may help to ask for donations from your community partners and even board members. They may have useful connections that can help you out or surprisingly good finds at home that they’re willing to part with for nothing. 

Next, look for auction items that you can get inexpensively. You want to avoid paying full price for your auction items because chances are they’ll go for a little less at auction. The goal of this hybrid auction best practice is to make sure your organization makes a profit on your auction. 

If you’re looking for ideas that will turn heads and generate interest, take a look at these 25 virtual auction item ideas.


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Hybrid Auction Best Practice #6: Share Impactful Stories During the Event

Our last tip is to remember that at the end of the day, your hybrid auction is a fundraising event. Your guests are interested in your mission and want to help you make a difference. That’s why it’s important to make time to share impactful stories during the event. Your guests want to hear how they’re helping when they make bids on auction items or when they participate in your paddle raise. Give them what they want!

If you’re unsure of what story to tell, think about the ways in which your organization has been successful. Share stories about people you’ve helped and how you’re making a difference.

However, you want to frame the story so that your donors are the heroes. What did your donors help you accomplish? How can future donations continue to help you change the world? Answer these questions to inspire your guests to give more and help make a significant difference.

Hybrid Auction Best Practices: Key Takeaways

These six hybrid auction best practices ensure that your audience will enjoy your event whether they’re attending from their couch in their pajamas or dressed to the nines and attending in person. When your audience enjoys the experience, they’re inclined to give more, especially if you’ve been telling impactful stories during the event about how donations have helped.

Looking for an auctions platform to make bidding easy? Give Qgiv a try. The QGiv <> Virtuous integration makes it easy for fundraisers to throw fundraising events based on best practices and be responsive in your long-term relationship building efforts after each event with the Virtuous CRM

Shay Lessman

Content Writer and Editor at QGiv

Shay Lessman is a writer and editor with a passion for helping nonprofit organizations succeed. He has experience in fundraising communications and has written several successful grants. He is also a proud pet parent of two very naughty dogs. When he’s not working at Qgiv, he can usually be found writing poetry, playing games, or listening to podcasts.

About Qgiv: 

Qgiv is an online fundraising platform empowering over 20,000 nonprofit fundraisers to raise money for their causes. Through online giving and event registration forms, text fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraisers, and auction events, fundraisers can provide a more personalized giving experience for donors while keeping costs low. To learn more, visit www.qgiv.com.  

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