Local Nonprofits Use Virtual Auctions to Raise Needed Funds

Local Nonprofits Use Virtual Auctions to Raise Needed Funds

Portland, OR. With stay-at-home orders in place in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and bans on large social gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many charitable organizations have had to move their spring benefits online. 

Tucker Maxon School faced one such situation. With less than two weeks to make a pivot from a traditional live benefit auction, Tucker Maxon held a live virtual gala on April 3rd. The event (pictured above) raised $176,000.

OES’s state-of-the-art design center was the site of its 34th annual auction, the first virtual event in the school’s history.

Swaim says virtual benefit like the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp online event raised $214,000, Community Action raised $205,000
Bridges Middle School raised approximately $120,000.
Below are some of Swain’s suggestions for going virtual:

When pivoting to a virtual event, you can utilize all of your in-person event elements (auction, videos, script) and arrange them into a much shorter event format and engage your key constituents in some immediate and valuable fundraising.

While you may not raise as much as with your in-person event, you will be able to capitalize on the moment and let donors continue to be heroes creating impact and funding your work. Canceling an event means no fundraising, but going virtual can help you continue to bring in funds.

In Going Virtual With Your Fundraising Event we offer some guidance when considering virtual events.

E-Appeal Communications + Fundraising

Your event’s special appeal holds the largest fundraising potential at your event. So, without an event, consider ways to build an even-more imperative case for your work with an e-appeal to your donors.

Watch the video here and get point-by-point instruction with illustrative examples, and start to create your own impactful e-appeal communications now.

Relationship Cultivation + Management

On a larger level, the truth is that this may become a climate where it becomes harder to fundraise. But something that is always good for fundraisers to spend time doing is cultivate donors.

Run a GoFundMe Campaign

If you have a specific need you’re funding, especially if it is in response to the outbreak, put together a contained GoFundMe Campaign on a fixed timeline to gather your community around a cause they can immediately impact.

Using Facebook to Fundraise for Your Nonprofit

For nonprofit organizations, Facebook goes a step beyond simple social distancing and provides easy-to-use tools to help you fundraise online. Facebook’s Charitable Giving Tools provide a simple way for you to raise money through Facebook—and 100% of the donations go directly to your work.

Convert Your Live + Silent Auctions into an Online Auction

You’ve already done all the procurement for your event, so use those items to fundraise now by converting your auctions into an online auction. Communicate often with donors to let them know where to find the auction and to create buzz around some of the packages. But, most importantly, build the case that their purchase of auction items will fund your important work at this very crucial time. Use countdowns to the auction closure in your communications to prompt action on deadline.

Greater Giving occasionally offers discounts to activate the mobile bidding platform to facilitate online auctions.

Resources from us:


Oregon Episcopal School Virtual Auction Raises Over $600,000

Oregon Episcopal School Virtual Auction Raises Over $600,000

Portland, OR. For the first time, Oregon Episcopal School (OES) went virtual for its annual auction instead of the traditional in-person event. In the end, through the silent online auction, the live stream, and the paddle raise, the 2020 OES Auction raised over $600,000. Pictured above are Randy Moe, Sara Berglund, Erin Drinkward, Kathleeen Drinkward and (back row) Tammy Moe, Dave Drinkward ‘97, Nancy Martin, and Shreve Woods.

“We are learning so much!” said OES Head of School Mo Copeland, who was part of the live audience for the March 14th virtual event in the school’s state-of-the-art design center. “The ‘150 Virtual Auction’ went off without a glitch.” Oregon Episcopal School parents gathered in small groups at The Sentinel Hotel to watch the school’s live virtual auction via cell phone and computer.

Virtual auction speakers OES Board Chair Dan Drinkward ’95, Chief Financial Officer Gretchen Reed, Head of School Mo Copeland, and Associate Head of School Peter Kraft, share a quiet moment before going live. Auction Consultant Lauren Dully Clark is at right.

Auction Committee Chair Jaime Sales (left), Emcee Peter Buonincontro (center, a theater and performing arts teacher and assistant director of residential life), and Auctioneer Johnna Wells, share a laugh between package offerings.

Board Chair Dan Drinkward ’95, spoke of the school’s resiliency in tough times. “The virus threw us for a bit of a loop, but our committee this year not only planned an unbelievable event but then pivoted a 180 two days ago and came up with what we have tonight which is just blowing the doors off all expectations.”

OES’s state-of-the-art design center was the technical hub for the 34th annual auction.

With a mandate from Governor Kate Brown to limit gatherings of 250 due to coronavirus, OES’s auction planning committee had less than 48 hours to decide whether to cancel the much-anticipated auction entirely or move forward in a new way. In true OES fashion, the committee was open to trying a virtual event, and called in The AV Department to transform a space in the school’s design center into a full-scale broadcast studio.

“The design space became a perfect stage and the development team did an amazing job of using our auction decor to set the feel,” Auction Chair Jaime Sales said. “It was an emotional thing to see when I walked into the finished space.”

Pete Buonincontro, OES theater and performing arts teacher and assistant director of residential life, was a hilarious and uplifting emcee, and Johnna Wells tag teamed as auctioneer. Local artist Scot Crandal played jazz standards on the piano in the background.

Small watch parties were scattered throughout the city, in homes and elsewhere. Some attendees even dressed in the requisite “black-tie” while watching the creative live stream from hotel rooms.

“The overwhelming response was that people loved being in the comfort of their own homes or with small groups of friends to watch and bid,” Sales said. “I received a lot of photos of people with their formal gowns and tuxes . . . and their slippers! It was also fun to see that families, including the kids, could get excited and be a part of it.”

“We’re letting the dust settle in terms of total dollars raised, but whatever the final number, the OES community showed up in a big way,” said Madeline Pruett, director of development.

More information on OES can be found on its website: https://www.oes.edu/