Low Cost Auction Software - Auction Tools for Better Fundraising

Low Cost Auction Software - Auction Tools for Better Fundraising

Did you know that it’s estimated that for most nonprofits, auction events make up a quarter of all the donations they receive each year? That’s quite a statistic, and it clearly demonstrates the importance of having an online auction solution for your own nonprofit.

The problem is, with so many options out there, how do you know which tools and auction software features are worth your time and investment? Or which platform offers the tools your organization needs and can benefit from? And of course, which is an affordable solution that your charity can actually afford to use right now.

After all, leveraging auction software can greatly simplify the management of live, silent, or online auctions while also expanding the reach of your fundraising activities to a wider audience online. These types of platforms offers all sorts of unique solutions, from customizable auction websites, real-time bidding, ease of payments, and detailed reporting, all options that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your fundraising events.

This is something that can’t be overlooked as more and more people look at online auctions to participate in while backing their favorite charities. This is a great situation for charities as the more users they can get to an event, the more chances they have at receiving donations and creating a larger support base.

And since most of these platforms come with a standard monthly charge, or even free options, your nonprofit gets to keep more of their gifts allowing you to better support your mission and cause regardless of the number of people showing up for each event. That’s the power of virtual auction event solutions.

Understanding Auction Software

If your new to the nonprofit sector or auction software solutions in general, it’s really helpful to clearly understand what these solutions are and what they’re capable of, the different types of auctions available and the key features of online auction tools you should be looking for when evaluating each solution. This can really help you chose the best software without wasting time and money on an option that isn’t suited to your specific nonprofit’s needs.

Definition and Purpose of Auction Software

Auction software is typically offered to nonprofits as an online solution to hold both off and online events in a cost effective manner. Some of these companies, like Paybee, have created their solutions specifically for the nonprofit sector, and have put a lot of time and thought into their software.

Each company is different, and some offer a massive suite of tools and features that can help your nonprofit to create, manage and execute auction events while streamlining the auction process for both organizers and your participants. Their primary purpose is to enable the efficient handling of various types of auctions, such as live, silent, online, or a combination of all of them.

Most often, your software provider will have solutions or functionalities for item cataloging, bidder registration, bidding, payment processing, and post-auction reporting. This helps to simplify the bidding process, making it accessible and engaging for a wider audience, while also allowing you and your team to manage the event more effectively.

The actual goal of auction software is to enhance the nonprofit fundraising capabilities of organizations by increasing donor engagement, expanding the reach of the auction to a global audience online, and ultimately, maximizing the revenue generated from your auctions. And by finding a low-cost solution to work with, you making sure a greater portion of the funds raised directly supports your cause rather than going for expenses.

Types of Auctions Supported by Software (Silent, Live, Online)

There are actually quite a few different types of auctions you can run both live and virtually. So you really need to understand each type and match it with what you think will best suit your own nonprofit's needs as far as your fundraising ideas go.

Don’t forget, usually the more options a platforms offers also means the more cots that will be involved. So don’t choose options just because they sound interesting or cool. Choose each tool because you have a specific need for it thus making it cost effective to own.

Live Auctions: Live auctions are normal events where you go in person and an auctioneer presents items, and your supporters place bids in person. Solutions like Paybee can even greatly enhance and improve the entire live auction experience using our unique tools like digital auction paddles and a streamlined check out process that your donors can use from the privacy of their own smart phones. Add to that an easy to use registration process, online item displays and a variety of payment options, platforms like these can make your events more fun and convenient for everyone involved.

Silent Auctions: During a silent auction, items are displayed with bid sheets where attendees can write their bids anonymously over a set period of time. But when you include auction software for a silent auction, you can now include mobile bidding features, allowing your attendees to bid from their smartphones from anywhere in the world while tracking everyone’s bidding activity and sending automatic notifications about each auction without the need for physical bid sheets. So if a bidder gets outbid, they’ll know immediately through SMS messages or emails so they have the opportunity to increase their bids, creating more profit for your cause. And by using silent auction software and apps for your auctions, it helps to automate the entire auction and even make it a tad Eco-friendly at the same time.

Online Auctions: These types of auctions are conducted entirely over the internet, allowing bidders from anywhere in the world to participate which makes them very powerful additions to any charity’s fundraising arsenal. Online auction solutions provide a platform for listing items, managing bids, tracking attendees bidding behaviors, offering cart solutions and multiple forms of payment while automatically issuing receipts and thank you notes all online without you and your team needing to do much of anything.

Hybrid Auctions: Hybrid auctions combine elements of live, silent, and online auctions, offering flexibility in how your items are auctioned and how participants get to engage during the event. This means you can hold a Live event and still have the flexibility to allow your supporters from all over the world to engage in your event all at the same time. And with live streaming capabilities, it’s almost like any of your virtual guests are actually there enjoying the excitement of the live gala. With our Paybee architecture, we can even offer you live streaming capabilities on multiple social media platforms to capture the most number of attendees possible for any hybrid event. This is without a doubt the most powerful option to take advantage of for any nonprofit looking to increasing their fundraising results!

Chinese Auctions: Chinese auctions are a combination of a raffle and a traditional auction. Your supporters would normally buy tickets, which they can place into designated bins or containers situated in front of each item. The more tickets you place into a basket, the more chances you have of winning that item. After a set period of time, a winning ticket is drawn from each item's container, and the holder of that ticket wins the item. But with the right auction platform, all of this can be automated and virtual, allowing anyone to participate in the fun and garnering more donations for your cause. There are many ideas for Chines auctions that can make them very exciting events to be a part of.

In order to get the most from any of these options, you really need to understand what your charity needs, the preferences of the target audience and what you’ll actually use. Solutions like these can definitely increase donations and user engagement making all of your charity event much more profitable, but only if you use them.

Key Features to Look for in a Software or App for Auction Fundraising

Selecting the right auction software for your nonprofit requires careful consideration of several key features that align with your fundraising objectives, operational requirements, and budget constraints. And one of the most important considerations is the user-friendliness of the software.

A well planned and executed software platform needs to be intuitive to use for both you and your staff, and the people coming to your website. This is especially true for auction software as setting and running the auction needs to be easy enough for organizers and intuitive enough for participants to use and engage in the bidding process without any glitches or confusion on what they need to do.

Another important thing to consider is the item and inventory management capabilities as every auction something or even someone is being auctioned off. Many well coded platforms offer ways to upload spreadsheets of items as well as images and descriptions easy in bulk, so you can literately add thousands of items, each with their own corresponding pages for bidders with just a few clicks.

You should also be able to catalog items, track bidding and donations, as well as manage descriptions and images easily without the need for detailed instructions for each process. This level of organization of your items is important for keeping your event items well-documented and accessible both before and during the event. This is especially true for consignment auction items as they are on loan, so any losses can make your entire event a failure as a fundraiser.

Then there is of course payment gateways and payment processing systems. After all, the whole point is to be able to raise donations. The best software will enable cart functions for your bidders wining items and allow them to effortlessly pay for their items from their own smartphones or internet connected device. This saves a ton of time and work that would have normally all be done manually and allows for your team to concentrate more on making sure everything is going smoothly and participants are enjoying the event.

And speaking of mobile devices, the inclusion of mobile bidding functionality can significantly elevate the participant experience by enabling bidding directly from smartphones, potentially increasing engagement and creating more bidding which of course ends with collecting more donations at the end of the event.

One other functionality to mention here that’s quite important is the ability to gather data on your event and is now considered a basic nonprofit best practice. Different types of data provide vital insights into auction performance, bidder engagement, and revenue generation, which can all be used to gauge the overall success of your event. It can also show where things can be improved on and in the future, you’ll know what types of items do well and which to leave out. Plus you may be able to spot any bottle necks or problems with other parts of your auctions.

The last thing to mention isn’t really a feature, but any solid solution must have a great full time support team available twenty four hours a day. Their team should be reachable in a variety of ways including online chat support, telephone and email. If something happens in the middle of an event, you need support now, not the next day! So make sure they have amazing support.

Even better is if the company provides a lot of documentation on how to use all of the solutions effectively. These training resources can save a ton of time in training your team, and offer them guidance on all the possibilities of the fundraising software, thus fully leveraging the software's total capabilities. After all, you are paying for them, so make them work for you!

By prioritizing these features in your auction software selection, you not only streamline the auction management of your fundraising event but also significantly enhancing the experience for your donors and participants, all while increasing the success of your auction.

Top Low-Cost Auction Software Providers

Finding the right low-cost auction software for nonprofit organizations involves delving into each company and finding their stand out features, what pricing models they’re using, as well as understanding any pros and cons based on user reviews and our own expert analysis. Here's an overview of some top providers in the auction solution market segment, each with unique offerings tailored to the specific needs of nonprofit auctions and fundraising events.


Expanded Description: PayBee simplifies the process of setting up and managing many types of auctions with a user-friendly interface designed for users at all tech levels and is one of the best online fundraising platforms for nonprofits of any size. Its standout feature is the High Bid Leaderboard, which provides a live feed of current high bidders, enhancing the competitive spirit of auctions. The software is optimized for mobile use, ensuring that bidders can participate from anywhere in the world, using their smartphones to place bids and receive real-time updates as well as one click check out for payment including a multitude of credit card and payment gateways. They also have great customer service and even offer free auction software for those of you starting out.

Key Features:

  • Real-time bidding updates
  • High Bid Leaderboard
  • Mobile optimization
  • Customizable landing pages
  • Multiple payment processing options

Pros: User-friendly interface, affordable pricing with no start-up fees, and multiple payment options.

Cons: Limited customization options and might not suit organizations with complex auction needs

Pricing Model: 2% transaction fee on all online donations processed, with a $0 startup fee, offering a cost-effective solution for nonprofits.


Expanded Description: ClickBid specializes in mobile bidding, providing a platform that's accessible across all devices, enhancing the auction experience with real-time updates and notifications. The ability to generate custom QR codes facilitates easy access to auction items, streamlining the bidding process. ClickBid's platform also supports custom landing pages and mass messaging, allowing for effective communication and promotion of your auction event.

Key Features:

  • User-friendly mobile bidding
  • Real-time updates
  • Custom QR codes
  • Custom landing pages and mass messaging

Pros: Strong mobile bidding features and support for multiple events per year.

Cons: Higher upfront costs and transaction fees than some competitors

Pricing Model: An annual license for mobile bidding software starts at $795, plus a 3.5% transaction fee on funds raised.


Expanded Description: Schoolauction.net offers a comprehensive fundraising solution that includes support for silent, live, and online auctions. And although the name implies it’s meant for schools, any type of business is free to use their software solution. Its all-in-one platform facilitates easy management of auction events, from item procurement to guest management and bidding. The platform's customizable websites integrate payment processing, allowing for a seamless checkout process. They do include decent reporting and analytics tools that can provide insights into your fundraising progress, which of course aids in future event planning.

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive auction support
  • Customizable auction websites
  • Integrated payment processing
  • Inclusive reporting and analytics

Pros: Versatile platform for all auction types, easy management, and detailed reporting.

Cons: Can be pricey for organizations hosting multiple events

Pricing Model: Tiered pricing with a pay-as-you-go option starting at $79 per event or $1000 annually for more regular use.

Silent Auction Pro

Expanded Description: Silent Auction Pro is a versatile auction software that accommodates various bidding preferences, including mobile bidding and kiosk options which is a bit unique on our list. It supports the management of event attendees and invites, offering both printed and online program guides. The platform's flexibility extends to tracking event information from any internet-capable device, ensuring organizers can stay updated on their event's progress.

Key Features:

  • Mobile and kiosk bidding options
  • Event attendee and invite management
  • Online and printed program guides
  • Comprehensive event tracking

Pros: Flexibility in how donors can bid and comprehensive event management.

Cons: Cost can add up depending on the features needed

Pricing Model: Packages range from $99 to $299, with specific plans including a percentage of auction profits.


Expanded Description: OneCause prioritizes the guest experience with its visual and mobile-friendly platform, making it easy for donors to engage with the auction. The software enhances donor engagement with features like goal meters, virtual item baskets, and an automatic check-out processes saving you and your team a lot of time. Despite lacking a dedicated app, OneCause's web interface is designed to offer your guests a seamless bidding and donation process.

Key Features:

  • Visual and mobile-friendly platform
  • Goal meters and virtual item baskets
  • Automatic receipts and check-out
  • Comprehensive event management tools

Pros: All-in-one attendee experience with extensive event management tools.

Cons: Lacks an app, potentially higher pricing due to its extensive services

Pricing Model: Specific pricing is available upon request, indicating a tailored approach to service packages.


Expanded Description: Auctria provides a versatile auction platform with three bidding options (website, app, and text message), catering to a wide range of donor preferences. The platform also supports ticket sales and auction promotion, offering website templates and text-to-bid capabilities for a streamlined event management experience. However, some users may find the design aspects of the event websites and app to feel somewhat outdated compared to newer platforms.

Key Features:

  • Multiple bidding options
  • Ticket sales and auction promotion
  • Website templates
  • Text-to-bid capabilities

Pros: Text-bidding option and user-friendly features.

Cons: Event websites and app may appear outdated

Pricing Model: Free plans for small nonprofits, with annual paid plans starting at $350.

Expanded Description: GiveButter.com is a fundraising solution that offers auctions and touts itself as a free platform. But please look at their pricing structure below to better understand how free they really are. The company offers a comprehensive suite of tools for web-based bidding, live events, and social media integration, making it accessible for fundraisers of all sizes to engage their community and maximize donations.

Key Features:

  • Web-Based Bidding: Streamlines the auction process, enabling participants to bid from any device, enhancing accessibility and participation.
  • Social Media Integration: Empowers organizations to leverage social platforms for auction promotion, increasing reach and engagement.
  • Live Event Support: Offers tools for hosting live auction events, including ticket sales and guest management, ensuring a smooth and interactive experience.
  • Comprehensive Dashboard: A centralized dashboard provides real-time insights into auction performance, participant engagement, and donation tracking.

Pros: GiveButter's user-friendly interface simplifies event setup and management for you and your team, making it accessible for users with varying levels of tech-savviness.

Cons: The wide array of features may require some time for users to fully explore and utilize effectively.

Pricing Model: Although GiveButter states they are free to use, that’s not quite being honest or accurate. Their model relies on your attendees to cover the cost of using the platform. If they choose not to pay the transaction fee, then you are charged a 5% platform fee. So please look at their pricing as 5% adds up quickly!


Expanded Description: Handbid offers a comprehensive suite of auction features, including web-based bidding, app support, and in-event kiosks. Its platform supports max bids, out-bid notifications via text or push notification, and a centralized dashboard for auction activity. Handbid also allows for ticket sales and event detail management within its platform, providing a versatile solution for auction hosting.

Key Features:

  • Web-based andapp support for an integrated bidding experience. Handbid's unique offerings like Handbid Live and Handbid TV enhance event engagement by streaming videos and displaying live stats and leaderboards, respectively.

Key Features:

  • Support for web-based, app, and kiosk bidding
  • Text or push notifications for out-bid alerts
  • Comprehensive event and item dashboard
  • Live streaming and leaderboard display features

Pros: Diverse features and options for engaging bidders.

Cons: Higher cost, especially if all features are desired

Pricing Model: Customized packages based on the user's specific needs, with pricing available upon request.

Each of these auction software solutions presents a set of features designed to increase the fundraising capabilities of your nonprofit organization. But deciding which one is best for your charity depends on your specific event requirements, budget constraints, and the desired level of engagement you want to have with your donors. Whether you prioritize mobile accessibility, comprehensive event management tools, or a versatile online bidding experience, there is a software option tailored to meet those needs somewhere in our list.

A Word on The Price Information on our List

The information provided regarding the price or pricing models and key features of each auction software is based on the most current details available from various sources as of our last research findings. However, pricing and features for software solutions, especially those tailored for nonprofit organizations, can change frequently due to updates in services, promotional offers, and adjustments in company policies.

Therefore, while our descriptions aim to provide you with a comprehensive overview of each platform's auction tools, offerings and cost structures, it's essential for organizations to directly consult the providers for the most accurate and up-to-date information. This ensures that any recent changes, additional package options, or specific promotions applicable to your organization's needs are considered.

Here are the general steps to ensure accuracy:

  1. Visit the Official Websites: The most reliable source of information for pricing and features will be the official websites of PayBee, ClickBid, SchoolAuction.net, Silent Auction Pro, OneCause, Auctria, and Handbid. They often have the latest updates on pricing, a list of their full feature set, and services offered.
  2. Request Quotes: Since some platforms customize pricing based on the specific needs of an organization or the scale of the event, reaching out directly to request a personalized quote may provide the most accurate cost estimate.
  3. Check for Promotions: Occasionally, software providers offer promotional pricing or special packages for nonprofit organizations, which may not be immediately apparent on their websites. Direct inquiries can uncover these opportunities.
  4. Demo or Trial: Many providers offer demos or trial periods that allow organizations to explore the software's functionality before committing. This can also be an opportunity to discuss pricing and feature sets in detail with a sales representative. To check out Pay Bee’s trial and free account you can go here.

For the most current and detailed information, it's advisable to follow these steps or directly contact the software providers to be sure the information on their website is also accurate.

How to Choose the Right Auction Software

Choosing the right auction software for your nonprofit involves clearly understanding the reasons you want a software, what you hope to gain by using the software, and how well each potential solutions can meet those needs.

For example, are you looking for new ways to bring in some much needed donations to your charity and you’re hoping an auction can boost your revenues? Or do you already hold these types of events and you realize a software solution can help you manage these types of events more efficiently and on a larger scale?

Knowing what you want to achieve by using auctions as a fundraising opportunity can help you assess whether or not they are worth the investment, especially over time as you actually begin running your own auctions.

You’ll also need to think about the size and frequency you’re planning to use your software. Many of these solutions also come with monthly fees, so if you’re only planning on running an event once a year, there may be other types of solutions you can incorporate that would be more cost effective. Then there is how big are you planning your events to be? Obviously the more items and participants you plan to include, the more cost effective a feature rich platform will be in the long run.

Then of course what types of auctions do you plan to hold? There are a bunch of options and some solutions are better at one type of event than another. So knowing what format your auction will be can make a big difference on which solution best meets your specific needs.

By now you should also be aware of how many of your donors choose to make their donations. If many are writing checks for your nonprofit, or using Stripe to make donations, then be sure these types of payment processing capabilities are supported with the platforms you’re considering. It’s also a big plus if the solution offers mobile payment capabilities as well as immediate receipts for their gift and an automated thank you letter. These little things can really assist with donor cultivation.

You should also think about other types of software you may need to integrate with the platform to get the most out of your efforts. Things like a comprehensive CRM system ensures seamless data management and enhances donor relations, while social media account integration can greatly enhance your reach and fundraising potential. Many platforms offer these types of features and more, but unless you know what you need, these little details can easily be overlooked.

Unique and Helpful Tips for Evaluating and Selecting Bidding Software for Your Event

Tip #1: Look Beyond Initial Costs

  • Consider the total cost of ownership, including all transaction or payment processing fees, and any additional costs for essential features that are sometime hidden in the fine print. Sometimes, a higher upfront cost like an unlimited flat rate pricing option may offer more value in the long run due to lower ongoing fees.

Tip #2: Seek Out Scalability

  • Choose software that can grow with your organization. Even if your current auctions are small, selecting a scalable solution ensures you won't need to switch platforms as your events grow in size and complexity. The cost of re-training your team and the headaches of switching can be well worth going with a scalable option right from the beginning.

Tip #3: Assess Customer Support and Training

  • Evaluate the quality of customer support, including availability, responsiveness, and the training resources they’re offering. Great auction software support can significantly help you and your team manage the software more effectively while getting the most out of it. So it's best to jump on a call or send them a few emails to understand the true level of support they are claiming to offer.

Tip #4: Conduct a Feature Deep Dive

  • Go beyond basic feature lists. You really should always request demos or trial access to test whether the software's features are as user-friendly and functional in practice as they are on paper. Just because a platform looks all beautiful doesn’t mean it will be easy to use. Always test!!!

Tip #5: Check References and Reviews

  • Look for reviews from organizations similar in size and scope to yours when it comes to user satisfaction. If at all possible, speak directly to current users of the software to gather insights on their experiences, particularly regarding any challenges they've faced. Sites like Capterra.com and G2.com are useful as the platforms are being reviewed by actual users leaving their rating score and levels of overall satisfaction. Read each review left to get a complete software overview and understand how in love they are with their choice.

Tip #6: Consider Data Security and Compliance

  • Any solution must comply with relevant financial and data protection regulations, such as PCI compliance for payment processing and GDPR for data protection, especially if you operate or collect donations internationally or online.

Tip #7: Evaluate the Software’s Reporting and Analytics Capabilities

  • Strong reporting and analytics features can provide valuable insights into your auctions' performance, helping you make data-driven decisions for future events. And while many solution proclaim they offer these types of tools, the power of each differs greatly from platform to platform. If you need far more than they offer, you could also just use an outside solution, just be sure that integrating it into your chosen solution is possible.

FAQs: People Also Ask

What is the best low-cost auction software?

That really depends on what your organization specifically needs and what your end goals are. While we are a bit biased in this area, we do believe PayBee is the best solution for any charity looking to use auctions for their fundraising events.

Can low-cost auction software support large-scale events?

This depends on each company’s offerings as some do and some don’t. To get a clearer understanding you will need to look through out list above to see which solutions offer support for large-scale events.

How do processing fees work with auction software?

This depends on each company’s pricing model. Some platforms offer a flat percentage for fees while others absorb the fees but charge a monthly use fee. You will need to see which model ends up being the most cost effective for your charity based on how often you run auctions and hthe volume of items being auctioned off.

Are there any free auction software options?

There are indeed free online fundraising tools for nonprofits, the only problem is they often lack robust capabilities or they still charge transaction costs in order to run their platform. For example, PayBee's free silent auction account offers truly free access, but there is still a 2% payment processing fee that comes out. While at the same time, we also offer a flat monthly rate for our platform that is all inclusive. It really depends on the frequency of use and number of items you are auctioning off.

Wrapping Up…

Auction software can be quite literally a game changer for many nonprofits. Everyone loves an exciting auction, and this sort of fundraising technique is not only profitable, but it gets people involved with your charitable work while giving them a sense of inclusion and fun associate with it.

It also allows anyone in the world to easily participate as long as they’re connected to the internet. And if you promote your event right and depending on the items you plan to auction off, many of these events bring in a new group of supporters that can also some day become donors or even volunteers or staff.

So don’t just look at the cost benefits of using this type of software, their use can reach much further than just collecting donations. It’s just a matter of really learning about the platform and all of its features and tools that are available, and figuring out the best ways of getting the very most out of each so in the end your software solution becomes an asset rather than simply another cost to your organization.

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.