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March 1, 2011
Congregations organizing service auctions now have two new tools they can use. Organizers of successful auctions at Unitarian Universalist congregations in Columbus, Ohio, and Golden, Colo., have used their experience to develop web-based software programs that anyone can use to streamline their own auctions.
Sara Mellen has been helping coordinate the service auction at 761-member Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden for 11 years. This fall the auction raised $75,000. She has also helped coordinate auctions for other nonprofits in Colorado. Her company, Community Auction Services, has three products, including a book, SOLD: How to Run a Great Community Auction, and a software program called EasyAuction. She also offers her own consulting services.
The cost of EasyAuction is based on the number of items in an auction. The basic package for up to 100 items is $300. If you have 350 items the cost would be $530. There’s an optional $100 “public access fee” that allows individual auction donors to input their items online, saving time for the auction volunteers. Large congregations find that option more useful than smaller ones do, Mellen says. She also offers a discount to UU congregations. She says about a dozen organizations use EasyAuction, including four other UU congregations.
In Columbus, Jim Pinkham has worked with the 641-member First Unitarian Universalist Church’s auction for eight years. Last year the auction raised $32,000. His program, called TogetherAuction, has been used by First UU for four years, and in that time the amount taken in at the auction has tripled. Eight other congregations are also using it. Some of them offer endorsements on his website. TogetherAuction costs $395 plus an annual $50 maintenance fee.
Since both programs are web-based, they are compatible with both PC and Macintosh. Both allow donors to input items from home, saving time for auction volunteers, which Pinkham says about 60 percent of people do. Both programs require a dependable Internet connection. “If you’re in an area where service is spotty, you’re better off with something else,” says Mellen.
Both services permit the sending of auction announcements, reminder emails, and even automatic reminders that an event is about to happen. Both promise to eliminate long lines of folks waiting to pay at the end of the auction.
Prospective buyers have the opportunity to try out a demo program on the EasyAuction site. TogetherAuction has sample pages on its website. It also provides a Google Map link for each auction item. Pinkham and Mellen both say they have safeguards in place to protect email addresses and other personal information.
Both remind that, while their software will make an auction easier, it’s still necessary to have a strong volunteer team and technical people on site. Pinkham is available by phone during auctions. If a congregation buys Mellen’s consulting services, she will attend the auction.
Mellen says, “The only reason I’m in this is because of my church. I believe I need to give something back and help other churches grow.” Pinkham observes, “This is not just about keeping track of the dollars. It’s a way to help people make connections and to get to know other people’s special talents and interests.”
Here are some other InterConnections articles on service auctions:
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Last updated on Monday, December 23, 2013.
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