Robyn Bennai and Liz Lemons of Raleigh didn't know much about web development or things like SEO marketing when they came up with the idea for ShopBidGive.com.
But they were moms, who had helped out with all manner of school fundraisers and events. And they decided things could be a lot easier after experiencing an online silent auction that they both were involved in. The site wasn't user friendly or attractive. And it cost the school a lot of money to use the service, they remembered.
"We felt like we could make a site that was a little bit more intuitive for the user and a little bit more streamlined and a lot more cost effective than the option that we used before," said Bennai, a mom of four ages 3 to 13.
Bennai came up with the idea and mentioned it to Lemons, a mom of two ages 5 and 10. The two had met through their children's schools. ShopBidGive.com lets PTAs, nonprofits hold silent auctions online
"We probably talked about it for a month or more," Lemons remembers. "We definitely dived into it blindly."
ShopBidGive.com launched in fall 2011. The site gives nonprofits the opportunity to run silent auctions online. Groups can register their auction for free. Bennai and Lemons take a 10 percent cut of whatever is raised online.
Online auctions have a few big advantages beyond the traditional silent auction. Shoppers don't have to attend an event to bid. And people can bid from anywhere regardless of whether they are affiliated with the nonprofit. Plus, the auction's organizers can use social media to spread the word about the items that are being offered.
If groups want to hold an actual event once the online silent auction is up, they can print out bid sheets for each of the items. The site doesn't take any cut from what's raised at actual events.
There's been a steep learning curve for both Bennai and Lemons as they understand the ins and outs of web development. The two ended up hiring a web developer and marketer.
Now, they are focused on getting the word out about the site. They've primarily worked with local school PTAs to set up silent auctions. One school doubled its take compared to the previous year after holding the auction online.
The latest auction for Sycamore Creek Elementary School features everything from restaurant gift certificates to tickets to Walt Disney World and a night and breakfast for two at The Umstead. The online auction, which you can find by clicking here, ends on April 18.
"It's been a fluid process up to this point," Bennai tells me. "For me, the biggest challenge has been trying to get in front of the right people."
But those conversation are starting to pay off, Bennai said,
"We see good things on the horizon," she said.
For more about the site, watch my video interview with Lemons and Bennai and check out their website.
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