How to Solicit Auction Hardware for Your Next Event: Buy, Rent, or Borrow
The right auction hardware at check-in is key for getting guests smoothly, happily, and quickly into the event—so they can start bidding. And while many nonprofits are adopting tech like Mobile Bidding to register guests and start the bidding before guests even arrive, you’ll still need auction hardware (like laptops and printers) on hand to accept credit cards, administer bids, and print receipts during checkout.
But your options are more flexible than ever. Event software (like our own Go Time online check-in and check-out tool) is now compatible with tablet devices, so you can mix and match your hardware for any event depending on its needs. Combine tablets and PCs to manage your registration desk, your mobile concierges, and your item pickup window. Send out a fleet of volunteers equipped with iPads to register guests waiting in line, and later, to sell raffle tickets and help guests place bids.
I know, sounds great, but how do you afford it? Where do you come by that kind of equipment for one night each year?
What do you need?
Let’s start with some easy questions. How many people do you expect at your upcoming event? One computer at your registration table for every seventy-five expected guests is a safe number for most events, though you may want to adjust whether your guests tend to all show up at once, or arrival is staggered.
If you’re offering Mobile Bidding at your event, it’s easy and inexpensive to provide a charge-up station. Provide a few borrowed chargers for common mobile devices, so guests who run low on battery while bidding can fill up. We recommend providing additional bidding devices (either tablets or laptops) so guests waiting for personal devices to charge can continue bidding.
Renting Auction Hardware from a Pro
Renting is a great choice for organizations who can’t buy equipment, or don’t need it for any other events during the year. You can rent computers and tablets from many vendors, including Greater Giving partner Streamline Support, who specializes in computer and printer rentals for nonprofit benefit auctions.
If you do decide to rent equipment, we recommend having technical support on-hand to help troubleshoot issues as they arise.
Depending on the size of your event, you may be able to simply use laptops or computers already in daytime use at your organization. If you hold multiple events in a year, acquire your own tablets and laptops! Investing in your own equipment may sound daunting and too expensive for your organization to manage at first, but there are many ways to finance your purchase or offset the cost.
Recruit an in-kind sponsor to pay for part of your purchase or your rental. Sell another sponsorship to offset the additional cost of tech support. Is there a local computer store you could solicit for permanent or temporary donations of hardware?
There are nonprofit assistance organizations specialize in bringing up-to-date, usable technology to nonprofits in need at discount prices, like Connecting for Good. If you would like to own your equipment but can’t break the bank, find a sponsor to finance used laptops, and rent a couple of tablets.
Sharing and Borrowing
What relationships do you already have with other local nonprofits, schools, or churches? Do you all hold one or more events each year where you need equipment? If your auction committee taps its resources and is willing to try something new, you could share the cost of purchasing tech support and auction hardware with other, similar-sized organizations. Pool your resources to purchase permanent auction equipment, and create a technology share network.
Remember that you can always borrow laptops from staff or volunteers if you’re running Greater Giving’s online check-in tool, Go Time. No networking required—just access to the internet!