Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Instauctions

Okay, so I haven't really blogged in almost a year.

Instagram ate my blog.

But I have recently had the opportunity to help a couple of friends who are trying to organize Instauctions for big causes, and since I have run so many I can practically do it with my eyes shut [and have learned all the what-not-to-dos along the way], I thought it was high time I resurrect my blog and put this out there for anyone else needing help.

So here you go.  You might wanna grab a glass of wine and settle in...



Choose a date, start and end time, and a title for your auction.

Here are my recommendations about these things.

For the date: I recommend ending on a Thursday evening.  Midweek is definitely best.  People are busy with their families on the weekend.

For the start and end time: Keep in mind that you need to consider time zones.  If you close the auction at 9pm PST that means that your East Coast followers will have to stay awake until midnight to place their final bids.  You will lose some bidders.  I generally close between 6 and 7pm PST, which seems to work best for everyone.

For the title: Keep is simple.  I *highly* recommend opening new IG and gmail accounts for your auction, so keep that in mind when choosing your name.  Don't make it too long for a good hashtag.  [Be sure to check availability of usernames for IG and gmail before settling on a title.]




As I said before, I *highly* recommend opening new IG and gmail accounts for your auction.

You will need a gmail account in order to use my system, and just trust me on the fact that having a separate account for the auction will make your life much easier.  [You may even have to open multiple email accounts, but we'll get to that later.]  I suggest using the title of your auction, for example if your auction is called "The Smith's Adopt" make your email thesmithsadopt@gmail.com.

Same goes with the IG account.  Make it @thesmithsadopt.  Opening a separate IG account will keep you from flooding your follower's feeds and possibly losing them.  I always post reminders and sneak peeks on my regular account for all my followers to see, but all the auction items go on the new account.




Click on the links below to open my spreadsheets.

Auction Vendors
Auction Winners

You will need to save a copy of each one to your own Google Drive account [be sure you are logged in under your auction gmail account]. To do that, just click on the File menu and select Make a Copy.  Title them whatever you'd like.  Now you will have an editable file in your drive.

The Vendor Spreadsheet is where you will store all the information for your auction and eventually you will just cut and paste information from the Vendor Spreadsheet into the Winner spreadsheet. You will use both of these spreadsheets for your mail merge, but more information on that in steps 9 & 11.

You can adjust the column titles to whatever works best for you, add or delete as you like, but THERE ARE TWO COLUMNS ON EACH SPREADSHEET THAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE.  On the Vendor Spreadsheet, do not change columns C or Q, and on the Winners Spreadsheet, do not change columns B or F.  These are the columns that make the mail merge work.  I have highlighted them in green so that you will remember to leave them as is.



Contact shops that you have relationships with and ask them to donate an item for your auction.  If you don't know them personally, be sure you explain who you are, how you know of them, and why you are fundraising.  Keep it short and sweet, but pull on heartstrings as best you can.  Chances are these vendors get lots of requests so don't be offended if you don't hear back from them or if you get a no.

Be sure you include the following in your initial contact:
  • Who you are
  • What your cause is
  • The date of your auction
  • What they need to do if they would like to donate an item
  • The date that you need their donation information by
  • Ask for their email address
No matter how you are contacting them [IG DM, Etsy Convo, text} be sure that you get their email address so that you can email them the info on their item's winning bidder.  To use my system you have to have email addresses.  You'll see why later.

As you receive donations be sure to record all the appropriate information in your Vendor Spreadsheet.  This is where you need to STAY ORGANIZED.  Keeping all the info in your spreadsheet will save you lots of time and headache.  Make it a habit of adding at least the vendor name into the spreadsheet as soon as you hear from them so that you won't forget about their donation.  You can always fill in the rest of the information later.

Be sure to let vendors know that they will hear from you via email once the auction is closed, and remind them not to ship anything until they have confirmation from you that the winner has paid.




Because you are using a separate IG account, you can start posting your donations as they come in.  This will make it much easier than trying to post them all on auction day, and it will get people excited about the auction items!

For each item I use this format [feel free to copy and paste]:

Item 1: Item Title
Donated by: Shop IG
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Retail Price: $
Bidding Starts at: $
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 
To bid please leave your email address and bid amount and TAG THE PREVIOUS BIDDER. 
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Auction opens Thursday, March 12th at 9:00am PST. ALL BIDS POSTED BEFORE THIS TIME WILL BE DELETED.

IG is terrible about line breaks and does not always keep them once you post.  The dotted lines will serve as line breaks and will help keep your information clear and easily read.

You need to be sure to use item numbers for my system.  It will make your life a lot easier, trust me.




Before you begin your auction, post rules and information that your bidders will need.

These are the rules I post:

The Smith's Adoption Auction starts Thursday, March 12th at 9:00am PST and will run through 7:00pm PST. For more information on the cause we are supporting click on the link in our profile. 
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 
To bid on an item, please leave your email address and bid amount and TAG THE PERSON YOU ARE OUTBIDDING. 
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 
Please bid in whole dollar increments. 
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Shipping is included within the US.
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 
We will begin closing items at 7:00pm PST. This will take some time. Each item is open for bidding until it is marked CLOSED 
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 
Happy bidding! 





Be sure to post that BIDDING IS OPEN!  Then keep an eye on your items.  Try to answer questions when you can.  If you notice that someone bids out of order, for instance someone has already bid $40 and someone below them bids $38, comment to recognize the highest bidder.  I usually say "Oops @soandso, it looks like @theothersoandso had a higher bid.  @thethersoandso is the current high bid at $40."

If a bidder forgets to tag the previous bidder, I will usually comment and say "Don't forget to tag the previous bidder!  @soandso, it looks like you were outbid."

You will get the most bids in the first and last hour of the auction. Don't panic if you aren't getting tons of bids all day.





Be sure to give good warnings about the close of the auction.  I like to start with a 1 hour warning, then a 30 minute warning, then a 15 minute and a 5 minute warning.  At the 5 minute warning I remind them that we will START the closing in 5 minutes, and that each item will remain open to bids until it says CLOSED.  This usually makes for a good bidding frenzy and also makes it a little more fair because people can't just swoop in at the last second.  They don't know when the last second will be.

If you have a lot of items, you will have trouble closing.  I'm just warning you.  IG freaks out when you are posting quickly and can shut you down.  If you have more than 30 items I suggest having friends help you with the closing.  In that case I will say when I post the rules that items will be closed when marked CLOSED by... and then list whoever is helping me.  If you have friends helping, just assign each person certain numbers to close.

When closing, it is best to not use the exact same phrase on each post.  That is what makes IG freak.  If you just vary it slightly, then you should be okay.  I will post things like "this item is CLOSED", "CLOSED", and "all done, this is CLOSED".  By varying it a little, you should be able to keep posting.  If it stops allowing you to post, wait a minute or two and then you should be able to continue.

Just worry about getting the items closed, and then you can go back and tag winners.

Once every item is closed I then go back and tag each winner and remind them of their winning bid amount.  I also let them know to expect an email within the next 24 hours from [whatever email address you created] with payment instructions.  I say something like "Congratulations @soandso!  You are the winner at $40.  You will receive an email from thesmithsadopt@gmail.com within the next 24 hours with payment instructions."




Now you need to get all the information into your Vendor Spreadsheet.  The awesome thing about using Google Drive is that you can share your spreadsheet with friends and they can help you with this part.  Anyone that you allow editing access to will be able to input information into the spreadsheet.  So again, you could assign each friend a certain set of item numbers and they could input all the info into your spreadsheet for those particular items.

You are now going to use your spreadsheets to send your first mail merge, which will be the Payment Instructions email to all the winners.

One note: It is very helpful to know how to sort your spreadsheet.  If you don't know how to sort, click here for Google's explanation.  I go back and forth between having the Vendor Spreadsheet sorted in alphabetical order by the Vendor and sorted by the item number, depending on what I am doing, and you will need to be able to sort the Winner Spreadsheet in alphabetical order by the winners.

Once you have everything filled out in your Vendor Spreadsheet, it is time to copy and paste into your Winner Spreadsheet.

After you have all the information in the Winner Spreadsheet, sort it by Winner.  You will probably have people that have won more than one auction item.  You will only want to send one email to each winner.  Sending more than one is likely to send you to the spam folder.  So at this point you need to go through your spreadsheet and combine information on people with more than one item.  For example, if Jane Smith won item 3 for $25 and item 35 for $40, then in one row under Item Number you put "3 & 35" and under Bid Amount you put "$65".  Then you will want to delete the second row for Jane.

Once you have only one row for each winner, you are ready to send the mail merge.

To do the mail merge:

1. Open your gmail account that you have created for the auction.

2. Click compose and draft an email that you will send to the winners.  Leave the Recipient email blank.  Here is the email that I send:

*PLEASE BE SURE TO READ THIS ENTIRE EMAIL THOROUGHLY AS IT SHOULD ANSWER ALL YOUR QUESTIONS*


Dear $%Winner IG%,

Thank you so much for participating in the Smith's Adoption Instauction!  We cannot thank you enough for your support of our family.

Congratulations on winning the following item number(s):
$%Item Number%

The total that you owe is:
$%Bid Amount%

In order to save us HOURS of time invoicing and to avoid losing money to PayPal fees, we are going to attempt to have you all pay by simply sending the amount you owe directly to our Adoption Fund through PayPal.  {Of course please feel free to send more if you would like to make an additional donation.}  

Please send the amount stated above to: janesmith@gmail.com

Once you have sent your payment, reply to this email letting us know that you have paid and please be sure to provide your full name and shipping address so that we can pass that info along to the vendor.

If you purchased an item with custom options, the vendor will contact you directly.

If you do not have a PayPal account you will not be able to send money in this way.  In that case, please reply to this email and let us know that you need us to send you an invoice.  You do not need a PayPal account to pay an invoice.

To pay with a PayPal account, please see the detailed instructions below. 
1. Go to www.paypal.com and login
2. Click on the "Send Money" tab
3. Fill in the email address: emmy@choosejoyevent.com
4. Fill in the donation amount {at least the amount above}
5. Select the "family or friends" option {this will send the money without incurring fees}
6. A new screen will come up for you to review your payment and confirm.  PLEASE DOUBLE CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ENTERED THE CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS. 
7. In the "Message" field please make a note of the item number(s) you are paying for
8. Click "Send Money"
PLEASE MAKE YOUR PAYMENT WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS OR WE WILL MOVE ON TO THE NEXT HIGHEST BIDDER. 
Thank you again for your generous support and for making our auction a HUGE success!
XO,
Jane Smith


You probably noticed some funky characters up there within the email.  This is how the mail merge works.  In the places where you see something like "$%Winner IG%" gmail will pull the information from your spreadsheet to fill in the correct name on each email it sends.  

3. Save the email to your drafts folder.

4. Go back to your Winner Spreadsheet and click on the Mail Merge menu.  Click on "Step 1: Initialize" and then click "Accept" to give this application permission to run your mail merge.

5. If it doesn't take you directly to the next step, then click on the Mail Merge menu again and then "Step 2: Start Mail Merge".

6. Under "Please select your Mail Merge template" you will want to find the subject line of your winner email and select it.  Under "Please write the sender's full name" you can either put your name or the name of your Auction.

7. DO NOT CHECK THE BOX THAT SAYS "BCC YOURSELF".  You are limited to sending 100 emails a day through gmail Mail Merge.  If you BCC yourself it counts each email sent as 2 emails.

8. Click "Start Mail Merge", and now watch the magic happen.  As each email is sent EMAIL_SENT will appear in the Mail Merge column.  It will only take a few seconds to send all your emails.

*PLEASE NOTE: GOOGLE WILL ONLY ALLOW YOU TO SEND 100 EMAILS PER DAY.*
If you have more than 100 winners, you will need to open a second gmail account to send more emails.  If you have to do that, then I suggest just adding a 2 to your original email.  For instance, if your email is thesmithsadopt@gmail.com, make the new one thesmithsadopt2@gmail.com.  You will need to put a copy of the email in the drafts folder of this email account, and you will need to share your spreadsheets with this email address so that you can send the mail merge from here also.

This is kind of a pain, as you will have two email accounts you will have to check and track, but unless you have a VERY large auction you probably won't need to do this.  I ran an auction last year that had about 135 items, and I had enough duplicate winners that I still had less than 100 emails to send.




Be sure to post on IG that you have sent the payment instructions.  If you have time I would also recommend tagging the winner in each item post and letting them know that you have sent the email.




As the payments come in and you receive replies from the winners, be sure to record everything in your Vendor Spreadsheet.  Within 24 hours hopefully you will have the majority of the payments received.  It's important to get the winner's information to the vendors as soon as possible so that they can get the items shipped.

After 24 hours I suggest sending your first round of emails to the vendors.  So here's how that process should go:

1. If you have not received payment from a winner, type "No Payment" in the Winner column.

2. Compose an email in your gmail account to your vendors.  This is the email that I use:

Good Afternoon!

Thank you again for participating in the the Smith Family Adoption Auction.  It was a huge success, raising over $5000!!!  Well beyond our goal.  

Below is the information for the winner of your donation.  If you donated more than one item you will get separate emails for each item.  If under "Winner's Name" it says "NO PAYMENT" that means that we still have not received payment on your item and are working on contacting the buyer.  If we don't receive their payment by today we will move on to the next bidder.  As soon as we have a paying bidder we will forward the information on to you.

Item: $%Item%
Winner's Name: $%Winner%
Winner's IG Name: $%Winner IG%
Winner's Email Address: $%Winner Email%
Winner's Mailing Address: $%Shipping Address%

If you need any information from the winner like color or size choice, please contact them directly.

Thank you again!

XOXO,
Emmy and team
  
3.  Do another mail merge, this time from your Vendor Spreadsheet.




No matter how organized you are, there will be some people that won't pay you on time.  Even though you have asked them to pay within 24 hours, they won't.

At the end of 24 hours I go through my spreadsheet and anyone that has not paid I tag again on their item post.  I will say something like "@soandso, did you get the payment instructions email?  I have not received your payment confirmation and shipping address.  Please pay by tonight at midnight PST or we will move on the the next bidder.  Thanks!"

I try to give as much grace as possible, but usually if I have not had any contact within 48 - 72 hours then I will move on to the next highest bidder.

On rare occasion I will repost a few items in a mini-auction that I will run for maybe 3 hours or so.




If you need to resend an email to a winner or a vendor, it is super easy to do through the mail merge.  Simply erase the EMAIL_SENT from the Mail Merge column of anyone that you would like to resend the email to.  It can be one person or several, or all of the people... so if you wanted to send a different email than the first one you sent you can compose a second draft, delete all the EMAIL_SENT text from the mail merge column, and redo the mail merge.

For the vendors whose winner's pay late, you will need to resend their emails as you collect the winner's information.




I think that pretty much covers it.  If you have any question at all, please comment below and I will respond.  If you have a question, I'm sure that someone else will have the same question.

Good luck with your auction!  If you use my system, I would LOVE to hear from you about how much money you raise so we can keep track and celebrate all the people that are being helped.  Because if you know me, you know that #peoplehelpingpeopleismyfavorite.

XOXO,
Emmy

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