Fundraiser Tips: Be ready to deal with unregistered guest.

Be well-prepared to register unregistered guests to avoid lines and have a calm and stress-free silent auction for your group. In this post, we wanted to share an experience of mine so that others may gain some insights as to how it all came together with the help of auction organizing software and offline ExpressPay payments.

No Guest List For Your Auction or Fundraiser?  

Not too long ago, we were involved with an event here in Vancouver with about 300 guests. We had a small team of volunteers who very little experience. It was the first event we worked on where there was no guest list — meaning that each bidder had to be manually registered for bidding at the event!  Time for some quick thinking and improvising! We’d been expecting an Excel attendee file to import into BidStation so that we could assign bidder numbers and print guest lists for check-in, in typical fasion. This auction was looking like it would be a complete checkout disaster. How would we manually register each guest without long line ups at check in?

Overlapped Setup Times?

Making the “opportunity” even more of a challenge, the venue overlapped setup times for the event before us meaning that we didn’t have the room and check-in area until 20 minutes before the reception was to start. In spite of it all, we ROCKED this auction and kept the lines short at both check in and check out.  Here’s how we did it.

We basically had to register each bidder (most couples shared a bid number) by paper with name, phone and email.  To do this, we’d need some materials:

  • 8 clipboards
  • 3 high-top cocktail tables
  • 300 Paper registration forms with pre-printed bidder numbers
  • A few dozen pens
  • A lot of luck!

BidStation Manual Guest Registration Card

Create & Print Paper Registration Forms

We created and printed simple registration forms on the spot with pre-printed bidder numbers and cut them into individual stacks (I always bring extra extra-paper and toner) gathered the materials together and armed the volunteers to go forth, greet guests and register them using the form and clipboard.  Once they registered a guest, they would give them the completed form and send them over to the registration table, asking them to have credit cards ready for auction checkout ExpressPay check-in using our PayStation app.

Use PayStation for Express Pay card pre-swiping at your check-in table.When guests approached the registration table with their completed registration form and credit cards in-hand, the cashier was able to simply swipe the card into PayStation and enter the bidder number. They also wrote the bidder number on the back of a program with sharpies for the guests to take with them.  The check in line was never longer than three people and was usually without a line at all. We kept them moving through very quickly and everyone seemed to be quite happy with the process.

Runners went back and forth to bring the completed registration cards to the computer clerking room for data entry into BidStation, our silent auction database software. We had a team of four working on two computers.  One to read the card details, one to input them.  By the time registration closed, we had completed data entry of all of the cards.From there, we synced PayStation and now we had all of our guests registered and checked in for ExpressPay and could relax and run the rest of the auction as normal.  If we hadn’t had the software ready to streamline these processes, we would have been much worse off.  The software basically reduces the complications of manual work down to a simple operation involving a fraction of the steps.  There’s so much that can be done with attendee, item and bidding data once it’s in a database!

Entering Purchases, Printing Invoices, & Checkout

We went on to enter the various purchases (such as wine pull, raffle and raise a paddle donations and, of course, silent and live auction winning bids) into BidStation, which makes quick work of those processes. We then used BidStation to print invoices by table number and delivered them, folded so that only name and table number showed, to the guests at their tables. I printed extra invoices for the checkout table as well, in case a few people were missed at their tables.

We completed preparation for checkout with time to spare.  With the delivery of invoices to the tables, we estimate that over 80% of the ExpressPay (pre-swiped in PayStation) bidders went directly to the item pick up area and bypassed checkout entirely.  We had very few people to “check out” and not at any point did we have a line up.

All Happy Bidders and Auction was a Success!

We were all very happy with the how well this auction came together, in spite of having little time set up and train the auction team. In fact, we had only 5 minutes to train inexperienced cashiers (a couple of guests had arrived by this time) and then go around to the other volunteers and tell them how it was all going to work. This demonstrates that as long as one person is in charge and knows the system well, they can adapt, adjust and improvise and needed. .  However, we’d always recommend training and practice ahead of time, whenever possible.

We overheard several guests offering high praise to the hostess for the auction, saying that it was the best year ever. And we did this without any internet or mobile devices. This means it cost less and was more reliable through the software’s simple operation and intuitive design. After the auction, we reconciled the bids, processed payments and closed balanced books in short order and with no stress.  Bidders all received an e-receipt from PayStation and we decided to also send a copy of the invoice with payments and zero balances by email as well, using BidStation.

Consider Using our Fundraising Software and Services

If you have challenges with auction check in, or checkout (or both!), consider using our fundraising software and services.  It’s affordable, simple to learn and it works.  We’re happy to discuss your event and related challenges to help you determine if BidStation and PayStation are right for your event too.

To reach us, call 1-866-410-6865, email or use our contact form.  If one of us is online, you may also try the website live chat, located on most pages of the site in the lower right-hand corner of the page.



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