BiddingForGood Aims to Streamline Donation Requests and Boost Charity Auction Pool

Jon Carson describes the newest offering on his website, BiddingForGood.com, as the idea he is most proud of in his “entire startup life.”

“It solves a real problem. It makes something efficient,” says Carson, whose previous entrepreneurial efforts include a keg delivery startup he ran while at Babson College, and FamilyEducation Network, a Web portal he sold to Pearson Education.

The “something” Carson aims to make more efficient is the process of requesting items from businesses for charity auctions or fundraising events. Both sides have complaints about the process, he says. Most merchants—typically restaurants and hotels—solicited for donations to charity auctions have no way of efficiently organizing and responding to the myriad requests they get for things like gift certificates and complimentary stays. Charities often submit their requests with missing information and in turn complain that they never hear back on their queries, Carson says

Cambridge, MA-based BiddingForGood, which Carson describes as an eBay for charity auctions, is trying to improve this situation with the release of its Auction Item Request System (AIRS). The system creates forms that a charity seeking a donation can fill out on a business’ website, detailing specifically what it wants for its auction, and all of its contact information. The AIRS system responds immediately with an automated e-mail confirming the company’s receipt of the donation request, and later on with an e-mail either approving or denying the solicitation. It’s being used by businesses such as Boston’s Liberty Hotel, The Four Seasons, retailer Brooks Brothers, and San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay.

If the BiddingForGood website is the eBay of charity auctions, then the AIRS segment of the business is the OpenTable of donation requests, Carson says, transforming what was previously a loose leaf tracking process to a centralized database. Donors can track the groups they’ve aided, the dollar value of their donations, and the exposure of their products at the auctions.

BiddingForGood is giving its AIRS product to businesses for free, because it’s solving a problem for BiddingForGood, too, Carson says. It helps the startup consolidate the list of nonprofits and auction donors out there, a pool it depends on for its revenue stream (more on that in a moment). “The market is very fragmented,” Carson says, explaining that most charity auctions are run by volunteers with high turnover. His sales team can chase after potential customers when they request an item using the AIRS system, which also advertises BiddingForGood’s other services and allows users to directly request information on the company.

Originally named cMarket and backed by Canaan Partners and Morningside Technology Ventures, the company started in 2003 as a way to more efficiently execute silent auctions for charities. It originally hosted online versions of real-world silent auctions, often a week or so before the actual charity event in order to open them to a wider pool of bidders. The startup eventually noticed … Next Page »

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