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Pros and Cons of Using a Microsite for Your Next Auction

Silent Auction Bidding Technology News

As a nonprofit professional, you know exactly how time-consuming, but profitable, a well-planned and engaging fundraising event can be. 

Nonprofit auction planners are no stranger to this. You have to procure the items, find a viable venue (if in-person), decide how attendees bid (like with an app or other platform), and acquire any other necessary digital tools (especially if you’re hosting the event virtually!)

What’s the best way to increase the ROI of a nonprofit fundraising auction? With top quality marketing!

In fact, a common marketing trend popping up in the charity space is the use of microsites to promote nonprofit events. If you’ve never created a microsite, this is brand new territory for you. Without knowing the true benefits or challenges of hosting a microsite, it’s hard to say whether microsites are a tool that can actually help your nonprofit.

At Kanopi, our expert nonprofit technology consultants know a thing or two about developing and designing a charity microsite. To help you decide if a microsite can help market and generate excitement for your next fundraising auction, we created this guide to walk through the following topics:

  • What is a Microsite?
  • Pros and Cons Of Using a Microsite For Your Auction
  • What a High-Quality Microsite Looks Like

Understanding the pros and cons of an auction microsite is the first step in figuring out if this strategy is best for your needs. Let’s begin by going over the basics of what a microsite is, and then dive into those benefits and challenges.

What is a Microsite?

A microsite is a website or page that exists outside of an organization or businesses’ regular site structure but is still branded to and associated with it. 

The main thing to remember is that a microsite is not a landing page for your website. Instead, it acts as a separate entity. Here are the differences between your microsite and main website:

  • Each has a different domain/subdomain name
  • Microsites are sometimes temporary whereas your main site is permanent 
  • A microsite hosts different content from the main site
  • A microsite has its own unique marketing strategy

However, this doesn’t clear up exactly what a microsite’s function is in terms of marketing. Specifically, how do the traits above set microsites up to help you market your next fundraising auction?

Main Uses For a Microsite

There are a variety of reasons why nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike use microsites to optimize their marketing approach. In particular, microsites do the following:

  • Target specific audiences that respond better to certain messaging
  • Act as a place to experiment with different media formats, including blogs, video, and audio
  • Create an additional online platform for your organization to engage with new and current supporters
  • Bring attention to a new offering, event, or program
  • Act as an additional channel to grow email lists or gain social media followers
  • Show an entirely new side to your organization or business, including a possible change in tone with different goals—for instance you might create a microsite to target a younger audience and use a more casual and hip vernacular 
  • Act as the sole function for a service the organization or business provides, like an online donation microsite, online webinar/classes microsite, and more

The important thing to remember is that your microsite is a valuable marketing tool and can be a critical component of any nonprofit’s digital strategy. Because it’s an isolated site that acts as another platform for supporter engagement, microsites for fundraising events can help increase registrations and bring in additional revenue. 

Pros and Cons Of Using a Microsite For Your Auction

Now that you understand what a microsite is and its basic uses for a nonprofit organization, it’s time to determine if it’s worth creating one for your next fundraising auction. 

You might think that having a dedicated auction event page on your website is enough. A simple page hosts the necessary event information, facilitates event registration, and offers easy access to other website content for supporters to learn more about your mission. What exactly can a microsite do for your nonprofit that a normal web page on your main site can’t?

Auction Microsite Pros

Here are some of the standout benefits of using a microsite for your fundraising auction:

  1. New lead generation. Microsites have a unique opportunity to target key audiences. In fact, it’s likely that new supporters and attendees will find out about not only your auction but your entire organization through the microsite. By using a highly specific marketing strategy, having good search engine optimization, and remaining branded to your core mission, your auction microsite can bring in new leads.
  2. Help with data analytics. Microsites are usually dedicated to a specific project, like advertising an upcoming nonprofit auction. Because of this, microsites are great for data analysis. Easily determine the types of audiences looking at your auction, set key performance indicators, and have a better sense of the number of leads you’re getting. With this specific data, you can learn more about your supporters and create even more targeted outreach content.
  3. Act as the dedicated resource for the event. While this can be done through a page on your main website, hosting a microsite for your auction event is a valuable place to hold all auction event details. If this is an annual auction, supporters probably remember it by name more than anything else. Having a dedicated microsite with the auction name as the domain is a key way of reassuring supporters and attendees that this is a reliable source for anything they might need. From finding the auction rules to signing up and even browsing items, supporters can get everything done in one central location. If you’re considering a virtual auction, you can even host the online bidding and item checkout process right on your microsite!

In theory, microsites sound great. But there’s actually quite a bit of work that goes into making and maintaining one. If you’re not using it for the right reasons or you don’t properly leverage its benefits, microsites can backfire and even lower your marketing potential. Let’s dive deeper into this by reviewing the cons. 

Auction Microsite Cons

When they’re done well, microsites can bring real value to your nonprofit efforts and increase your online marketing potential. However, just like when creating your nonprofit donation page, there are design considerations and content choices that can in fact increase, or decrease, ROI. 

Here are some of the cons you should keep in mind if considering an auction microsite:

  1. It takes time to build out and maintain. Not only do you need to actually build out a separate site, but you’ll also need to put in time and resources, as well as assign staff members, to maintain the site. This isn’t just building out a simple webpage—you need to consider site elements like user experience, navigation, layout, design, content, security, and more. If you don’t currently have the time and resources, you might want to reconsider if a microsite is worth it.
  2. Might spread information too thin. A common challenge for microsites is not repeating the same information from your main nonprofit website. Along the same lines, if you don’t have enough content for both your main website and auction microsite, it risks spreading information too thin. Supporters going on either website won’t receive the value they need. And, this can negatively impact your search engine optimization by deeming your sites as non-authoritative.
  3. Could confuse supporters. If you don’t design your auction microsite well or fail to associate it with your nonprofit’s larger brand, you risk confusing supporters. This is especially true with new supporters. Even if they find out about the auction through the microsite, they might not even realize that it's associated with your nonprofit and fail to ever support you again in the future. 

Creating a quality microsite is not effortless. It isn’t worth building a microsite without some reasoning behind it. In fact, creating purposeless microsites is a huge risk, as your team has to put in extra work to maintain sites that aren’t even serving its original function.

However, if you do want to host a microsite for your next auction, keep reading for our essential design and development tips. 

What a High-Quality Microsite Looks Like

Taking insight from our Kanopi article on charity microsites, we’ve compiled a list of top considerations to ensure that your microsite is the best it can be. All microsites should:

  • Be flexible and able to pivot if circumstances or your focus changes.
  • Have content that’s as unique as possible. The content should be specific, direct, and always relevant to the main focus of the microsite. 
  • Have intuitive navigation. The easier it is to use your microsite, the better the user experience, and the more likely visitors will continue engaging.
  • Be easily shareable on social media, mobile apps, email, and more. This is key if you want to expand your target audience and promote an event.
  • Have a clear call-to-action that serves the site’s central purpose. 
  • Have analytic capabilities. You should be able to integrate your microsite with your nonprofit CRM and performance analysis tool to track key data.
  • Have an optimized URL name. The URL should reflect the purpose of the microsite, whether it’s the slogan, campaign name, or keyword.

Think carefully about whether a microsite is right for your own needs and how much it can benefit your upcoming fundraising auction after considering both the pros and cons. 

If you decide to use a microsite, use the list above to ensure that it is the best it can be. Or, you might look into bringing on a nonprofit tech consultant to help you design a microsite to meet your exact specifications. 

Wrapping Up

Just because these are great opportunities for a microsite, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth it for your nonprofit to create one. Remember, only the right circumstance and a high-quality microsite will bring any of the benefits you’d want. Ask yourself the following questions before deciding to create a microsite:

  • Is the microsite’s purpose different from your nonprofit’s core site? 
  • Is your microsite audience different from your primary audience?
  • Do you have enough content to create a microsite?

If you answered yes, then a microsite is perfect for your next fundraising endeavor! You can start creating your auction microsite and tailoring it to your event goals. Good luck! 

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