Thursday, 22 March 2012

Online Fundraising Auction using UrberCart (Drupal module)

The Havanese Fanciers of Canada (HFC) wanted to hold an online fundraising auction to raise money for their rescue, Havanese Fanciers of Canada Rescue, Inc. They work with local shelters, veterinary clinics, and tireless volunteers across Canada assisting Havanese or Havanese-typed dog needing a second chance or some minor help. Their online auction is call Havanese Rescue Benefit Auction.

One of their fundraising efforts involves hosting an online auction. In the past, they would hold these online auctions between a defined time-frame and email their bids in. One person would receive each bid and manually edit web pages as bids came in. In the beginning, this process wasn’t too bad but by the end came, the process became a mere nightmare for the person at the receiving end of bids. This person would have to deal with late bids; bids with little to no information on what they were trying to bid on; people asking who bid last and instructions if so-and-so does a bid on item X, then out-bid them for me; and the list of follies of manually running an auction goes on.

There were two prior years where they have done an automated online auction and they were done on a Drupal 5 (the latest version at the time), and a different product/auction module. The developers of this auction module admitted their module was Aces in their previous version 4 and would consider making the same improvements in version 5 of their module if someone would step up and pay them to develop it. On behalf of HFC, I sent them an email of inquiry and it was far too pricy to bother taking it forward anywhere. I even researched who else was interested in seeing their module developed to split the costs but these other organizations were just like HFC who do not have a lot, don’t get a lot, and do the absolute best with whatever they get.

The club wanted to do another online auction this year. I did recommend eBay for the easy and simplicity of it but cost was and still is a large factor to any decision they make. Despite eBay’s ease of use, large audience, recognizably, and able plug-in modules its eBay’s cost was one the clincher for us. Here are a few reasons discussed: (1) EBay’s cost are hard to justify for a very small auction; (2) Most eBay’s audience are looking for deals and this is opposite of the club’s goals; and (3) the club currently asks donors to pay for shipping costs which is opposite to the eBay culture.

Their hearts were set on an online auction that was both close to free as possible and somewhat automated. Research began for an auction website to subscribe to, or an auction Drupal module to install and configure. I did find something in UrberCart, a Drupal module actively developed by UrberCart,

Havanese Fanciers of Canada Rescue’s website,, is currently on Drupal 6 series core platform. Drupal is content management software allowing many editors to update the website at the same time. The very basics of UrberCart are enabled and configured to do just the following: (1) provide auction products, (2) payments using check or paypal, (3) automated notice system to inform bidder of items they were out-bid on and items they won. These were their requirements for an online auction.

Even though the club is using a small portion of the UrberCart module, it is able to provide so much more to other websites: shipping and handling, purchasing multiple quantities, taxes, product attributes, many other product types (roles, files, etc). You can read up more about UrberCart at or Also there are a number of add-on modules develop by other developers to add other functionality.

Because Drupal is a content management software allowing multiple editors to dig in, many of the project’s committee members were log in and got involved in posting new products, reviewing products and bids, and participated in some practice bidding prior to the live auction. This really gave committee members to get their hands dirty, get a real feel for the auction, clear up, and make corrections anything that may not fit with their goals, the website flow, and so forth.

Bidders appreciate the automated messages and they are sent during every cron job, so to make sure people get their automated messages within a reasonable amount of time, the cron jobs frequency was temporarily changed to every 15 minutes. Bidder are receiving their automated messages once per item and within 15 minutes. So far, this has been working out well.

Their auction is currently running until March 25th. We will be sending out an online survey afterwards to truly evaluating the real success of the club’s use of this module. So far, committee members are dealing with resetting passwords, which has nothing to do with the UrberCart module, and they are receiving many positive feedback.

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