Posts Tagged ‘silent auctions’

Charity auctions: Are they a fit for your nonprofit?

This article was first published by our friends at CharityChannel and kindly shared by CEO, Stephen Nill. The article is by consultant, Abra Annes, and her bio follows the post.

In the realm of event-based fundraising for nonprofits, there are a lot of ways to raise funds. At the invitation of Stephen Nill, CEO at CharityChannel, I’ve been invited to talk honestly about the pros and cons of charity auctions.

As a professional charity auctioneer for six years, how could I resist such an invitation? In my view, when they’re done right, there’s no better way to engage donors in just one night than a fundraising auction.

My goal is to share what I have learned while also setting aside, at least for the “con” part, my natural predisposition in favor of this form of event fundraising. So, with that disclosure, let me dive in!

The Pros of Charity Auctions

Inspire Others to Give by Example

The number one reason for an auction is to inspire others to give. Public displays of philanthropy typically inspire others who have similar capacity to help.

When the formula of a charity event is just right, the energy and the feeling in the room can be contagious. You can’t recreate that energy outside of a fundraising event. The energy will draw out priceless new donors and champions of your cause.iacac-org

Build Valuable Connections with Existing Donors

Charity events are a great way to connect with your existing donors. Personal interactions with your donor base are incredibly valuable. Most organizations focus on their major donors and don’t get to connect with mid-sized donors. Events are the opportunity to connect with them face to face. These are the biggest advocates and champions of your cause.

Think of your charity event as the ultimate first date. Craft every detail so that potential donors fall in love with you and existing donors fall in love with you all over again.

A charity auction can be viewed, and in my view should be viewed, as a key opportunity to cultivate relationships with prospective donors that will lead to a later solicitation of significant individual charitable contributions far greater than what was contributed at the auction itself.

The Numbers Make Sense

Only have an event if you’re committed to covering the cost from ticket sales. That way, all fundraising activities that occur the day of your event go towards the charity directly, rather than paying for the event. Communicate this in the invitation by printing an asterisk next to the ticket price and clearly stating that the ticket price goes toward event costs only. Make it very clear on the invitation that the event is for fundraising.

A Great Way to Share Your Organization’s Vision

Visions are inspiring, and a charity auction is a powerful platform for sharing your organization’s vision. Most charities talk about their mission instead of their vision. Your vision is what impact your organization will have had in three, ten, or more years. These are bigger ideas, fantastical goals, and grand solutions that you hope to obtain.

When you share your vision with donors and invite them to help you achieve it, you create excitement. Excitement and momentum can catapult your event to the next level of attendance and donations.

The Cons of Charity Auctionsyoucaring-com

Charity auctions are not the right fundraising method for many nonprofits. Typically, they are expensive and always have some hidden costs.

They are also time intensive. Charity auctions, like most event fundraising, take an exorbitant amount of time to plan and are taxing on your team.

If you have a small development team that is already maxed out, a charity auction could put some members them over the edge. A common time for staff to quit is after a fundraising event.

They Are Expensive

Charity events take time, money, and energy, so make sure it’s worth before doing one. You want them to be impressive and memorable to the people that have donated and new potential donors. For many of the donors, this is a night out on the town, so make it awesome!

Details, Details

You’ll need a venue, a top AV system, invitations, centerpieces, and a kick-ass auctioneer. And that’s all before you even feed your guests.

Failure to account for staff time is the biggest mistake most development directors make when they create a budget. Most forget to create a line item for number of hours worked for each staff member, including admin, marketing staff, and the executive team.

The Space Is Crowded with Competition

Charity Auctions have become increasingly trendy. Schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, and other nonprofits of all sizes are holding charity auctions. Due to their increased popularity, they’ve become trendy and there’s a lot of competition.

Face-to-Face Solicitations Have a Better ROI

Direct solicitation of individual donors for large gifts, assuming optimal cultivation over time, will raise considerably more for a nonprofit organization than will any event, including charity auctions.

The risk with a charity auction, as is typical of all events-based fundraising, is that the focus will be on the event itself to raise funds, while missing the important opportunity to cultivate the right individuals.

A Charity Auction Will Not Magically Solve All Your Fundraising Problemscollegebound-org

If you think that a charity auction will be the panacea for your organization’s issues, it won’t.

Charity auctions require a lot of behind the scenes prep work to be successful. You’ll need to fill the room with the right people, who have the capacity to give and the capacity to care. Getting the right people in the seats can be a full-time job.

To have a truly stellar charity auction, you will need to block your calendar for the entire week prior. After the auction, you will need at least one week to process all gifts and logistics.

Another large problem I see are organizations believing that hiring me or another auctioneer will just magically raise tons of cash. I wish this were true, but the only way to get donations at a charity auction is with a fully prepared event and audience. People who have come to dance, get dressed up, party, or just have dinner, usually will not donate.

Sure, part of my job as a consultant is to make the ask, but my real job is to inspire those in the room to dig deeper and care. To inspire people who came thinking they were going to donate $10,000, and get them to give $20,000. The true power of a skilled auctioneer is to not leave a dime on the table.

See also:

Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops: How to Leverage Your Annual Fund in Only Five Hours per Week

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture

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Community auctions: Collect creative items and boost the bidding process

Last week, CausePlanet asked its readers for questions they had about community auctions. As the author of SOLD: How to Run a Great Community Auction and owner of Community Auction Services, I was anxious to share what I’ve experienced over the years. I hope these answers help those of you who use this exciting fundraising strategy.

Q: What are first-timers most surprised to learn after completing their first auction?

Well, there are good surprises and bad ones! Many first-timers are overwhelmed by the checkout process, which has to take place in an organized way and very quickly. A chaotic checkout experience can turn any organization off auctions forever: it’s traumatic for those giving the auction and also for attendees.

The key to avoiding bad surprises is planning. Read up on how auctions should be run—there are a myriad of websites where you can get information, or you can purchase SOLD:  How to Run a Great Community Auction. Ask friends about auctions they attended to find out what went well and what didn’t. To avoid checkout trauma, a good data system is essential, whether it’s created by an organization member or purchased (like EasyAuction™).

Of course, the best surprise is to learn that the auction made more than was forecasted, which happens a lot with well-organized auctions, whether they’re first-timers or not. Items you didn’t think would sell end up making a lot; items you thought were real winners go for peanuts! But overall, you can find yourself amazed at the total. My favorite story:  a preschool wanted to raise $1000 and ended up with over $3500 by the end of the evening!

Q: What are some ways I can boost the creativity of the auction items my committee collects?

The number one rule when trying to improve your donations is: find out what the bidders want and give it to them! How can you do that? Look at the population who will be attending the auction. What do they like to do?

·         If your organization is a community (a church, school or other organization where people know each other), encourage people to offer dinners and other social events in their homes. This can be an untapped source of fantastic items.

·         Are a lot of the attendees’ families with children? Host ice cream socials or magic shows in a backyard, or sponsor a family softball game complete with hot dogs and root beer. People love buying things for their kids!

·         Combine smaller donations into attractive and desirable baskets. Have a gift certificate for an oil change? Buy some wax and a car wash mitt and create a “Love Your Car” basket. Hand-thrown pottery mugs? Add a Starbuck’s gift card and a bag of gourmet coffee. You can get baskets at thrift stores and use leftover Christmas ribbon to make them more appealing.

·         Borrow ideas wherever you can find them! If you know of another organization that’s giving an auction, get a copy of the catalog. (By the way, I’m happy to share ideas from some of my previous auctions—just ask!) Again, a web search will turn up lots of information.

·         ALWAYS analyze your auction after it’s over to determine which types of items sold well and which didn’t. Then get more of the former next year.

·         Ask potential bidders what they’d like to bid on. Put a “donation tree” in the lobby or on your organization’s auction information table. Encourage people to write their desired auction items on “leaves” and tape them to the tree. Then find someone to donate them. Note: of course, in today’s world, this can be a virtual tree via email or a Facebook page.

Q: What are the best strategies for keeping people bidding in a live or silent auction without being annoying?

Of course, the best way to keep people bidding is to have great items, but you can stir up a little excitement with these techniques:

·         Use Psychology: People tend to start bidding more when they think the auction is almost over, so have several (two or three) closing times for silent auction items. (This helps your data entry people too.) You can close a whole category at one time or choose to close individual items, generally those that will not benefit by extended bidding. Mark the bid sheets with colored dots to indicate which closing time applies. For example, Red Dot items might close at 8:00, Blue Dot at 8:15 and the rest at 8:30. Be sure to announce, “Red Dot items closing in five minutes!”

·         Provide Bargains: About 15 minutes before the silent auction is over, reduce the price of items that have no bids by marking the bid sheets with a marker or pen. Then, be sure to announce that you’re doing it—people will come out of the woodwork anticipating a bargain. I often reduce minimum bids by one-third to one-half. Remember:  you’ll make more by selling the item cheaply than by not selling it at all.

·         Entertain: For oral/live auctions, hire a professional auctioneer if at all possible. This makes a huge difference when it comes to keeping people interested. If you can’t afford a pro, use entertaining ways of describing the items for bid. For example, have one of your helpers dress in an evening gown to display the items in a Vanna White-type walk across the stage! Make sure the auctioneer includes a lot of humor, including stories everyone will relate to.

·         Keep it Simple: Don’t include too many items in your oral/live auction. It’s hard to set an absolute number, but if you keep the number at 20 or below, you will have more interest (and higher bids) for the items offered. Be sure the items are chosen for their general appeal, not necessarily just their value. You can offer the other items in your silent auction.

See also:

SOLD: How to Run a Great Community Auction

Fundraising with Businesses

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