Fundraising auctions and benefit galas take a substantial amount of time and effort to organize. Your nonprofit organization needs to take advantage of every opportunity to encourage great dividends. If you are careful about audience development, which I have discussed in previous blogs, then you have the right people coming to your charity event. The next step is to make sure that those bidders are ready to buy!
A great way to “prime” your donors before the fundraising gala is to advertise the donated auction items to your audience before the event. Many of your attendees will be familiar with charity auctions and will have attended them in the past, so the invitation to your live fundraising auction will make them aware that they are going to be a part of the bidding audience. To better prepare them to bid on the items that you will be selling, you need to pre-market them to your donors.
If bidders receive an advertisement for the larger items that you will be selling several weeks before the auction, it will improve that items potential bidding for a few reasons. Your bidders will get a chance to look over the items and think about owning one or several of them. There may be donated trips that they would like to think about taking or an item they have always wanted. If they decide on an item before the event, you are ensuring that they will attend and bid on it. The more donors that are excited about an item before they get there, the higher that item will go for. Another reason to advertised these items is so that couples can discuss purchases with their spouses before the auction event. If they will be spending thousands of dollars on an auction item, it would be helpful for them to decide that together.
One way to do this is to have your committee choose the best items that have been donated, the ones that will probably bring the greatest dollars. You can highlight these items with nice color pictures in a pre-auction event notice. This promotion can be sent by mail or by email to all your attendees, or just the high-dollar sponsors and corporate donors. The entire auction catalog is mailed out a few weeks before the event for some large nonprofits, although this is not necessarily appropriate for your event. Another perk you can offer your VIP audience (sponsors and corporate donors) is early admission for previewing of silent and live auction items. This gives consideration to your high-dollar spenders and allows them more time to veiw all of the bidding opportunities available.
Most experienced charity organizations have found an advantage when hosting a charity gala event — selling corporate tables and soliciting sponsors. These important tools can bring in extra revenue to underwrite the cost of your event, attract the right buyers to be a part of your audience, and bring exposure of your event and cause to the surrounding community. With pre-planning and several passionate volunteers, your charity organization can develop these techniques and reap more benefits from your charity gala event.
Offering corporate tables is a way of selling group ticket packages to individuals or companies who then plan to attend the event themselves or give the tickets away to others. If tables at your gala event seat 8-10 people, for example, a corporate table purchase would include admission for 8-10 people and would generally cost more than it would to purchase tickets separately. It is unusual for a corporate table purchase to cost less, but some organizations do discount group tickets if they are trying to increase attendance. One obvious benefit to the purchaser would be that all of the attendees would be seated together and their reserved table could be in a preferred location. Other perks that could be offered are a VIP party, advertisement in your event program, or other types of recognition. While some primitive charity auction events do not take advantage of selling corporate tables at all, the larger and more successful ones do. The highest dollar events do not sell individual tickets at all, only table packages because they have the support and ability to do so. For the average gala event, a reasonable expectation may be to sell about 50% corporate tables and 50% individual tickets. Keep in mind; if you are hoping for an audience of 250 people, it will be a lot more work to sell 250 individual tickets if no group packages are sold.
Sponsorships are different than selling corporate tables. Sponsors usually give straight donations of relatively large sums and do not receive equal benefits in exchange. Their contributions can be vital to helping your organization cover the cost of your gala event. Sponsorship levels can be set, based on your financial goals for the event and past history of support. A handful of levels could range from a bottom sponsorship level that encourages donations just above the normal ticket price (or table group price) to the highest level that is an amount above your expectations. There are many donors that surprise charity organizations with the amount of their donations and you are likely to come across them. The business that contributes the highest gift to your event can be given the recognition of “Presenting Sponsor” or “Title Sponsor” and their name can become a part of the event title. For example, “ABC Foundation’s Charity Auction, Presented by 123 Insurance Company” or “123 Insurance Company Presents the XYZ Charity Auction on behalf of ABC Foundation”. Low level sponsorship could offer perks such as a small ad, recognition in the program, or a plaque with their name. Different perks can be determined for the different levels of sponsorship depending on the abilities of your organization.
To make sponsorships and corporate tables effective for your gala event, you will need enthusiastic volunteers to solicit donors and practice good follow up. First, realize that you can benefit the companies that contribute to your cause. Public recognition is very desirable for businesses in your area and you have already gathered a valuable audience for them. Be professional, have forms or a promotional packet available, meet with potential donors in person, and follow up with decision makers. Look at the businesses that your organization already works with including vendors and service providers. Enlist board members to find outside supporters. Look to businesses in your area that do heavy marketing campaigns which obviously have high budgets for advertising. There are also charitable foundations that were set up primarily for donations that are often overlooked.
Finally, realize that corporate tables that are sold (or given as perks to sponsors) may not be filled on event night. Before the event, plan to confirm with the sponsors or purchasers that these reserved seat will be filled. If not, ask if the seats can be re-sold to raise more money, remove the empty table, or invite some guest of honor to fill them. Besides wasting the seats, empty tables will hurt the atmosphere of your sophisticated and elegant gala event.
So you’re planning a benefit and charity event for your nonprofit organization. Your volunteers have been working hard gathering donations to be auctioned at your fundraising event. The catering is being planned, the venue has been reserved, the auctioneer has been hired. What is the biggest thing you can do to make your event a success? Get the right people to attend.
Remember that the main goal is fundraising for your organization. Those fundraising dollars are going to be coming from the audience at your live auction benefit event. Answering the question of who attends and why, can transform your charity auction from just fun entertainment to a profitable fundraiser. The object is not just to fill the room with warm bodies, but to fill it with the right people. The best charity auction audience is ready for an auction and able and willing to bid.
One way to create a great benefit auction audience is to charge a fairly expensive ticket price. This ticket price has a two-fold affect. First, it will filter out those people who do not have disposable income available or that do not have the desire to spend on your organization. Secondly, high-end patrons may prefer to be invited to a more exclusive event and be more likely to attend. Once you settle on a higher ticket price, then try to maximize the space you have for your event. Start out by determining how many attendees your venue can comfortably accommodate, then invite the right people to fill it.
The right audience can come from your own supporter database or can be new donors who will be unaware of your cause. So the first place to start is to make a list of the best supporters of your nonprofit. Hopefully your organization has information on past fundraisers and donations to make you aware of those who are already emotionally connected to your cause. If not, this will be a great opportunity to start! If you will be looking for new supporters, one place to start is with your nonprofit’s board members and committee members, who are also already emotionally attached to your cause. Additionally, they are usually connected by employment to a for-profit company that may be willing to be a sponsor of your event or purchase corporate tables. Look for prominent businesses in your area that will be looking for the type of clientele that will be at your event.
In the end, remember that if the main goal of the event is to financially support your nonprofit, you must fill the room with the people that will make that a reality. There can be other events that show appreciation to volunteers or celebrate successes, but a benefit & charity auction event takes a lot of work and time to come to fruition and usually only occurs once a year. You do not want this to end up just being a party; you need it to be a fundraiser. You can achieve your goals by proactively building the right charity auction audience.
The world’s largest auction, the stock market climbed to a five-year record setting high today giving investors more confidence in the US market. Google even climbed to $800 dollars a share for the very first time in history. This boost in our stock market is not only a good sign for the economy and a boost to consumer confidence, it is also great news for this year’s benefit and charity auctions.
As all nonprofits know, there are some donors that can continue to be consistent givers even through economic storms. However, many others are hurt by the economy and are forced to curtail their contributions. Some reduce their giving based solely on the fear of the unknown, the uncertainty in our economy. This is entirely understandable, a “circle the wagons” mentality. Philanthropist’s confidence often reflects consumer confidence.
Likewise our New York Stock Exchange not only reflects an actual auction, it is in fact considered an auction market. At the NYSE, buyers enter bids, the amounts that they are willing to pay for a given stock. At the same time, sellers enter the prices they are willing to sell at, matching bids and orders are paired together, and sales are made. Sounds like an auction to me! Right now bids are up, sales are up, and there goes our economy, making records as I speak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 14,035.67, very close the all-time closing high of 14,164.53, which occurred on October 9, 2007, over five long years ago.
From what I have experienced so far, 2013 may be a record breaking year for many nonprofits as well. Charities that opened their doors during a tough economic downturn may see their dreams become a reality this year. Older nonprofits that continue to stand the test of time may finally feel the winds changing once again. The ebb and tide of the the world’s largest auction (the stock market), does affect the benefit and charity auctions in our nation.
I have the best job, raising money for Denver nonprofits as a fundraising auctioneer. There is no better feeling than knowing that you are helping charities provide shelter, surgeries, food, medical supplies, education, and many other necessities to people who are truly in need in your area. I just conducted a charity auction in Denver for those suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. These are wonderful people, suffering from a devastating disease. There is nothing I would rather do.
As a fundraising auctioneer, of course, I bring in the money. Money is necessary for every nonprofit to survive; it is vital. However, there are many things that can be given to help other people. Lately, I have seen so many creative people using whatever resources they have to help others. Some examples are giving their time, abilities, talents, and comfort. I recently saw one of these giving people featured on 9 News.
Rise Justice is a giving person who saw a need and decided to fix it. She knows how important it is for young children to celebrate their birthdays. It seems like a small thing to many of us who always expected a birthday party as a child, but many homeless children will not get to celebrate the day of their birth. Rise Justice realized how many homeless children miss celebrating these milestones and starting making birthday parties. What a great idea! A birthday party is a simple event that these kids will remember forever. Rise’s nonprofit, Birthday Smiles, has many organizations that contribute to the events that make them fun and memorable for the kids. Visit her website, http://www.birthdaysmiles.org/, to see what she has accomplished.
Now, I would guess that many, if not all of you have planned and orchestrated a child’s birthday party. It doesn’t take a special ability, but to do it for a child that you don’t know, who lives in a shelter, takes compassion. Take a moment to look around at those that may be in need in your area. There are many families who have lost their jobs or homes that cannot provide some things for their families that you and I take for granted. Be creative and use what you have to fill someone else’s needs. You will love the feeling it gives you and you may even decide to keep doing it!
As a benefit auctioneer in Denver, Colorado, I have been saddened by the financial struggles of many local nonprofits that are doing their best to bring aid to those in need. Colorado is experiencing a 9% unemployment rate and charitable giving is down. As nonprofits operate with less and less revenue, their ability to support people who are struggling is decreased. It seems like a reversal of the economic law of “supply and demand”.
As the Denver Mayoral race unfolded in the media, much of the discussion turned toward Denver’s fiscal problems. Denver is expected to have a $100 million shortfall in its budget. To handle this budget crisis, many cuts to important government-funded programs will be considered. Most of these programs directly or indirectly bring aid to those less fortunate in our community. Whatever decisions are made in the future, sacrifices are necessary to correct Denver’s fiscal crisis. As these programs experience cutbacks, there will be great demands for nonprofits to fill in the gaps.
My job as a benefit auctioneer is to bring in the funds to these charities so that they can fulfill these needs. I conduct many successful charity auction events that raise incredible amounts of revenue and I see it going right back into our cities. There are many nonprofits that decide to turn a “down” year around with a well-planned and thought-out benefit auction event. A great fundraising event is a win-win for everyone involved, the givers and the receivers. It is a hard time for nonprofits right now; but, because it is a hard time, nonprofits are so vital to our community. Please remember these charities as you look at your own family budget and do your best to support them in this time of great need.
I am from Denver, but because I often travel as a charity auctioneer, sometimes I forget about the amazing charities right here in Colorado. These are normal people, like you and me, who are using their talents to give to others in a creative way. I would like to spread the word about them to encourage people to give to these organizations and also to inspire others to find a way to use their talents to help those in need.
I recently heard about a nonprofit named, The Wedding Pink, that was featured on Channel 7 News. This nonprofit was founded by Cheryl Ungar, a breast cancer survivor and wedding photographer. She has provided not just wedding photos for couples but puts together an entire wedding package for those who have had to deal with breast cancer. Vendors from Denver have teamed up and contributed their services to provide dream weddings for many who are grateful for even having the opportunity to marry at all. For women who are fighting breast cancer, the dream of a beautiful wedding is not realistic. The moment by moment fight against a horrible disease takes all the energy out of one’s life and pushes “less important” things out of focus. Cheryl Ungar has found a wonderful way to bless these struggling cancer survivors by giving them a wedding, taking care of everything so they can focus on staying healthy. Please visit her website, http://www.cherylungargives.com/, and learn more about her story.
I was touched by this charity because it is so simple. Someone has a talent, an ability, and decides to use it in a way that gives to someone in need. Working as a charity auctioneer, I see lots of money raised for charities. When we think of giving to charities, we think of money, but there are other things to give. What talents do you have? Have you learned a trade that could be used to help someone that is economically or physically unable to help themself? We all have abilities and talents. Be inspired by others and take some time to inventory yours. Be creative and “give away” an ability or talent that you have.
If you tweet, choose a charity that can benefit from it. You can use tweet&give to do all your tweeting and contribute to a good cause at the same time.
The charities that you can choose to support:
- Doctors Without Borders
- Donors Choose
- Malaria No More
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure
- The Innocence Project
- Feeding America
- The Humane Society
- Charity: Water
- The Trevor Project
The tweet&give website makes money from ad revenue on their site. 80% of the ad revenue goes toward charities. None of your twitter functions will change, it just converts all that time tweeting into money for a nonprofit. What a great idea!
Getting volunteers can seem like a daunting task. You might not be sure what kind of person to look for or where to look for volunteers. First, you’ll need to organize your list of tasks that need to be completed to create a successful fundraising auction. Once you accomplish this, you can start searching for your additional manpower. Often in a non-profit organization, there is a group of core people that have been touched by the organization’s outreach, and are often willing to help. Family and friends of the helped individuals are often willing to help also and will probably be very enthusiastic about working. This is one great way to locate volunteers. Additional help can also be found by searching for groups that are related to your objective. For example, if you are looking for volunteers for an animal rescue, you might look at 4-H groups. Another idea is to look for civic groups. Ask the Chamber of Commerce for information about community volunteer programs. Some local churches are active in volunteering also. It never hurts to ask. The most important tip is to look for your volunteers early in the planning process.