Auction

Planning Tools Loved by Organized Auction Chairs

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Guest blog post by Sherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions

I thought about writing on this topic a few months ago and decided, “Nope. I need to save this topic until January.”

The reason being is that January is the month that many stores -- Home Depot, Walmart, Kmart, Target, Staples, The Container Store (the annual Elfa® sale) -- advertise one particular theme.

Getting organized!

This is THE month that many stores promote organization.

Volunteer Auction Chairs need to be organized. They are often working with many volunteers to plan the fundraising auction. Keeping track of the big picture -- AND the details -- is part of the job.

Here are four organizational tools I’ve seen other Auction Chairs have success using:

  • Google Calendar and Google Docs: This combination is perhaps the most popular online method for staying organized and sharing information. The tools are free and enable your entire committee to keep up-to-date.
  • Standard paper calendar: Whether it’s an “At a Glance” or some other brand, paper calendars are still popular among auction chairs. It allows for the entire month’s activities to be seen on one page, which many people like.
  • Electronic calendars: With so many people using their phone to keep up-to-date, it’s no surprise that tech-savvy Chairs opt to use their mobile phone as their master auction calendar.
  • Subject-related notecards (see photo): Last month I had a meeting with two Auction Chairs. One had brought notecards labeled with auction topics, such as Setup/Decoration, A/V, Silent Auction, Food & Beverage and so forth. As we talked through different subjects, she’d list “to do’s” on each card related to that topic. She could then follow up later on those tasks, or hand it off to the appropriate volunteer managing that activity. Clever!

Benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar publishes "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly e-zine for auction chairs seeking to improve the financial results of their charity auctions. Get your own copy - and a F'REE gift! - at www.RedAppleAuctions.com.

What other tools have you successfully used to keep yourself organized in the planning process?  We'd love to know in the comments below!

Nonprofit Spotlight - Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter

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Scleroderma Foundation

By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador at DonationMatch

This week we are excited to spotlight the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter!

Scleroderma is a group of rare, progressive diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body. The purpose of the Foundation's San Diego Chapter is to "support the National Foundation's mission of Support, Education and Research." They hold a variety of events, from support and education meetings to walks and social events.

Here's a peek at their planning process from Kelly Davidson, Executive Director, and Cyndy Martin, Treasurer and Walk Co-Chair:

What kinds of events does your organization hold each year? 

Cyndy: Walk-a-thon fundraiser, free Patient Education Day, Ice Cream Social, Holiday Party with raffle, monthly support group meetings, bi-monthly chapter meetings. This year we plan to add a Padres Day fundraiser and a golf tournament.

What are your biggest fundraising event planning challenges?

Cyndy: Publicity! Getting more people to attend.

What are your most highly attended events?

Kelly: The Walk is by far the most highly attended event. The 2nd most highly attended is an annual patient education day where we typically schedule 3 to 4 expert physicians who speak specifically about scleroderma related symptoms and treatments.

How do you make your Walk-a-thon unique?

Kelly: We try to make it a Family Fun Day, and not just a 5K Walk. The location is somewhat unique in that it's right by the water on beautiful Shelter Island. We try to have something for everyone -  massage chairs, music, classic car displays, and a kid zone with face painting, bounce house, obstacle course and craft booth. We try to make it educational, so we invite other autoimmune disease organizations. And, we entice folks to stay around for our raffle fundraiser by providing a food truck with healthy options.

Which events raise the most money, and which help you raise awareness the best?

Kelly: The Walk definitely helps raise the most money and also gives us the most awareness. Our core members reach out to their extended friends and family to request donations and attendance at the walk. In addition, posts about the walk get more attention than any others on Facebook. It generates excitement and is something folks like to share.

What ideas and support has the national organization given you?

Kelly: Our National organization provides our fundraising site which enables everyone to have one common focus for fundraising, yet allows for personal fundraising pages. They set up the basic structure and auto-responders which are then customized by us at the chapter level. They also conduct an Annual Patient Conference each year and hold a leadership day where chapter leaders can share and learn from each other.

Do you have a favorite story of how your organization helped someone?

Cyndy: My favorite story is my own! I was diagnosed with scleroderma in 2010. I quickly experienced the 'Sclero-What?' syndrome of no one, not even many doctors, kn[owing] what it was. It was through the Scleroderma Foundation that I learned all about my disease, treatment options my doctors were not offering me, and met others coping and living well with the disease. In 2012 my disease became very aggressive and life threatening. Again, it was through the Foundation's education day, patient conference, and my new friends that I learned about clinical trials for stem cell transplants for scleroderma. In November 2012 I underwent a stem cell transplant that I believe saved me from becoming terminal. I now enjoy helping others on this path.

What is your favorite dessert?

Cyndy: Lemon Meringue Pie!

Kelly: Chocolate creme brulee!

Thank you both for all the good work you do, and good luck at your Walkathon on June 23rd!

Click here to learn more about the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter.

What Information Should You Collect Before Your Next Event - And Why?

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Constant Contact has developed a simple strategy for asking the right questions, and in a blog post they explain why obtaining the right information is so valuable in planning your next event. The key to collecting the right guest information before your next event is to start with an online registration form. This allows you to easily learn more about your guests as part of the ticket purchase process. Anyone can use a company like Eventbrite, TicketDerby, or Ticketleap to make it easier, and the best will suggest pertinent questions that will help in planning your event. Knowing what to ask and keeping the form streamlined is crucial.

According to Constant Contact's strategy, #1 is demographic information.  "A nonprofit can use demographic data when planning entertainment or auction items for their annual silent auction fundraiser." Here is their list of what to collect:

1. Demographics: Name, age, gender, even zip codes can matter to sponsors and event partners.

2. Number of guests: Plan seating, food, and amenities better with an accurate count.

3. Contact information: Don't forget about asking for email addresses for follow-up surveys or future communications.

4. Event-specific information:  Are there meal or seating choices to make?  Need t-shirt sizes for giveaways? Can you sell raffle tickets or add-ons in advance?

5. Payment method

At DonationMatch, we do our best to collect the right information on behalf of our users, too. To help companies and brands find their target markets (and nonprofits present themselves to the right opportunities), we ask event organizers for attendee demographics, ticket prices, estimated attendance, social media links, and more. And even before events can be listed on DonationMatch to be eligible to receive goods, a nonprofit's IRS status and account contact must be verified. Because we know nonprofits need to be mindful of the products and services they accept, we now use third-party resources like Yelp to check donor companies, too. We know having better information at your fingertips creates a better experience for both the giver and the receiver.

If your intent is to create a more successful event, asking for more of the right information, and understanding how to use it, is essential. Read Constant Contact's full articles for their strategy and explanations.

What information do YOU collect for a better event?

Using Social Media to Promote Your Event

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch Spring fundraising time is among us.  How are you planning to promote your event?  According to Socialable, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal should be social media.  Because of its wide audience reach, social media can be used to "increase registration, increase buzz, and ultimately increase attendance."  However, in considering your social media platform, it's important to keep in mind who your target audience is and how they interact online.  Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are likely your best options.

Another boost is the new Pro Event page upgrade on DonationMatch. It has built-in extra help for your event to get found by search engines like Google and Bing and Facebook sharing widgets. What makes it super convenient is automatic donor promotion and the ability to export donation details.

For details on using social media to help promote your event, and for useful tools to help you manage it, read more on Socialable's post here.

How are you using social media to promote your event?

Three Steps to Turning New Guests into Big Bidders

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[Sherry's blog post from last year is just as worth sharing now. Here's to your fundraising success! - Renee, Co-founder, DonationMatch] Courtesy of Sherry Truhlar,  Red Apple Auctions

One of my clients held her school gala last month.  A few days prior, she asked how she could ensure that new parents would feel welcome attending the charity auction.

It's a good question.

The reception you give to new attendees can make a difference in whether they buy, and certainly makes an impression on whether they want to return.

At another auction meeting, one of the co-chairs -- a divorced single Mom -- said that when she drove to the auction the previous year, she sat for several minutes in the parking garage, mustering up the courage to enter.

"I was debating as to whether I really wanted to do this," she told me.  She knew everyone else would be attending with their spouse.  As a single person, she wasn't sure she'd fit in or to whom she'd talk.  "I didn't know anyone," she explained.

Once she made the decision to enter, she was so warmly received that she took a leadership role in the auction the following year.

Do you have guests new to the event coming?  Here are some ways to welcome them.

STEP 1:  Prior to the event, call them.

Point blank tell them you're looking forward to meeting them, perhaps mentioning something specific.

"I'm REALLY looking forward to meeting/visiting you," you'll say, "I'm seating you at my table." Say it with enthusiasm!  These are new people prepared to learn about your cause.  They deserve your energy, and it will help build the anticipation.

If you're not holding a sit-down dinner, offer to make introductions, "Find me at the raffle table because I have someone I'm eager for you to meet."

STEP 2:  At the event, assign people to meet and greet.  

At a recent hospice auction, staff were assigned in pairs to greet guests at the hotel door, right after they'd turned their car over to the valet.  Staff briefly chatted with them before pointing them in the direction of the registration table.

Another client asks three people (two Board members and an outgoing woman who has been involved in the organization for years) to mingle with new guests, being sure to introduce the newbies to others and spending time getting to know them.

You might consider identifying new guests in a specific way, such as a "new parent" ribbon or a subtle star on a name badge.

I've seen this done successfully, though some guests might not appreciate the gesture and instead feel like a target.  Decide what works for your group.

STEP 3: After the event, pick up the phone. Nothing says "Wow!" like a prompt thank you.

If you need a slam-dunk strategy for next year's donations, this is it.

The day after the auction, set aside receipts and written thank you's.  Instead, pick up the phone and start dialing.  Here's the proof.

Fundraising colleague Gail Perry introduced me to Penelope Burk's work.  Penelope, a well-respected fundraising expert, shared some statistics on board member thank you calls back in 2004 at an AFP International Conference.

Donors who received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of making the gift were 39% more likely than other donors to give the next time they were solicited.

39%!

And after 14 months, they were giving 42% more.

Talk about a super strategy for improving your auction donations for the following year....

Engage your Board members.  Anyone Board member who felt uncomfortable asking for an auction item or sponsorship money should be enlisted in this activity. Provide them a script.  They can start dialing to say, "Thank you so much for your donation last night!  We are so thrilled you attended."

Three simple steps and these new buyers can become lifelong auction supporters.

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Benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar publishes "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly e-zine for auction chairs seeking to improve the financial results of their charity auctions. Get your own copy -- and a F'REE gift! - at www.RedAppleAuctions.com.

Are You Ready for an Event?

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6 steps to determine if a fundraising event is what your organization really needs

Guest Post by Krista Berry, Owner & Principal Consultant at KB Consulting

I recently had the pleasure of working with a small, energetic non-profit organization that originally contacted me to plan their first fundraising event. Like any event management professional, my first step before diving into the planning elements was to conduct a needs assessment so I could better understand the job.

After my first conversation with the board of directors it was very clear to me that the organization wasn’t ready for a big fundraising event (yet). I discovered that, like many organizations, the event was their solution to raise funds to sustain programs and operations, but they had some critical planning that needed to be addressed first, so they were uncertain how to proceed. As a non-profit consultant, I quickly adjusted my role and recommended they take the time to organize a board planning session to prioritize what they should do and what they should NOT do this year.

While an event can be a great way for non-profits to fundraise, it’s imperative that younger organizations take the time to complete a needs assessment before they start planning a big event to avoid getting in over their head.

Now it’s your turn! Answer these 6 questions to determine if a fundraising event is feasible for your organization this year:

  • Why? The purpose of the event – this will be the foundation for any future planning.
  • What? The desired outcome of the event.
  • Who? The scope of audience and demographic info on attendees.
  • When?  The desired season, date, day and hour that event will take place.
  • Where? The desired physical location of event including destination/geographical area.
  • How?  The plan to accomplish all of the event elements above.

After I completed these steps with my client they realized that what the organization really needed was a few “friend-raiser” events to recruit more people to serve on their board of directors and to support the organization’s programming. This was a more realistic next step and is also more in line with their 2012 goals. The needs assessment combined with a board planning session helped them create clear objectives for the organization to achieve before they start planning their first fundraising event. And the ROI (return on investment) will be a successful, sustainable event that will continue to grow every year as the organization grows!

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Krista Berry, MS is the Owner & Principal Consultant at KB Consulting specializing in innovative events, workshops and capacity building solutions for non-profits and communities. She has over 10 years of non-profit experience in both San Diego and New York City.

In-kind Partnerships With Nonprofits, Part I

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch A question posed in a LinkedIn group made me reflect on how many (typically small) businesses don't know how to use cause marketing, specifically in-kind (non-cash) marketing, to their advantage.  If you have a great product or service, one experience is all you need to convert newbies into customers, even raving fans.  How do you get yourself in front of more potential customers without "paying" for it?

  1. Donate a package or certificate toward an auction, a raffle, or goodie bags.  Most event attendees love these, and donors often get publicized both before and after the event.  Look at donation request letters as opportunities to get hundreds, even thousands, of eyeballs on your brand. You can do online searches for event calendars, ask your employees and customers about organizations they support, check out community boards, or use DonationMatch (my site) to save time (we make connecting with events, sending pre-filled donation forms, and gift certificate delivery paperless and quick.)  One more reason to like auctions: prize winners are the most willing and able to pay more for it than anyone else. You just found your best customer in the room!
  2. Provide event amenities (photography, food/beverage, decor, spa treatments, etc). For a furniture dealer, it could be VIP seating. Chocolates are popular party favors. I've seen HP and a photographer partner to make ornaments from photos with Santa. And who wouldn't appreciate mini spa treatments or makeup touch-ups from a local beauty product store, spa, or beauty school?
  3. Help spread the word.  Your communications reach is another asset companies tend to forget about.  Employees, customers, followers, subscribers... they count.  Be familiar with events you choose to promote, make them a good fit for your customers, volunteer if possible, and the added awareness can add to a charitable fundraiser's attendance and success just as much as any monetary donation.

These opportunities are all tied to nonprofit events, my favorite kind, but may be seasonal or harder to find.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post that gives more everyday ways to help in-kind.

Why not take one lunch break to reach out and explore possibilities with a particularly interesting local organization? And register on DonationMatch to be notified of event opportunities in your market - it's still free in many cities.  I (and your local organizations) will love hearing from you!

The Savvy Behind Outrageously Profitable Fundraising Auctions is coming to San Diego!

REGISTRATION IS OPEN! What better way to kick off our DonationMatch blog than to announce our  first local event!  In partnership with San Diego Association of Nonprofits, DonationMatch is honored to host Sherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions in beautiful San Diego on November 9th at 8:30 a.m.  She'll be bringing her award-winning expertise and experience on fundraising event and auction success to Neighborhood House Association's centrally located auditorium in Kearny Mesa.  Who should attend?  Volunteers of fundraising event committees, event planners, nonprofit development departments, business owners and managers who want an inside look at how your in-kind donations are promoted, and those interested in making more San Diego nonprofit industry connections.  There will also be a free opportunity drawing for all attendees.

Admission is just $10, complimentary for SANDAN members and DonationMatch registered users (including staff and active volunteers). Register today!

Flyer - The Savvy Behind Outrageously Profitable Fundraising Auctions