fundraiser

Determining Donation Levels for your Fundraising Appeal and Securing a Momentum Donor

Fund-A-Need Basics: How to determine your donation levels and secure a momentum donor for your fundraising appeal | Sarah Knox Fundraising Event Auctioneer

Determining Donation Levels for your Fundraising appeal.

First, you need to decide how many donation levels to have. There are a couple amazing mobile technology companies I get the pleasure of working with, but there is one called Auction Harmony based in Minneapolis who I think just has the most beautiful donation display on their Kindle Fire Tablets. There are 9 spaces. That is for 8 donation levels and one "other" section. This is a great rule to follow whether or not you are using technology for your fundraising appeal.  

So how do you determine your levels?

The first way, is by assessing who you have on your guest list and determining their donation levels.

If your organization has never received a donation over $5,000, you are not going to want to start your initial donation at $20,000. Does that make sense?

Securing a momentum donor 

You are going to want to identify a few donors who have potential to be your highest level donors and approach them about being momentum donors during your fundraising appeal

If this is not your first fundraising event, you can probably get by with looking only at the records from previous events. Who has given a large amount in the past? These would be the first people I would talk to. However, you are also going to want to consider donors who gave at other times throughout the year, because they clearly care about your organization, and you could provide them with an opportunity to inspire others to give by being a momentum donor. 

I understand how hard these conversations can be to initiate, but trust me when I say it is worth it and you will probably want to queue your major gifts officer in on this because they are skilled at having these conversations. You will want to thank the donor for their previous contribution. Then you will want to make sure they are planning to attend your event and explain the amazing project your guests get to fund at this year's event. Explain that you are going to fund it in one evening, and that it's going to be exciting and create a ton of energy, and ask them if they would want to be the hero to set the tone for the evening. Be transparent about your goal and include them in on the strategy and how impactful a momentum donor can be. It is so exciting for the audience to see that first hand go in the air quick which sets an expectation and excitement over generosity. This donor has the unique position to be able to create that, if they an commit to giving at a specific level that you decide with them in the meeting. Then it is important to ask if they would like to be recognized by name and make sure you communicate that to your auctioneer in advance as well as tell them exactly where the donor is sitting so they recognize it when the hand goes up! 

Frame this as an opportunity to start something amazing. Because you are reaching out to donors who have given in the past, your success rate should be fairly high. 

After you've had a couple of these conversations and have determined what the highest amount someone has committed to in advance, that is a good place to start. Hopefully you have a couple of people at the first couple of donation levels to get the show started. Once other potential high level donors see the applause and energy around this donation, it is likely you will receive a match at these levels.

Say your highest commitment is $10,000, I would recommend making that your highest level. Then go down 7 more levels after that: 

$10,000
 $5,000
 $2,500
 $1,000
 $500
 $250
 $100
 $50
Other

The reason, you ideally want to start where you have a committed donor is because when you start too high and have no donors, it kills momentum, which kills energy which discourages giving in other levels.

Fund-A-Need Basics: How to determine your donation levels and secure a "momentum donor" for your fundraising appeal | Sarah Knox Fundraising Benefit Charity Auctions

The fundraising appeal is a momentum game.

Every part of your program should be strategically leading up to this point of engagement, then BOOM! You get a donor right away and it is a domino effect. More hands fly in the air or everyone whips out their phones to secure their donation and see their name on the screen. 

If you don't have a starting momentum donor and have no idea where to start, try starting at 10-20% of your total goal and break it down from there, again I highly encourage you to brave these conversations. They may feel uncomfortable, but focus on the donor and it will take the pressure off you and make it more exciting for them to commit. You will be so glad you did this!

This should give you a good start on determining donation levels for a profitable fundraising appeal. If you have any additional questions, please share them below. I would love to answer them. 

How to Pick a "Need" For your Fundraising Appeal

How to pick a need for your Fundraising Appeal at your fundraising gala | Sarah Knox Fundraising Event Auctioneer

Today we are going to cover How to Pick a "Need" for your fundraising appeal

This is often why we call it a "Fund-A-Need" at events. 

First, let me do a super brief history of the fund-a-need: 

Once upon a time, people had fancy pants galas and they brought in an auctioneer with a cowboy hat and bow tie who looked sharp as hell who sold 10-12 auction items. This meant 10-12 people got to be donors for the evening, and the other 478 people were chumps who just got to eat a chicken dinner and enjoy the open bar. Then one day, the auctioneers said, "hey, we're missing out on some money here, because the losing bidders still have some cash in their pockets." So after their auction, they would say something like, "hey, if you didn't win anything, you can still give money." And the fund-a-need was born. Fast forward 10-15ish years, the fund-a-need is the bread and butter of every event.  

Now, you should also know MY personal fundraising philosophy.

I believe that every single person wants to feel impactful. They want to know that at the end of their life, their existence made a lasting difference in our world. I believe it is our job as fundraisers to give them that opportunity. The opportunity to make a meaningful difference. When we begin to look at fundraising through this lense, it becomes just as important as the work you do directly through your organization, because it allows us not only to serve the people (or animals, or environment, or whatever it is you serve), but it also allows us to serve your donors, but giving them a genuine opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

With that in mind, why should you pick a "need" in the first place? Why can't you just raise "as much money as you can" towards your general fund? 

This is a great question that I get all of the time. So let me address it.  

Your guests are more likely to give if they can tangibly understand who or what they are helping. You may do great and amazing world-changing work, but if your guests do not understand what they are funding, they will not give. It's that simple.  

Let's simplify it for them so they don't have to think about it. All they have to do is raise their hand. 

Select a "need" that is inspirational.

If you can make them cry, that's perfect. Inspirational may seem obvious, but it is a key characteristic to conducting a successful fund-a-need. If your need, isn't that "sexy" try looking at it from a different angle. I had a client two years ago, who had to build a bathroom facility in a Haitian Village they serve. Toilets are definitely not sexy, but rather than focusing on all of that crap, we focused on human dignity. We focused on the jobs it would create to build these bathrooms. They shared stories of what it was like to go to the bathroom in that village. Using a toilet in private is something we all take for granted here in the US, but they showed their audience that they could provide a sense of dignity to the people of Haiti. Because of this inspirational take on the least sexy subject ever, they were able to build the bathrooms. And when the hurricane hit the following fall, it was the only facility left standing, which was a testament to the heart and quality they put in to this project, which made it even easier the following year when we had to rebuild the dormitories for this community.

Fund-A-Need Basics: How to pick a "need" for your fundraising appeal at your charity auction. Connect better with donors by finding a need that meets this criteria

Give them a "need" that is financially transparent.

They should understand where their money is going and that it is going to directly impact lives or make this world the kind of place they want to live in. The majority of your guests have a limited amount of resources. If this is not you, you are #blessed. But for most nonprofits, you know that charitable giving is competitive, and you have to prove to your guests that you are going to use their funds wisely.  I'll use the potty example again. This organization is 100% volunteer run out of someone's home, so they were able to share that. The donors knew that all of their money would be an act of love as they provided a sense of dignity to this Haitian Community. You are probably not a volunteer-run organization and that's okay, because you are able to commit more time and energy to the work you do. I encourage you to find a project or a need that will use 100% of their gift towards affecting change or solving a problem. Then reassure them that their money will be going directly to this project. It doesn't take much here other than something like, "100% of the money you give tonight will go directly to fund scholarships for young women in the Congo." And then follow up with them with updates about the young women they impacted. This is their reminder that they did well and that their contribution made a difference.

Your "Need" should be achievable.

This means that you need to fund it in completion that evening. Assuming the number of attendees you plan to have stays the same year over year, shoot for a project that is approximately 10-20% more than you raised last year. I will circle back to the bathroom example. They decided to fund it by breaking down the costs of the facility. I don't always recommend it, but with building projects it makes the giving super tangible. The frame and roof will cost $10,000, the labor will cost $5000, the sheetrock will cost $2500, the tile costs $1,000, a toilet costs $100, etc. For this group, since they did not have a "momentum donor" which I will talk more about in detail next week, I would try to find 10 people to fund the frame and roof at $1000 a piece and go from there. It works for this group. What I would generally recommend is being clear about the cost of the project as a whole and starting higher at $5,000 and go all the way down to $25 explaining that $25 will fund a day of work for one person, so that those $25 donors know how impactful their donation is.

I bet you didn't think I'd use a bathroom project as a good "need" to select. I'd love to hear what you have funded in the past! Let me know in the comments. Also, if you are working on framing your fundraising appeal right now and are trying to decide which way to go, share that and we can work as a community to give you feedback and ideas! It's all about how to inspire your donors this year! 

What Midwestern Fundraisers Can Learn From New York Galas

If you read about me in my About Page, you know that I am Minnesotan through and through. I've been conducting fundraising auctions in the Midwest for 9, going on 10, years now and have loved every single second of it. Over the past couple years, I have expanded to help out national nonprofits. A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with a client in New York City and we added a first time fund-a-need to their event which made the night a smashing success and broke records for the organization. Aside from it being a crazy trip to the city (I was questioned by the secret service and met Kelly Ripa all in the same 48 hours), I made one observation about New Yorkers at this Gala that can and will (I've already tested this with MN clients) help raise more funds at your Midwestern gala. 

New Yorkers cut to the chase.

There is little to no fluff. When people show up to a gala, they know why they are there, and it's not for moral support. They are there to spend money and know it's okay to say it. From the moment the professional AV team turned on the mic, people talked about money. The gorgeous CNN correspondent emcee asked people to be generous, the chairman of the board asked people to be generous, the executive director asked people to be generous, so by the time I hit the stage to conduct their first ever fund-a-need, no one was offended or shocked when I told them that NOW was the time to be generous.  

The Midwest breeds a humble group of people. We don't like to talk about money, because frankly it's uncomfortable. And, I get it. After all, I'm as Midwestern as it gets. It is so hard to ask for money for your own cause because it feels selfish. The good news is that it isn't selfish. Your organization works endlessly towards your mission because it uplifts other people and other people (you know, the people who paid money to come to your event in the first place) want to support your mission too! There are many ways to inspire people to give at your event, which I will outline for you in future posts. One of the most effective ways to inspire people to give at your event is to show that you expect them to give at your event.

What To Do With Great Items That Don't Make The Cut for Live Auction

Last week I talked about how cutting your number of live auction items in half will actually bring in more revenue. Even though you are only going to have 5-6 live auction items, chances are that you will bring in more than 6 great donations in the process.

What to do with the other amazing items. 

Items that don't "make the cut" for the live auction, will naturally go in the silent auction, right? Wrong. There are a couple of things You can do with these big ticket items. 

1. Use it as a prize in Heads & Tails or for a raffle. Back before everyone had an iPad, organizations were getting these as donations and the auction committee always wanted the iPad on the live auction. Here's the deal though. The iPad only would sell for retail value or a couple hundred dollars over. I guess it was exiting to get $700 for a $500 item, but know what is more exciting? Getting $2000 for a $500 item. By using an item with a broad appeal as a raffle or Heads & Tails prize, it was easy to engage donors to participate. Not everyone would drop $700 for an item valued at $500, but it is easy to sell 200 raffle tickets or Heads & Tails beads at $10 a piece. 

2. Have a SUPER SILENT Auction. Whoa! This one is exciting. A Super Silent Auction is run by the auctioneer (cough*Sarah Knox*cough) during the silent auction. Rather than bidders writing their number on bid cards or bidding electronically, they would call out their bidder number and bid amount to the facilitator to write on a white board. It gains quite a bit of attention in the last 5 minutes of the bidding. This is set up in the same room as the silent auction. It is a lot of fun. 

3. Set up a display for "Almost Live" or "Premier Auction" Items in the center of the silent auction area, or right near check in so it's the first thing guests see. This is good because it honors the generous donors of the items ensuring they get a lot of recognition for the items. If using electronic bidding, have this as it's own category so bidders can easily find these items. 

How to determine which items make the cut for Live Auction or not.

For this, I will refer you to my blog series I did last fall on the 5 types of items you should include to create a dynamic live auction.  Just because an item has the highest value, doesn't mean it should automatically be in the live auction. A live auction lineup needs to be curated with careful thought and strategy in order to bring in the most revenue.

If you have want to engage bidders during your live auction and throughout the rest of your event, contact me via the form in my sidebar --> 

Must Have Live Auction Item #3: Unique Experience

A unique experience is the hardest item to come up with because you often need to think outside of the box and pull your personal connections in for this. There is really no real criteria here other than provide an experience or an item that people cannot access on their own. So, for this post, I will just be listing examples of things I have sold to get your creative juices flowing.

Examples of Unique Experiences

  • Character created about winning bidder in a well known author's next book
  • Trip to visit and tour Jay Leno's garage (with Jay Leno if the timing was right) 
  • Principal for a Day
  • Trip with a professional sport's team to an out of state game which included accommodations and riding with the team on their plane to and from the game as well as an after party post game.
  • Lock in sleepover at a museum with a roof top movie
  • Premier parking space for school pickup and drop off
  • Batboy (bat-kid) for local professional Baseball team
  • Box at a professional sports game hosted by a (well-known) retired player
  • Timed shopping spree at a local department store

The possibilities are endless for these types of items. What I would encourage you and your team to do is to plan an entire meeting that is set aside for brainstorming this type of item. Throw out ideas with the freedom of "no idea is a bad idea" and just go with it. Some of the best auction items sound "stupid" in your head before you say it outloud and realize that it could actually happen with the connections in the room. Eventually what will happen is one member will throw out an idea, another member will know someone with the right connections and you will find yourself with a very exclusive an unique idea.