fundraising ideas

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! 

4 Reasons You Have a Chatty Audience at Your Fundraising Gala

How do I deal with a chatty crowd?

This is one of the number one questions I get. The truth is that some crowds are just chatty, but in my consulting I help organizations do everything they can to prevent the distracting noise and work with them so that their program is engaging and captivating so we can prevent the chattiness in the first place. There are a couple reasons why an organization may have a chatty crowd at your fundraiser.

1. The sound in the venue is awful.

This is a real problem. In fact, I won't work with an organization that is unwilling to ensure that the sound in the room is good. If your crowd can't hear the program properly, they will not be engaged and therefore they will talk and then they won't give their money.

2. You are waiting too late to engage them.

Cocktail hours are very common and have a bit of necessity as far as logistics are concerned. Allowing people to mingle with a drink and maybe some hors d'oeuvres while everyone arrives and gets checked in and has a chance to look at the silent auction. Then you welcome them in to have the dining room and wait until every single person has eaten dinner to start the program. That is too late. You have lost your audience. They are full, drunk and ready to leave to just totally distracted.

3. They aren't your target audience.

Repeat after me: Quality over Quantity. Now, when I say "quality" guests I don't mean every donor has to be a $1,000+ donor. I mean that you should not try to fill seats for the sake of filling seats. You want everyone in the room to have some sort of connection with your organization. I recently sat in a meeting with a client and they said "...and that's why we don't give away tickets or our gala on the radio anymore." No Kidding! Your event can be a place to raise awareness for your organization, but you do not want guest who are just there for your open bar. You may not be giving tickets away to strangers on the radio, but maybe you are giving tickets away to corporate sponsors who then send their administrative staff to your event as their "appreciation" token. So, now, your front reserved table that you held for executives that you assumed had more than enough money to go around, is now full of interns and customer service representatives who just are excited to tweet a picture in font of your photo wall.

4. You are an elementary school.

This is not a problem. I actually love this. Elementary school parents tend to be very chatty. They are using their very valuable babysitter to come out an support the school where they are twice a day already to drop off and pick up their kids. They get to have adult conversations with people they are friends with and since the event is likely near their neighborhood, they plan to walk or take an Uber home. I actually use this energy and sense of community and play off it to engage the whole crowd. Yes, they may be chatty, but for the most part the crowd all knows each other and want to be in on the party. I still would work with you in advance to make sure we can engage them at the best time and ensure that your sound is loud and clear in your venue, but frankly, elementary school parents are talkers, so at that point we just need to lean into it.

Your organization's mission is so important which is why you work tirelessly to support it. I want to welcome your guests and attendees to partner with you in your mission. The first step is to get them to listen so we can engage them in your mission. If this sounds like your crowd, I would love to help you make an impactful difference towards your mission. To schedule a call to talk about how to better engage your audience, go ahead and fill out the contact form on the side bar today.

Must Have Live Auction Item #5: Sports

This the post in my blog series on Must Have Auction Items for a Varied Live Auction. If you haven't caught the other posts, or aren't sure why it is so imporant to have a varied live auction, you can find all of those posts HERE or archived on my blog. Stay awhile and look around. I provide all of this information to help my clients or anyone else trying to plan their fundraiser. My goal is to help organizations be as successful as possible!  

The last type of item you should be looking for as you solicit items for your live auction is a Sports related item. 

Criteria for a successful Sports Item:

Exclusivity. Like with any live auction item, you will have more success if the item is not a dime a dozen. Signed swag is good if it is by a well-known, well-loved player who does not hand out their autograph liberally. 

Appeal. This should seem obvious, but for some people it is not. If you are receiving sports tickets, make sure it is to a GOOD game with GOOD seats. Example for all of my Minnesota friends: 50 yard line to the Vikings/Packers game.  

Open Availability. If someone in your association has great season tickets to some local professional team, ask them if they would be willing to donate tickets that the bidder can select the date. A few black-out dates are acceptable, but still not ideal. This takes a lot of sacrifice on the donors part, but it's worth asking.

Best way to get sports tickets: 

Ask your company to donate. So many companies have season tickets that they give out to clients or employees as incentives. It does not hurt them one bit to give a set to your organization to sell. If they are less than amazing tickets, sell them on the silent auction, but still ask and take those babies off their hands.

If you have questions about your sports related item or any of the other sports categories I've listed in this series, please contact me and I'd love to dialogue with you about your live auction line up. 

Must Have Live Auction Item #4: Alcohol

I will start by saying this item is not for all organizations. Any organization affiliated with addiction and recovery or even domestic violance as well as some religious affiliations may want to steer clear of this type of item out of respect for the attendees. 

With that being said, items including an experience related to alcohol usually has a broad appeal. 

Examples of Alcohol Related Live Auction Items

Wall of Wine.  This is where all of the board members or auction committee members donate a bottle of wine (some bottles will be higher quality than others) until you have a collection of anywhere from 10-50 bottles of wine, and you sell it as a package. You will want to print any higher end bottles in your program, and ideally would print all of the bottles in the program so people can see what they are bidding. It is unrealistic and much less effective to verbally list all the bottles when introducing the item.

Wine Tasting. A private and exclusive wine tasting in someone's home with a professional Sommelier. 

Private Brewery Party. Local microbreweries are popping up all over the place (especially here in Minneapolis), but a tour is not enough because really anyone can go tour a brewery. A private tasting party at the brewery for 10+ people with catering by a local food truck (or two) would be an item worth selling on live auction and would provide an exclusive appeal. 

Wheel barrel of Booze. This item is always a hit. It is similar to the Wall of Wine, except it is an actual wheel barrel filled with alcohol. Arrange the alcohol so the higher end items are showing. You could also include glasses and garnishes (olives, cherries, frilly toothpicks, etc) in with the alcohol to fully stock the bar. This is an easy item to fill because auction committee members or board members would all go together to in contributing to this item. The winning bidder gets to take home their new wheel barrel and all of its contents. 

If you have a question about any of these items or want to know if it would be appropriate for you to add one of these items to your organization's live auction, please reach out and I will give honest feedback on your live auction lineup. 

How To Capture Fund-a-Need Donations at your Fundraising Gala

Most events are incorporating Fund-a-Needs, Fund-a-Cause, or an Ask at their fundraising events these days. Many events are scrapping the live auction all together and focusing solely on this portion of the evening for donations. The fund-a-need is one of my favorite portions of the evening because it gives everyone in the audience an opportunity to make a difference. 

The biggest concern for my event chairs, directors of development and foundation directors is how to capture these donations. There are several ways to ensure that these donations are captured and I will cover three of the most common.

1. Paddle Raise - When bidders raise their paddles at the amount they would like to donate, volunteers come around and capture their bidder numbers under the amount they have committed to and it is added to their check out. This is the most traditional way to do capture bids. What's required? Many Volunteers, Bid Paddles, Pens and Paper. Pros: creates excitement in giving. Cons: room for human error as sometimes the volunteers don't see everyone or the bidders lower their paddles before a volunteer can get to them.

2. Commitment Cards - This is where we would ask people to raise their hands to show their commitment and build excitement and then we would ask them to follow through on their commitment by filling out a card with their credit card information and commitment amount. What's required? Pens, Premade Fund-a-Need commitment cards, Envelopes on each table.  Pros: Donors do not have to sit in check-out. Cons: Some people don't worry about raising their hands as they fill out their cards instead which will cut into the excitement and therefore impact giving as a whole. Also, some people do not feel comfortable filling out these cards at each table.

3. Mobile Bidding: This is becoming more and more popular as technology is becoming a bigger part of our lives. People would use a mobile bidding device (provided by the mobile bidding company) or their own smart phones. What's Required? Mobile Bidding software (Such as BidPal). Pros: Real Time donation tracking, no check-out, many donors give more than once. Cons: Mobile bidding software costs money.

I have done fund-a-needs all three ways and have had a ton of success with each one. If you are wondering what is the best way to capture donations during your fund-a-need, contact me today and we can discuss what will work best for your event.