minnesota benefit auctioneer

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.

Should Every Event Have a Live Auction?

Should Every Event Have A Live Auction | Sarah Knox Benefit Auctions

Should every event have a live auction? As a fundraising auctioneer, I obviously want to say, "YES! Yes! Live auctions are the best things in the world. Ever." Although, I like to think live auctions are the best things in the world ever (right after my family and a good cup of coffee), they are not appropriate for every event. 

GASP! That's right, not every event is going to promote a successful live auction. There are several types of fundraising events that do not cultivate an atmosphere for a successful live auction. Keeping in mind that there are exceptions to everything, here are a few of the fundraisers that may or may not benefit from a live auction: Fundraisers with free admission, Mingle-style events (again, there are exceptions and it takes a well planned out flow of events to make it work), and Family friendly events.

If you are wondering if your fundraiser would benefit from a live auction or if you want ideas for additional creative fundraising activities, I can provide consultation. If you are hoping to have a live auction at your fundraiser, I can help you prepare in advance to ensure that we are creating an environment that cultivates generosity and active participation in bidding. 

Hosting your Fundraising Auction on a Thursday (or any other weeknight)

Host your fundraising auction on a Thursday night! | Sarah Knox Benefit Auctions

So you’ve never thought about hosting your fundraiser on a Thursday? See the following reasons as to why hosting your fundraising auction on a Thursday is a killer idea:

1. People rarely have scheduling conflicts, so more people can attend!

2. People still give money on week nights – not just on weekends!

For a guest receiving an invite to an event, there is less to think about before responding “Yes – Chicken” when it’s on a Thursday. They already know they don’t have a wedding to attend that night, plus they can come straight from work and eat at your event.

If your annual event is more of a sit down dinner style with speakers who educate the guests on the amazing things your organizations provides to our community, this might be a good night for you! It’s easier for press to attend and cover these events as well because it’s not as competitive as Fridays or Saturdays.

Hosting your fundraiser on a Thursday can be wildly successful, but the only thing you need to do is be mindful of time. It’s helpful to put a start and end time on the invite so people can know how late they will be out on a weeknight. 6:00-9:00, for instance. I’ve even done successful Thursday events that are only two hours long 6:00-8:00. They’ve achieved this by either cutting out a silent auction all together or cutting out speakers and focusing on a live auction and fund-a-need. Guests are always appreciative when they know that the organization values and respects the guests’ time and it makes them more willing to come back and give year after year.

If you have questions about hosting your event on a Thursday night, contact me and I can walk you through some success stories and how this can be done efficiently and effectively.

Picking the Right Venue for Your Fundraising Auction - Acoustics

Picking the right venue for your fundraising auction | Sarah Knox Benefit Auctions

The venue you select will make a huge difference in giving at your event. I will address lay out and such in future posts, but today I want to address acoustics. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t need the Guthrie stage or the St. Paul Cathedral to get maximum bidding, but you do need to pick a room that does not echo. If there is an echo or the sound does not carry, people loose focus or can’t hear altogether. This is so Important because if people can’t hear, they won’t bid. Period. As a general rule venues that work are: Theaters, Concert Venues, Golf Courses and Hotel Ballrooms.

– All of these facilities are designed for events like this or weddings or seminars or musical shows. I’ve done a lot of work with the Yellow Tree Theatre in Anoka – great venue for audiences of up to 250 and organizations in the northwest suburbs. For more central locations, any golf club or hotel ballroom works great because they are usually carpeted and have the capacity for a good sound system.

Venues that don’t work: Gyms (or anything covered in tile) and outside

. Many people pick a gym because they are free/inexpensive at their school, local church or community center. A good venue is worth your money. I guarantee you will loose more money using a gym than it would have cost you to rent a hotel ballroom for the night of your event.

If you have concerns or questions about your venue, feel free to contact me and I can help make suggestions for your event.

Videos at your Fundraising Auction

Using Videos to tell a story to raise more money at your Fundraising Auction | Sarah Knox Benefit Auctions

Does your organization have a video to play at your fundraising auction? If so, think about it, is it filmed and edited by a professional. Besides hiring the right auctioneer, this is one of the most valuable things you can spend money on. A well edited video will open the hearts, and correspondingly their wallets, in 5 minutes or less – really 2-3 minutes is ideal.

Professional editing is HUGE! Just think of any chick flick you’ve watched recently and how the soundtrack alone controlled how you responded to the scene. It’s important to have a video that will move the audience to feel emotionally invested in your organization because if they are emotionally invested they are more likely to become financially invested. They want to know their money is going towards a good cause.

I have a couple really awesome videographers all at different price points, so reach out if you need suggestions.

Below is a video used by one of my clients that were used just before the fund-a-need to help tug at the audience's heart strings.