I refer to auction games, raffles, and activities as the “bells and whistles” of benefit auctions. It’s an understatement to call them revenue generators as they do more than make you money.
These are the fun add-ons designed to address specific problems, involve the crowd, trigger fun, attract press, and (yes) make you money.
Today’s post addresses the “attract press” piece.
Many groups seem decent at securing post-gala publicity, but it’s the pre-event recognition that will help you sell tickets to your event.
Read on for two ideas to help you secure elusive pre-event publicity for your charity auction.
By way of example, consider Headwaters Foundation, a public school foundation about two hours south of D.C.
The Foundation is located in what has traditionally been one of the poorer counties of Virginia. The group provides support for the public school system by increasing community involvement in education. Pitching two angles, a savvy Executive Director managed to score sought-after pre-event publicity in both her local paper and The Georgetowner. (The latter publication, as you might imagine from the name, caters to that trendy zip code in Washington, D.C. Although I haven’t researched it, I sense it also has a more affluent readership than her local paper, too.)
Considering the thousands of charities in the D.C. area, The Georgetowner wrote a coveted 8.5″ story on that gala, despite it being hosted two hours south of Washington, D.C. (It’s not a particularly large gala, either, with ~250 guests. Still she succeeded in securing publicity, even with a fairly straightforward dinner and auction.)
I wasn’t on the call between the Executive Director and the reporter, so I can only glean information from the article here.
In the third sentence, the Executive Director states, “We’ve hired Red Apple Auctions of Alexandria to help us with both the silent and live auctions, and they have some great new ideas that we are implementing.”
Did you catch it? That single sentence had two tips that — if you follow the method – will help you secure publicity.
1. First, she said she hired someone.
Hiring someone ups the ante. It’s like a baseball team announcing that they’ve hired a new coach. You’re expecting something better.
So as you think about your nonprofit … who have you hired that brings with them an expectation of improvement?
Most organizations focus on announcing their band or headline entertainment.
Here’s a caution: Unless your entertainment is really well-known, you won’t attract publicity (or ticket sales) from your investment. The entertainment can make your event more memorable, but it doesn’t equate to the bottom line.
2. Talk about what makes your gala “new” or “different.”
Second, she talked “new ideas.”
New ideas means change. She’s saying, “Hey, we’re different.”
(And she’s right. Her group was using new ideas for their community.)
I don’t know if she shared specific new ideas with the reporter. If she did, they didn’t make it into the story.
But the important element to remember is that “new” is good for a story. In her case, the “new ideas” were auction games.
Here’s another nonprofit example that is outside of my area in Colorado.
Two weeks ago, I spoke about using handheld bidding devices in your silent auction.
If you were one of the first groups in your area to use that technology, that would be a story. You’d tell the reporter you’re using “the latest” technology. That’s a new angle for the reporter to cover as either a technology or public interest story, as they did for this benefit auction in Colorado Springs.
Truth be told, we don’t know if this group in Colorado was the first gala to use this technology. Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t.
Maybe they were the first to use bidding technology from THAT company.
Or maybe they were the first to use the concept altogether. We don’t know.
But they were the first gala that the reporter knew using the technology. That’s what counts.
So when you use auction games, raffles, and other new activities in your event, pitch it.
And where do you get these new auction games and raffle ideas?
Charity Auction Bells & Whistles* is out of the gate. This video tutorial is stuffed with 22 juicy raffles, games, and activities you can use to create publicity, address unique problems, make money, and add loads of fun to your auction fundraiser.
(*Note: We change programs every so often, and this program is no longer available. Check out the “Store” for what’s current.)
P.S. Headwaters enjoyed post-auction publicity, too. See how the Executive Director explained it to the reporter in that story?
Sandy Rees says
Great stuff Sherry!! I think the key to getting publicity is to make sure you have a good story. Love your point that news = story.
Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE says
I’m so excited you wrote about PRE-event publicity. I’d much rather have the advance publicity designed to create excitement, sell more tickets and raise more money than the after the event news story (which is nice, too, for sure). But if I could only have one, I’d take the one that raises more money for my cause. Thank you for the tip.
And Happy Thanksgiving.
Gail Perry says
Love, love, love this! Everybody has an auction and everybody seems to struggle on how to make theirs stand out. Pre-publicity is so important and I love your ideas! Thanks for some terrific advice!