If you’re like many who sit on an auction procurement committee, you likely want at least one item from a celebrity.
But you may have no “connections.”
How can you improve the odds of getting a donation?
If you’re not afraid to reach out and spend some time on the computer, your physical location could turn a cold lead into a warmer one. Sometimes knowing about a possible donation is simply about being in the right place at the right time. Here’s an example.
I love the band Pink Martini and make every effort to attend the group’s almost annual performance in the Washington, D.C. area. (Oddly enough, I only learned of them nine years ago when they were performing a free concert on Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.)
For the last two years during their concerts at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Thomas Lauderdale (the band’s founder) always introduces Pansy Chang (the cello player) by saying (to paraphrase), “And straight from Wolftrap Elementary, we have the talented Pansy Chang!”
Based on his comment, I’m guessing that Pansy attended school at Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna, VA.
Now if anyone in the packed crowd that night was on an auction procurement committee in the Vienna area (and I bet there were), they should have taken that comment to heart. They now share a connection with Pansy via their location.
If I was looking for donations, I would have reached out to Pansy or the band immediately after that performance by sending a note backstage through security that said something like this:
I’m here with XX people, and we’re all fans,” I’d write, “Like Pansy, my kids go to schools in Vienna. Our school auction is in March, and would Pansy consider making a donation to support her old stomping grounds? I’d love to have a collection of Pink Martini CDs and an I.O.U. that would enable the top bidder of the item to meet the band for photos backstage during your next D.C. performance, whenever that is. I’d certainly bid on that item!
Key point: When I get a good idea, I act immediately. When you get a good idea, do it then. Don’t wait until the next auction procurement meeting. Do it then.
If you get a rejection, no big deal.
On the flip side, you might get a really nice donation.
Let’s look at some pointers as to where you might find a “location connection” with a person of note.
1. Remember cities when they are mentioned in television interviews.
If you watch television, it’s not unusual to hear a celebrity or other person of interest telling their personal story on a talk show interview. If they mention they are from an area near you, make a mental note to follow up and ask for a donation.
2. Note locations listed in written publications.
Keep your ears and eyes open when reading articles in magazines.
By virtue of listening to people talk at an organizational event and then reading a random article in a magazine, I came to know of three people living in Annapolis, MD who serve as television hosts for nationally-produced TV shows currently being aired. Yet, even many Annapolis charities with whom I talk do not even know these recognizable faces live in their backyard.
How easy might it be to ask for a lunch meeting with one of these TV hosts.
Two of them have lived in Annapolis for many years, so they surely have connections to a church, a school, or some social group which a volunteer might also have a tie.
3. Poke around on IMDB to research your favorite actors.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists substantial information about celebrities and where they were born and raised. Spend some time researching your favorite celebrities and getting to know those who share a connection with your location. They are likely targets to whom you could reach out and share your non-profit story.
At the time of this writing, IMDB offers a 14-day free subscription to its “Pro” version which enables you to see the celebrity’s manager and agent so you can send them a message.
4. Get out, meet others, and be chatty.
It’s that easy! For kicks, last year I signed up to participate in a social bike ride along Miami Beach. Along the course of the ride, I struck up a conversation with a 30-something man biking alongside me. I learned he was the son of the local Mayor.
Had I been looking for a donation for my school auction or non-profit, I would have tested the waters for something right then.
Connections can be made in unusual ways. Work the ones which appeal to you, and trust that one will turn into a great auction donation.