UPDATE: The telecourse mentioned has passed, but the content below is still valid.
To keep abreast of future calls, subscribe to Benefit Auction Ideas.
Assume you’re the Auction Chair of a benefit auction.
It includes a silent and live auction raising $20,000, and you want a bump in that number. You want to grow the bottom line by $5k, so you add two affordable activities into the evening: a $5-ticket raffle and a cash appeal allowing guests to donate varying amounts ranging from $25 to $500. You estimate that ~100 guests will buy the $5 ticket (earning you $500) and the appeal could draw in another 75 people, raising $4500.
Your goal seems within reach.
At this point, your charity’s astute Development Director might get interested. She recognizes the secondary advantage.
Odds are that many of these donors will be new donors. She can market to these people again and again. They’ll read the newsletter showcasing clients … be invited to the Walk-a-Thon … receive the direct mail campaign.
(Incidentally, that’s one of the big advantages of a benefit auction: relationship building.)
Sounds like a smart move, right?
Not so fast.
This is one of those dirty little secrets about an auction fundraiser.
There comes a point where it’s almost impossible for your event to advance unless you’re using benefit auction software.
I’d even go so far as to say you might not want to include some activities, unless you’re prepared to invest in software.
Adding a raffle and appeal builds complexity into your gala. They escort trouble. Think about it — increasing the opportunities for people to give at smaller amounts means that there are more people who will give. How wonderful … until you realize you need to track those smaller amounts and do the same follow-up you would with a donor giving more money.
Let’s look at an example.
Many new-ish benefit auctions fall victim to “unknown guests” when they don’t have software to track their audience. Mr. Anonymous’ ticket may have been paid for by someone else. His contact information is never captured at registration. As our mystery guest enjoys the evening, he pays cash for a couple of raffle tickets.
The money is appreciated, but you’re creating a one-hit-wonder auction. You added money to your bottom-line, but you don’t know who gave it and can’t follow-up with him for bigger gifts. You just missed an easy opportunity to add a new lead to your donor database.
Many small auctions lack the ability to:
- accurately track a donation to a specific person
- collect donations pledged
- record guests’ contact information
Think long-term development.
Activities like a $5 raffle are a catalyst. The raffle may add money to your bottom line, but auctions are as much about relationship-building as they are about money.You need the donor’s name and contact information.
(It can also work the other way. Sometimes small donors turn into big donors at a charity auction. More on that in another post, but suffice to say your benefit auction is part of a larger fundraising strategy.)
When you decide to improve the bottom-line of your auction by adding activities that target donors pledging smaller donations, you’re adding complexity.
Benefit auction software helps ensure the added complexity is easily assimilated.
Sandy Rees says
Excellent point Sherry! When I sat in the Development Director’s chair, I was ALWAYS making sure that I was capturing names and addresses of all attendees to my events. If they came and had a good time, they were a good potential donor. Thanks for pointing this out – I bet there are lots of nonprofit organizations that totally miss this.
Roger Carr says
Technology is critical to success of the charity event, but it can be a curse if the wrong technology is used. Your auction technology series will be valuable for organizations to make the right decisions.
Betsy Baker says
As always, great auction advice from you! Thanks so much for your dedication to this valuable piece of the fund raising pie.
Thanks for this post. I’ve been to (quite) a few school auctions lately and who knew that $5 raffle ticket was a donor-pipeline mistake. Eyes out now.
Lori L. Jacobwith says
I’ve attended many auctions over the years and been amazed that my purchase didn’t cause me to receive any future invitations to events, a follow-up message of thanks for purchases over $100 or any future correspondence at all. Your post is a great reminder to use the right tools so organizations CAN keep in touch with the people who are supporting them.
Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE says
The logistics of auctions never cease to amaze me. Sherry, you prove once again that so much fundraising can be improved just by getting more proficient about the technical aspects of the job.