Recently a number of my benefit auction clients have been participating in online contests for nonprofits.
Most of them are not feeling “warm and fuzzy” when the contest ends.
“Don’t even mention the word “Pepsi” to me,” said one, who was exhausted after coming *that* close to winning thousands in the Pepsi Refresh challenge, only to lose by a handful of last-minute online votes to a competing nonprofit.
Then she said something I’ve also heard from others:
“With so much time having been devoted to getting the word out to our supporters to vote, I feel that we’re now behind in planning for our annual benefit auction.”
Benefit auctions are reliable income. If you’ve been operating one for a few years, you can – with relative accuracy – plan for the amount you want to raise. Using tested formulas, your auction can become dependable income for a group.
Not so reliable.
It’s almost like hearing your friend invested $100,000 in lottery tickets instead of buying the house he’d been admiring. I’m sure you’d say, “You … did … WHAT?!?”
Contests are chances.
Sure, by following guidelines, you can improve your odds at winning (recall that Red Apple Auctions team member Julie regularly wins huge sweepstakes, and enjoys trips around the world), but there is no guarantee.
Some of the strategies individuals use to win contests isn’t much different than what a nonprofit could use to marshal support.
For instance, in my own condominium community of 1600 units, I’ve been voting for one of my neighbors as she competes in the Sears Chef Challenge.
I don’t know Pam, but she’s been sending out posts on our community listserve and posting signs around the area to turn out the vote.
(Or “turn on the vote, as it were, given that this is an online contest.)
Some of the strategies are similar.
- Sending an email reminder to vote every day (if voting is allowed every day).
- Encourage fans to ask their friends to vote, too.
- Offer your fans an incentive to advertise on behalf of your submission. (You can create a “contest within a contest.” Maybe the individual who refers the most votes wins two free tickets to your annual benefit auction?)
But boy, I hate the idea of spending loads of staff time on a contest if it’s competing with the planning of your auction. The auction is a “sure thing;” the contest is a chance.
My advice: See if the contest work can be given to a volunteer or intern. Maybe someone like our Julie, who has a knack for it.