How do you know if you need a fundraising consultant? What services can a consultant offer?
In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways a fundraising consultant can help your nonprofit, but first, let’s define what a fundraising consultant is and what role they’ll play in your fundraising.
A consultant is a nonprofit professional with the knowledge, skill, and experience to help you reach your fundraising goals. Consultants can work with your nonprofit to come up with strategies that cater to your needs.
Additionally, they offer you services to help fill in the gaps when it comes to running a specific campaign.
Now, let’s go through seven ways a fundraising consultant can help your nonprofit:
- Find fundraising software.
- Give you a fresh perspective.
- Research your supporters.
- Train your board of directors.
- Map out your fundraising strategy.
- Plan fundraising events.
- Create a donor stewardship plan.
1. Find fundraising software.
Imagine that you’ve decided to host your first crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaign, and you know you’re going to need a platform to host your fundraiser. However, you’re not sure where to start. You probably have questions like:
- What features will I need?
- What is the best platform to use?
- How do I create my campaign?
Your nonprofit could always spend time researching crucial features and the top crowdfunding platforms. But is that really the best use of your time?
That’s where a fundraising consultant can step in. Consultants have experience working on different kinds of fundraisers, so they can suggest software that they’ve used (and found successful) in the past.
Not only can fundraising consultants help you with finding the right software, but they can also teach you how to use it.
Even if you’re familiar with fundraising software, a consultant can still help you with:
- Setting up new software – There is more software out there for nonprofits than we have time to name here so I’d suggest checking out an article that explores the topic more deeply like this one.
- Migrating your information – For simple migrations, we suggest working directly with your CRM provider if your migration is simple. For complex migrations, consultants are the best route to go with.
- Suggesting a payment processor – We recommend either going with an aggregator or with a dedicated merchant account depending on your organization’s size and amount of donations processed. In terms of dedicated payment processors, try to find someone that specializes in nonprofits and understands the commons challenges that arise with fundraising like iATS Payments.
- And so much more!
No matter what level of software knowledge you have, a consultant can offer solutions to your challenges.
The bottom line: Don’t spend your valuable time searching for the right software to enhance your fundraiser. Use a consultant with first-hand experience and knowledge to suggest the best options for you.
2. Give you a fresh perspective.
Maybe your nonprofit is looking to take your fundraising in a new direction. Why not bring in a consultant that can offer you fresh ideas? Instead of hiring someone on full-time, you can hire a fundraising consultant for a single project.
Experienced consultants have worked with many different organizations and know which fundraising ideas work. In fact, some of those ideas may be unique, creative suggestions that you never would have thought of on your own.
As an outsider, consultants can look at your nonprofit through the eyes of potential donors. Not only does this help you improve the fundraising experience, but it can also help you improve your:
- Donor engagement and stewardship.
- Different giving channels.
- Fundraising events.
- And so much more!
When you have a better understanding of what a donor wants, you’ll be able to answer the questions that many donors will have when they consider supporting your cause.
You may not be comfortable with every suggestion a consultant makes, but be open to their advice. Who knows? You might discover a new and effective approach to fundraising!
The bottom line: A fresh perspective may be exactly what you need to revive your fundraising and create new and unique ways to encourage donors to support your mission.
3. Research your supporters.
Whether you need help with prospect research or understanding your donors’ giving behaviors, hiring a fundraising consultant is an effective way to gain valuable insights into your supporters. If you don’t have a prospect researcher on your nonprofit’s team, you can hire a fundraising consultant to help you gain knowledge on your donors.
In fact, there are nonprofit consulting firms whose entire focus is on gathering your supporters’ data and creating donor profiles.
Additionally, one of the most common services that consultants offer is a feasibility study. The study can help your nonprofit figure out if you have the means to run a successful fundraiser. The study also includes prospect research, which helps nonprofits identify major gift donors.
In addition to learning more about your prospects, a consultant can also help you analyze data on your supporters’ giving habits. The data that you gain from your supporters will help you improve your fundraising, solicitations, and engagement. With this information, you can tailor your fundraiser to meet your donors’ preferences.
For example, if you find out that a good percentage of your donors give through their mobile devices, you can create an event that focuses on mobile giving or that encourages donors to use their phones.
The bottom line: Researching your donors is an important step in the fundraising process. With the help of a fundraising consultant, you can gather and analyze the data that can inform your approach.
4. Train your board of directors.
Good fundraising starts with a strong leadership team to help guide your nonprofit in the right direction. With a well-trained and motivated board, your nonprofit can:
- Solicit donations from major donors using your board members.
- Have the right guidance and leadership to achieve your goals.
- Be successful in your future fundraising.
The approach that a consultant will take to train and ignite your board members will be different depending on the consultant. However, you should look for training that includes three factors:
- A comprehensive evaluation – Even before your consultant starts training, he or she should review your board and your nonprofit to see what areas need the most work. That way, you get training that is specifically tailored to your nonprofit’s needs.
- A detailed board work plan – The plan will describe the changes that need to be made and how you and your board can put those improvements into effect.
- New practice implementation – Don’t pick a fundraising consultant who just gives you the strategies to improve your board of directors. The consultant should help you put the new practices in place so that you aren’t making these changes all on your own.
With a consultant by your side, you’ll be able to to train your board so that they can help guide your nonprofit.
5. Map out your fundraising strategy.
One of the most important parts of fundraising is the strategy or approach you use to raise the funds. While fundraising is not new to you or your nonprofit, you may need help creating a plan that is more effective and helps you reach your goals.
Remember that your strategy isn’t just for you, but it’s also for your entire staff and volunteers, so your strategies should be easy to understand.
If you want guidance on how to create a strategy, a consultant can align your goals, budget, and available resources to create a plan that will put your nonprofit on the right track.
A fundraising consultant can help you create a strategy that:
- Establishes your priorities and vision.
- Empowers your team.
- Maps out the steps to reach your goal.
Consultants can not only help you create a plan, but they can also help you implement it. If you’re not sure where to start, they will provide you with the necessary steps.
For instance, imagine that your organization wanted to expand your giving methods. A consultant might look at your current fundraising strategy and advise you to start accepting more online donations because your donors are asking for convenient ways to give.
In addition to recommending online donation tools, a consultant might also suggest ways to improve your current giving methods. Consultants can provide best practices and other strategies so that you can gain the most potential from your donation forms.
While this is just one example of how consultants can help your organization, there are many other ways they can improve your fundraising strategy and help you reach your goals.
Even if you’ve made multiple strategies in the past, consultants can still be a helpful resource. They can give you a different outlook on your fundraising and identify challenges that you never considered. Plus, they can offer you best practices to make your fundraising strategies even better!
The bottom line: To have a successful fundraiser, you need a solid strategy in place to ensure that your nonprofit goes in the right direction. A fundraising consultant can help you create a plan that will take your fundraising to the next level.
6. Plan fundraising events.
If you’re handling a new type of fundraising event or one that requires a lot of work to run, you can hire a consultant to help you manage it. That way, you can focus on interacting with donors and raising funds.
A fundraising consultant can help with your event from start to finish, whether that entails creating a strategy for your campaign, helping you train your volunteers for the event, and/or creating marketing materials. Of course you can hire a consultant to complete one or two tasks or help with your entire event.
Fundraising consultants have the strategies to plan and execute an event that will help you raise funds and stay on budget.
For instance, if you want to host a charity auction, which requires a lot of planning and funds to host, your consultant can help you find businesses that offer in-kind donations and event space.
Additionally, a consultant can assist you with more than just planning for your campaign; they can also help you with the engagement that happens during and after your event.
The bottom line: Fundraising consultants can help you plan and manage your event so that you can focus on more important things like reaching your goal!
7. Create a donor stewardship plan.
After you’ve reached your goal, you can now celebrate your success, right? Not quite. After your fundraiser is over, you have the opportunity to start cultivating relationships with your donors, and a fundraising consultant can help you even after all the funds have been raised.
That’s what makes working with a consultant so great; you can continue working with them to improve your stewardship and your next fundraising endeavors. The relationship never stops (if you don’t want it to)!
Here are few ways a consultant can help you with your donor stewardship:
- Create a plan of action for how you’ll reach out to donors.
- Design and write a welcome packet that you can send to first-time contributors.
- Suggest other ways for your nonprofit to interact with supporters.
- And so much more!
A consultant can help you create the best cultivation strategy for your nonprofit. For example, your consultant may help you draft emails that you send to donors after they’ve made a contribution.
Stewardship is an important part of the fundraising process, but it often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Effective stewardship doesn’t have to be overly complicated. As Brady Josephson explains, donor stewardship boils down to two things your nonprofit can do: know and care for your supporters. Consultants can help you figure out practical ways to both learn more about your donors and show you care.
While donors may support your nonprofit once, with the proper stewardship plan, your donors will want to support your cause in the future.
The bottom line: Fundraising doesn’t stop once you’ve reached your goal. A fundraising consultant can help you take the necessary steps to start establishing relationships with donors after the fundraiser.
Hiring a capital campaign consultant can be a helpful way to amplify your fundraising and find strategies that will help you be successful.
If these seven ways got you interested in working with a consultant, you can start your search today. Not sure where to start? Look at these top fundraising consultants to start your search.
Does your nonprofit use FundlyPro? Do you want to potentially receive twice as many donations during your crowdfunding campaign?
If so, keep reading! FundlyPro has integrated with Double the Donation, the leading matching gift software provider.
This integration enables nonprofits to promote matching gifts to their supporters after a donation has been made.
Let’s run through what the process will look like for your donors.
First, a donor will arrive on your FundlyPro donation page.
Once they click on “Donate Now,” the FundlyPro donation page will appear. Donors will input their personal and credit card information.
Once the donor clicks “Make Your Donation,” they will see a confirmation page. This is where the donor will be able to use Double the Donation’s matching gift search tool.
In this example, our donor works at Bank of America. When they start typing in their employer’s name, they will see matching gift information that is specific to that company.
Donors can learn more about their company’s matching gift program including information about:
- Contact information
- Minimum and maximum match amounts
- Match ratios
- Employee eligibility
- Nonprofit eligibility
- Submission processes
- And more!
FundlyPro’s integration with Double the Donation makes it easier for your donors to research their employer’s matching gift program and complete the necessary steps to submit match requests.
This means that your nonprofit could potentially raise twice as much during your crowdfunding campaign’s duration!
If you haven’t set up a FundlyPro account yet, you can do so here.
For more information about Double the Donation’s services, click here.
There are dozens of myths floating around, all across the internet, about fundraising events.
For the most part, there’s not an ounce of truth to any of them. They persist simply because it’s intimidating to venture forth and host a fundraising event.
It takes guts. But if you’re a nonprofit professional, you likely already have gumption to boot.
All of that is just to say that, yes, there may be myths about fundraising events. But we’re here to bust them!
Here are the top 6 fundraising event myths laid out:
#1. Crowdfunding is Only for Fun Runs and 5Ks.
#2. Product Fundraising Costs More Than It Makes.
#3. You Already Know Enough About Your Donors.
#4. Mobile Giving Only Works for Large Nonprofits.
#5. You Have to Stick to What’s Worked Before.
#6. You Can “Just Wing” a Fundraising Event.
#1. Crowdfunding is Only for Fun Runs and 5Ks.
If you’ve been around the block at least once, you’ve probably heard about crowdfunding. It’s also often called “peer-to-peer fundraising.”
In essence, crowdfunding involves soliciting donations from an array of supporters. Typically, those supporters are asked by their friends, families, and acquaintances to give via an online donation portal.
You may also have heard that crowdfunding is primarily reserved for 5Ks and fun runs.
The reason that myth is so pervasive is because peer-to-peer fundraising began with events like 5Ks because they were simple and familiar.
But the advent of the internet has opened up hundreds of thousands of doors. These doors have allowed fundraisers of all shapes and sizes to walk through:
- Development professionals,
- Weekend fundraisers,
- Avid advocates,
- And more.
Through crowdfunding sites, these pros and amateurs alike have the ability to raise money from a wide variety of donors.
They can fund their dreams, and those dreams don’t necessarily have to be tied to a fun run or a 5K.
The truth is: Crowdfunding platforms can be used to raise money for any cause at any time— regardless of whether the event is a 5K or not.
#2. Product Fundraising Costs More Than It Makes.
For some reason, there’s a commonly held belief that product fundraising (i.e. selling T-shirts or other items to raise money and awareness for a cause) costs more money than it makes.
Okay, this myth probably comes from a very logical place. There are, no doubt, fundraising professionals out there who have preemptively ordered far too many T-shirts (or ice scrapers, or keychain calculators, or whatever they’re hoping to sell).
They’ve been forced to scramble and try to sell as many as they can after the fundraising event is over.
When no one is willing to take home those final few shirts, the fundraisers give up and use them to clean their cars — knowing full-well that their organization has lost money on these products.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
There are product fundraising companies out there that allow your nonprofit to set up a simple crowdfunding page, one that:
- Lets donors order on an individual basis,
- Eliminates the need to pre-order or keep inventory,
- And allows your nonprofit to track progress easily.
Often, you can also set up a way for your supporters to give directly to the campaign in lieu of purchasing whatever product you’re selling for your fundraising event.
When your supporters are able to order exactly what they want ahead of time, everyone wins.
No more excess T-shirts. No more pounds of beef jerky left over. Crowdfunding is the way to go.
The truth is: If you’re savvy, you never have to lose money on a product fundraiser for your fundraising event ever again.
Curious about the best kinds of products to sell at your next fundraising event? Check out Booster’s product fundraising ideas.
#3. You Already Know Enough About Your Donors.
You may or may not have heard the often-touted nonprofit adage, “80% of all donations come from only 20% of donors.”
There are variations on this same theme. Some say the split is 90-10. Others insist that it’s 88-12.
Whatever the case, unlike the rest of the items on this list: it’s not a myth.
It’s true that the majority of your funding probably comes from the wealthy and willing minority of your supporters.
But how would you ever know who those beneficent angels are?
The secret to major gift fundraising success is to learn as much as possible about your event attendees and donors.
And of course, one of the best ways to glean this kind of information is to conduct prospect research.
You’ll want to look into:
- Wealth markers, such as:
- Real estate holdings,
- Business affiliations,
- And political giving.
- Philanthropic indicators, such as:
- Past giving to your nonprofit,
- Donations to other organizations,
- And any other nonprofit involvement.
There are several ways to go about conducting prospect research.
You can take the DIY approach and try to find all of that useful info on your own. Alternatively, you can enlist the help of a professional prospect researcher.
If neither of those options appeals to you, you can also use a screening company to help conduct the research on your event attendees.
The end goal in each case is to find out as much as you can about each of your event attendees, ultimately to see if there are any major gift donors among them.
Long story short: you probably don’t know as much about your supporters as you think you do.
The truth is: You may be surprised to find that your one-time $20 contributor is actually capable (and willing) to give $2,000.
#4. Mobile Giving Only Works for Large Nonprofits.
This myth has been around for almost as long as mobile fundraising itself.
Again, the origins of this tall tale make perfect sense.
Once upon a time, there were limited options when it came to running a mobile fundraising campaign.
Your nonprofit could go with one of just a couple of providers, and those providers had some pretty stringent standards.
And more often than not, those standards excluded smaller, newer nonprofits.
Luckily, some next-generation mobile fundraising providers came along and changed the game.
Now, regardless of the size of your nonprofit, you can take advantage of mobile giving to raise money for your cause at all of your events.
Not only do these industry-leading providers offer the chance to raise a great deal of donations, but they also guarantee the kind of security that has been unprecedented.
Modern mobile giving software keeps donor data at organizations of all sizes safe and secure.
Certain measures also serve to protect organizations (large and small) from fraudulent donors. They do so by authenticating IDs with something called “2-factor authentication.”
Simply put, authentication involves a donor providing at least two forms of identification (i.e. a phone number and a subsequent email address) to prove that they’re who they say they are and that they’re not robots or scammers.
Suffice it to say that mobile giving is a secure option all-around— and one that your nonprofit can look into, regardless of your size.
The truth is: Mobile fundraising used to be extremely difficult for smaller nonprofits to break into. But times have changed, and now just about any nonprofit organization can use mobile giving to raise funds at their events.
#5. You Have to Stick to What’s Worked Before.
This myth has gained traction among nonprofit professionals simply because switching things up can be scary.
We assume that once something has worked for us, we should continue to repeat the past for fear that changing one small thing could have disastrous implications.
But just as FDR so wisely pointed out, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
It’s the fear that holds us back from creating something truly extraordinary.
How do you spice up a classic fundraiser, though?
There are really 5 main ways to make any event significantly better:
- Try crowdfunding in conjunction with your event. The extra boost that a crowdfunding page adds to your campaign and to your individual events is definitely worth looking into.
- Put two events together in the same space. They say that two heads are better than one. The same is true of events. Try hosting a raffle at your charity auction! Or plan a golf-tournament and sell T-shirts at the same time!
- Add a theme to make it a little more festive. Who doesn’t love a good theme? You can stick to favorites like “Under the Sea,” or you can come up with your own off-the-wall theme to keep donors engaged.
- Make it a viral hit with an internet-worthy stunt. Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to “go viral.” But your fundraising event should have some sort of focal point — something that would draw attention and make it unique, like a flashmob!
- Use social media before, during, and afterward. Registering an #EventHashtag is a great way to spruce up any event. Get people talking about your event on social media before it happens, then again as it’s going on, and you’ll be able to see the glowing response afterward and track that engagement.
The truth is: Switching things up from time to time can actually be rejuvenating. Breathe some new life into your fundraising events with the five tips listed above.
Interested in a couple more great fundraising event tips? Take a look at BidPal’s creative ideas for a new twist on an old favorite.
#6. You Can “Just Wing” Fundraising Events.
A fundraising event isn’t like a term paper. You can’t sit down and knock it out the night before it’s due (or, rather, the night before donors are expected to show up!).
It just doesn’t work that way.
First of all, there are issues of fundraising compliance that you have to concern yourself with as a professional fundraiser.
You’ll have to figure out how to register your event, when to register it, and how and where to renew your charitable solicitation license (if it’s applicable). It’s a lot to keep up with. (Fortunately, there are ways to make the stress of compliance manageable.)
But as far as everything else is concerned, there are definitely concrete steps your organization will have to take in order to pull off a (successful) fundraising event.
True, you can host an event without much planning, but it won’t be nearly as successful or effective as it could have been.
The best fundraising event planners start their planning period at least six to eight months ahead of time. They also quite often enlist the help of an event checklist.
You can cross things off of that list as you go. It’s just one more way to keep yourself organized — and to prevent the “just winging it” phenomenon.
However you choose to juggle all of the intricate moving pieces that comprise a fundraising event, it’s important to recognize that no one can pull it all together without a little elbow grease and a lot of planning.
If anyone tells you differently, they’re not telling you the truth.
The truth is: Fundraising events take careful planning if you want them to be successful. Allot at least six months ahead of time to get all of your ducks in a row.
It’s easy to see why all of these myths popped up — and why they’ve stuck around for so long.
But after reading this article, you should be able to walk confidently forward with the knowledge that you can plan and pull off the fundraising event of your dreams, no matter what the naysayers try to throw at you!
There are many fundraising events that your nonprofit could host, but if you’re looking for the perfect event to ramp up your fundraising and better engage your donors, look no further than the silent auction.
Silent auctions can be some of the most successful fundraising events around.
Why, you might ask? Well…
- There’s a built-in incentive. The opportunity to walk home with a coveted auction item is a strong motivator for people to attend and to donate!
- There’s the ideal engagement opportunity. Not only is bidding a fun and interactive activity that’s excellent for capturing your guests’ attention, but your organization will also have plenty of time to mingle with attendees. Think of all the valuable information you could glean to help your future fundraising!
The benefits don’t stop there, but as you can see, hosting a silent auction can bring both your fundraising and donor stewardship to the next level.
The problems lies in the fact that silent auctions are complex events, making them relatively difficult to plan over other fundraisers.
Don’t worry too much, though. All it takes to run a successful silent auction is some careful preparation!
Our How-To Guide will take you step by step through the planning process, including:
- Setting a goal and budget.
- Recruiting a team.
- Booking a venue.
- Procuring auction items.
- Advertising your items and event.
- Hosting the event.
- Following up properly.
1. Set a goal and budget.
Planning your silent auction will be much simpler if your organization has a clear idea of what you’re working towards and which resources you have at your disposal to help you get there.
In other words, the first step to planning will be setting a goal and a budget.
Start by setting a clear and achievable fundraising goal. You should be setting two types of goals:
- A financial goal. Obviously, the main purpose of your event is to raise funds! Consider your campaign goals, the scope of your event, and the financial capacity of your constituents to support your cause when setting a fiscal goal.
- A stewardship goal. Chances are, your organization is hoping to establish new donor relationships and build on existing ones through hosting your event. While it may not be as clearly defined, set a stewardship goal so your staff will have a structure in place for cultivating donors.
Once you have your goals in mind, it’s time to get down to setting a budget. Of course, you’ll want to factor in your goals to ensure that where you set your budget will bring you a healthy return on your event.
Your budget will depend largely on the needs of your organization and which materials you might be able to receive as donations, but here are some expenses you might need to factor in:
- Software: Auction, event planning, and/or mobile bidding.
- A venue.
- Auction items.
- Supplies (tables, decorations, etc.).
- Staff hours.
Try to anticipate all possible expenses, and make sure you leave yourself a little wiggle room in case you run into any unforeseen costs.
The takeaway: By establishing a goal and budget, your organization will have set parameters in place that will help you make sure your event is profitable.
Bonus: Need some help with your event planning? Check out Booster’s Essential Event Checklist.
2. Recruit a team.
Because silent auctions are complex in nature and planning will be a little more involved than with other fundraising events, you’ll need a large, dedicated team on your side to make sure that everything gets done.
Alongside your staff, you’ll likely need plenty of volunteers for your silent auction planning and execution to run smoothly.
Staff or volunteer, here are some of the key teams and individuals you’ll need to recruit:
- Auction chair(s). The auction chair (or chairs) will be the boss. Along with recruiting and managing your team, they’ll keep up all event-related documents and have final say over all event decision-making.
- Procurement chair and team. The procurement chair and their team will be tasked with one of the most important duties: soliciting auction items. They’ll request donations, as well as track and package items, arrange pickup and delivery, and set up the display on the night of the event.
- Check-in and check-out team. The check-in/check-out team will take care of all duties related to setting up the event space, registering guests, and facilitating check-out and item distribution.
- Ticket chair. The ticket chair will be responsible for selling as many tickets to your event as possible. They’ll manage both in-person ticket sales and those made through your online event site.
- Emcee. The emcee will host the silent auction and program. They should be energetic and entertaining and actively engage your attendees by making announcements throughout the auction.
- Auction monitors. Auction monitors will help the emcee facilitate the auction. They’ll walk around the room to answer bidders’ questions, enforce the rules, and encourage more bid activity.
These are just the team members essential to all silent auctions, but your organization might need people to fill more roles depending on the scope and format of your event.
In any case, make sure that you’ll have enough hands to cover all of your bases!
The takeaway: Thoroughly staff your event to ensure that you’ll have enough people dedicated to all aspects of your silent auction planning and execution.
3. Book a venue.
Now that you’ve prepared internally for planning your auction, it’s time to start pinning down the details!
Around 8-12 months before the event, your team should book a venue. Booking early should give you ample options to choose from and time to work out any kinks that may arise.
There are many types of spaces that make suitable silent auction venues; all that matters is that you’ll have plenty of open space for arranging your items and that your space fits with your organization and the ambience of the event.
For example, if you were hosting a gala, a museum might be the most appropriate event space. If, on the other hand, you were hosting a family-friendly back-to-school night, your school cafeteria or gym would probably work just fine.
Another thing to keep in mind while booking a venue is the availability of your guests.
The dates you can choose will be somewhat limited by the price and openness of the event space, but if possible, aim for a weekend or a weeknight, when guests who work full time will be able to attend. Additionally, avoid holidays and summer months when people are traveling and are more likely to be tied up with social events.
The takeaway: By booking a venue early, you should have plenty of options, so you can pick the venue and time that best fits your organization and constituents.
4. Procure auction items.
Without items to auction off, your organization would have no way to raise money at your event!
As such, procuring auction items is easily one of the most important parts of planning your silent auction.
Send your team out as early as possible to begin requesting in-kind donations. Have them start with professional and personal connections, then branch out to other local businesses or venues.
When procuring auction items, your team should be keeping an eye out for the most competitive items. These items will be:
- Appealing to your guests. Your guests aren’t going to bid on any of your items if they don’t want them! Obviously, to see the most bid activity, you’ll want to choose items that appeal to your guests’ interests and demographics.
- Appropriately priced. The items you choose should also fit into your attendees’ general income level. Guests aren’t going to bid on items that fall way above their price range.
- Rare or unique. When the items that you offer aren’t widely available (or even better, aren’t available anywhere else!), they’re sure to spark bidding wars among your guests!
It can be helpful to send your team out with a list of item ideas, so they’ll know what to look out for as they’re procuring items.
If you need a few ideas, make sure to check out BidPal’s list of 115 auction items!
The takeaway: Requesting auction items as in-kind donations couldn’t be more important to the success of your event. Choose which items you procure wisely!
5. Advertise your items and event.
If you want people to attend your auction, you’ll have to get the word out!
However, promoting your silent auction will be a little different than promotion for your other fundraising events. To see the most success, you’ll need to advertise both your auction items and the event itself.
Why, you might ask? Remember how we mentioned earlier that auction items provide great incentive for people to attend and bid at your event?
Promoting your auction items in advance should result in a bigger turnout, since people won’t want to miss out on the chance to win the amazing items your team has procured!
The best way to promote both your items and the event is by putting up an online event site.
These sites are generated through auction software and allow you to list all of the important information about your items and auction, such as:
- Basic details about the event (date, time, location, etc.).
- A description of your organization and silent auction (including where you’re allocating the proceeds).
- Corporate sponsor advertising.
- The name and number of each auction item.
- A short description of each item (including restrictions).
- The starting bid, minimum raise, and market value amounts.
- The name of the item’s donor.
- Images of each item (where applicable).
Putting up an online event site is more cost-effective, expedient, and environmentally-friendly than compiling a physical auction catalog. Plus, it will give you additional functionality—such as opening up online bidding, accepting standard donations, and pre-registering guests’ credit cards for mobile bidding—that will help streamline your event and make it more profitable.
Once you’re done setting up your site, just remember to share the link on your organization’s website and in all communications about your silent auction to start hyping up your event!
The takeaway: Advertising both your silent auction and your auction items will result in a bigger turnout at your event, and thus, ensure more revenue is generated to fund your mission.
6. Host the event.
The long-awaited day of your silent auction has arrived, and your team is ready to start showing guests a night they’ll never forget.
However, your planning isn’t quite done yet. You’ll want to have all of the necessary team members at the venue well in advance of when the auction starts to set up the event space.
While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some of the main tasks you’ll need to take care of:
- Set up registration and check-out areas.
- Arrange display tables in a way that promotes good traffic flow.
- Group your auction items into categories and place them on tables (remember: stick to one row per table!).
- Print out table tents detailing the name, description, number, starting bid, minimum raise, and market value for each item, and place them next to their respective items.
- Put signs around the room to help bidders navigate your display.
- Double check the sound system.
- Get your software set up, and make sure your cellular signal is strong and secure so guests can access mobile bidding.
Once it’s time for your guests to start arriving, get all of your volunteers in place and get ready to start hosting!
Your event will probably unfold a little something like this:
- Arrival. As guests come in, your check-in/check-out team will pre-register their credit cards (if attendees haven’t done so on your online event site already) and get them set up with mobile bidding by showing them how to use the software.
- Bidding. Once it’s time for the auction to start, open up the bidding! Guests can browse items—either by consulting their phones or wandering around your display—and place bids directly from their phones. Silent auction bidding usually lasts for around two hours.
- Program. Now that most of your guests have arrived, have your emcee catch their attention to give a short program. The program should welcome guests, give them a brief description of your organization and why you’re hosting the event, and highlight some big ticket sellers up for auction.
- Close items. Your mobile bidding app will shut down bidding on all items and determine winners once it’s time for the auction to close.
- Check-out and item distribution. If you’re using mobile bidding, winning guests will automatically be charged, so there’s no need to worry about check-out. All that’s required from your team will be to verify payments and get the winners their items!
Congratulations! You and your team have made it to the end of a successful silent auction. You’ll still need to clean up the event space, but don’t forget to take some time to pop open the bubbly and celebrate a job well done!
The takeaway: The day of your silent auction, you and your team should be at the event space early to take care of setup. Make sure that all necessary tools and hands are in place so that your auction runs as smoothly as possible.
7. Follow up properly.
Although your event is over, there’s still one important step left.
To reap the fruits of all of your hard work, it’s important to follow up properly. The proper follow-up will include three important components:
- Send out thank-yous. Within 48-hours of your event, you should send out thorough thank-yous to everyone who was involved. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t only be thanking event attendees, but also all other pivotal contributors, such as volunteers, item donors, and corporate sponsors.
- Record new item and donor data. Make sure that you track the winner’s name and winning bid amount for each item, as well as any new donor data you’ve received. If you’re using auction software, item and bidder information should automatically be recorded. However, you’ll probably still need to export any new donor data you’ve received into your CRM.
- Track your goals. To ensure your auction was a success and to improve your planning for next year, you’ll need to track your goals. Use your auction or event planning software to run reports, which will give you insights into which areas of your auction were successful and which might need some improvement.
Let’s back up for a minute and discuss why the proper follow up is so important.
Thanking your donors goes beyond common courtesy. Making them feel appreciated for their contributions will be key to cementing more valuable, long term relationships.
These relationships will help you procure more items and see a bigger turnout next year, as well as improve your fundraising all around.
Additionally, it’s crucial to take the time to reflect internally on your event. Tracking your goals is the only way that your organization can evaluate your success and hone your tactics so you can see even more success when hosting an auction in the future.
In simpler terms, following up has long term consequences on your fundraising. Don’t neglect this important step!
The takeaway: The proper follow up after your silent auction will set you up for future success and include sending out thank-yous, recording new data from your event, and tracking your goals.
Bonus: Check out Fundly’s article on writing the perfect donor acknowledgement letter.
The only way to run a silent auction is to get out there and do it for yourself!
However, we hope that our How-To Guide will help you get well on your way to planning the most successful event possible.
For more information on silent auctions, make sure to check out BidPal’s website!
Fundly is dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to raise money for whatever your cause may be.