Fundraising events are one of the biggest investments in a charity’s calendar, so it’s crucial to ensure they deliver the biggest return possible for your cause.
Digital solutions can make fundraising easy and fun while providing flexibility, finds Karen Bearman, Save the Children’s Senior Manager of Special Events, who regularly uses Givergy’s silent auction technology at charity galas.
She talked us through how the technology works, and shared eight things charities should keep in mind to raise as much money as possible at their next fundraising event.
Donating should be a breeze
For many guests, charity events are a chance to network and catch up with friends in the industry, so in a silent auction, the bidding process should be as quick and non-intrusive as possible.
Givergy technology lets guests bid for items on tablets at the comfort of their tables. Bearman says this leads to more bids, and more money raised.
“Guests don’t have to go to a table and leaf through a big book to see what’s on offer – the lots are right in front of them so they can scroll through all the different available auction items.
Are your guests having fun?
The goal is making it a memorable event that donors will want to return to, Bearman says. “Digital silent auctions are fun for your guests – when they see their names popping up on the screen they know they’re winning, and when they get outbid it gets competitive.”
She continues: “It’s two parts really – we want to raise as much money possible, but we also want the guests to have the best time they possibly can. We want the auction to be fun, easy, and efficient, so that they come back every year.
Start collecting donations before the event
There’s no harm in getting the fundraising ball rolling by opening a few auctions early. Givergy works with charities to build an event website that can promote your event and open some auctions in advance, allowing guests to get their bids in early.
“It opens up the audience we can fundraise from,” Bearman says.
These “prebids” now account for about 30 per cent of an event’s total income, she adds. They also indicate how lots are going to perform on the night and can be useful in determining what minimum bids should be.
“It almost gives us a dress rehearsal before the event to play with those things and try to get it perfect for the event when we know that most of the bids are going to come in. That’s quite helpful,” Bearman says.
Never underestimate the power of theatre…
While digital auctions have their obvious benefits, Bearman says there’s nothing quite like the theatrics of a traditional live auction, and fundraisers should find a way of selling at least some of their lots this way.
However, she advises shortening some of the live auctions so that the audience remains engaged throughout the event.
“You could just have five or six live auction lots to introduce the theatrics that people enjoy to your event, while everything else goes into silent auctions,” Bearman says.
…but understand that digital has its place too
Save the Children’s annual Summer in the City event raises money for the charity’s Emergency Fund. In its 16-year history, the event had never raised money through silent auctions, never mind digital silent auctions.
As live auctions can be lengthy – Save the Children president Princess Anne chooses to limit the number of auction lots she sits through at the events – Bearman suggested they move some of the lots into a digital auction to engage more guests.
“The event committee was very apprehensive about it,” Bearman says. But the digital auction was a hit: “It was hectic – people were constantly outbidding each other, and getting really competitive,” Bearman says. “We raised £42,000 more than we had the previous year.”
She estimates that of the £280,000 raised at the event, about £50,000 was donated through Givergy’s platform.
It’s about more than raising money
Guests at charity events expect to be asked for money. Can your event make another impression?
Bearman says that for Save the Children, the guest experience is important: “Our events aren’t just about raising money on the night, they’re about engaging people who work in our organisation as well.”
Have a debrief
After the event, assess which lots have been most popular so you know what items to invest in and which to drop for your next event. Bearman notes that hotel days tend to be popular, while dog walking services don’t perform as well.
Think about your next move
As fundraising technology evolves, so must your charity’s fundraising strategy. Ask yourself: are there are digital solutions that will help streamline your events even more?
Bearman is considering integrating contactless payments into events to make donating even easier, and predicts that in the near future, charities will develop apps that integrate every step of the guest’s journey at fundraising events, from registration to table booking and bidding.
Givergy supports fundraising events around the world. To find out more about how they can help you, visit their website.
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