Don’t Ice the Fundraiser During COVID-19 Crisis

Don’t Ice the Fundraiser During COVID-19 Crisis

We don’t know how long physical distancing will be recommended. We do know that most beloved causes still need funding to continue their missions during this time. Auction fundraisers are one of the best ways to continue engaging and nurturing your donors, supporters, and sponsors even while apart.

Don’t cancel, don’t postpone. Here’s why.

Canceling an event cancels the income. If you’ve already sold tickets or put down deposits, refunds can further hurt you financially, whereas going online can salvage money that has already changed hands. By switching to an online event, we’ve seen some organizations net more revenue than they would have in-person, largely due to lower event expenses.

Be confident and show your audience that your mission is still crucial and that you have strong, adaptable leadership to achieve the goals you’ve set. Postponing an event indefinitely might create a sense of ambivalence.

GivingTuesday.org was established for a single day of global giving the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Right now they have launched Giving Now to help charities address the current wave of need. Giving Now is scheduled for May 5, 2020. Not every organization has to participate; the purpose of sharing this is to show this is a big head-nod that it is more than ok to continue fundraising for your beloved cause.

Fundraising gurus are echoing this message:

Pamela Grow, a fundraising consultant frequently listed by top not-for-profit bloggers to follow and with over 20K Twitter followers tweeted, “The 2 worst kinds of fundraising you can do in COVID-19… 1. Tone Deaf: you send out that e-news appeal you scheduled in January with no changes, 2. You pause all your fundraising, assuming your donors don’t want to give right now.”

Mark Phillips, a fundraising consultant leading the team at Blue Frog Fundraising, tweeted “.. Look at results from the appeals currently running and I think anyone that called an appeal should get it out urgently. People are helping. People are giving. People are great.”

Jeff Brooks, a fundraising consultant who leads the team at FundraisingNow.com,
followed up with, “…Seeing the same… getting better-than-usual results. Some dramatically better. All types of causes.”

Event planners echoed this message recently in the Facebook Group Auction Team Talk. In a conversation about continuation, John Fuse from Event Full, a nonprofit event management company located in Virginia, said,

“I have been on many conference calls about that. The fact of the matter is a non-profit is a business and needs a revenue stream to provide their mission to their community. There are still supporters who believe in the work you do and [are] willing to support.”

Auction teams that did continue the course have reflected this sentiment and have shown success.

North Star Academy had the unlucky timing of having scheduled their Casino Royale Auction fundraiser at the exact same time that all community events were being canceled due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements being implemented. There were urgent and swift closures that required immediate action putting all the previous work at risk. The team quickly explored options to cancel, convert or postpone.

Spoiler alert: NorthStar Academy made as much as they did last year!
READ the rest of the story

How to Keep the Fundraising Efforts Moving Forward

So now that we have shown that fundraising now is imperative, let’s review the ‘how to’ in the midst of a shelter-in-place environment. Utilizing the variety of tools that are available you can still make an impact and continue with auction fundraising activity:

  1. Mindful messaging
  2. Continue finding donations
  3. Impact video
  4. Convert in-person auction to online
  5. Convert in-person live auction to virtual event with livestream & auction software
  6. Event wrap up, thank you

Mindful Messaging

Sensitive messaging will set the tone for the continuation of any fundraiser activity.

Thank you for joining our online auction! This event is vital helping us fulfill the mission to _ fill in the blank

While we wish that we could gather with all of you in person, we know that this is the best way to safely raise money so that we can continue to ____ fill in the blank.

Did you know that the money raised during our auction makes up close to XX% of our funds for the year?

Be honest and forthright about where funds are going, how they will be spent in the short term as well as overall campaign goals.

Messaging for an auction or event fundraiser should include communications to sponsors, donors & bidders.
Here are few starters for bidders:

Bidders are still willing to participate in the auction portion of the event. Give them an easy way to say yes!

  • Thanks for supporting the "name of event. As you know our regular activities are being altered by COVID-19. As a precaution we are cancelling our in-person portion of the event. Good news, we are converting the auction portion to an online event.
  • Thanks for purchasing a ticket to the "name of event". We are offering a few options regarding refunds: full or partial refund; or, the choice we are most hoping you make is to donate the funds to the "cause" so we can continue to fund "the charitable activities".
  • Good news! The auction portion of the event will go on with no risk of community spread.
  • Online auction will take place starting "date & time" until "date & time".
  • Please help us get the word out! Our auction fundraiser has gone online! Now even more people can browse and bid on the auction items. (mention a few top hot items to gain attention

Bidder Messaging

Bidders are still willing to participate in the auction portion of the event. Give them an easy way to say yes!

Here are few starters for bidders:

  • Thanks for supporting the "name of event". As you know our regular activities are being altered by COVID-19. As a precaution we are canceling our in-person portion of the event. Good news, we are converting the auction portion to an online event.
  • Thanks for purchasing a ticket to the "name of event". We are offering a few options regarding refunds: full or partial refund; or, the choice we are most hoping you make is to donate the funds to the "cause" so we can continue to fund "the charitable activities".
  • Good news! The auction portion of the event will go on with no risk of community spread. Use a well proven online auction platform to pivot the auction to an online event.
  • Online auction will take place starting "date & time" until "date & time".
  • Please help us get the word out! Our auction fundraiser has gone online! Now even more people can browse and bid on the auction items. (mention a few top hot items to gain attention

Donor & Sponsor Messaging

Donors & sponsors gave to your fundraiser because they believe in the cause. This did not evaporate in the wake of COVID-19. It is still important for companies to continue to show their dedication to the community.

Here are a few message starters:

  • Thanks for your generous donation/sponsorship for our fundraiser . As you know many regular activities are being altered by COVID-19.
  • Due to current conditions we are canceling our in-person portion of the event. Good news, we are converting the auction portion to an online event.
  • Your donated items will continue to help us reach our fundraising goal with an online auction fundraiser event in lieu of an in-person event.
  • Due to safety concerns around COVID-19 the will now be conducted as an online auction fundraiser. This gives us a unique opportunity to share our auction & mission to an even larger community. Please share the links, hashtags on social media.
  • We appreciate our sponsors for donating to our event fundraiser. Although we are needing to pivot to an online event.
  • Although there will be no your sponsorship dollars are still vital to our cause. Please allow us to make the sponsorship count with our online auction event.

Consider ways to offer different exposure to sponsors:

  • Online exposure with a sponsor catalog;
  • Include sponsors names on all correspondences including statements;
  • Exposure at a future event(s);
  • Tag on social media for continued support; and,
  • Direct email spotlighting sponsors for continued support in the time of need.

Donation Requests

Continue requesting donations from willing businesses. If you are still in the process of collecting donations for your auction fundraiser, this can be an awkward time to ask for donations. Be sure to generously and openly thank those who have already committed, as well as focus on what you can legally do for them in return, such as sharing/reposting their news. Using online donation portals like DonationMatch can also help you identify more companies that are still donating--many are--and ease the stress of face-to-face requests.

Impact Video

Many times an impact video is on the to-do list yet we never get to it. Now that we are sheltered-in-place this is a great use of the time. Hopefully with fewer ordinary distractions, the creative can take first place on the to-do list. Use a well-produced video to effectively communicate your organization’s mission and impact to make an emotional connection. During this time some people are seeking ways to help, both during the fundraiser as well as afterward in continuing the appeal on your donation pages.

Convert Silent Auction to Online Auction

Converting the auction fundraiser is a very viable option to maintain income and cash flow. Most likely you already have donations accumulated already. Most likely have sponsors committed. Most likely have bidders that are wanted to attend your auction. By shifting to an online format.

Online auctions Online Auction Advantages
Going online can expand the bidder pool. Auction fundraising depends upon bids, bids depend upon bidders. The greater the number of bidders, the more bidding will take place, and the higher the bids. So, How to expand the bidder pool? Go online with the auction.

Similar to traditional silent auctions there is a start time, end time, and the bidding process takes place in between but completely web-based. The bidding window is much more flexible with an online event typically ranging from a few days to over a week. Online auctions add a layer of flexibility for both the auction itself and the participants.

Online auctions extend both the time and reach for bidders. The online auction naturally lends itself to online marketing with a direct feed to bidding. The window of opportunity for bidding for an online auction tends to be much longer than an event-based function. Extended bidding time boots bidding.

Online Auction Accelerators Proxy Bidding and Anti-Sniping Bidding

Online auctions have the added feature of two highly favored bidding options. Proxy bidding and anti-sniping not only make the auction fun last longer but increases the bottom line for final bids.

Anti-Sniping
During online auctions the bidding fury takes over as the clock ticks closer to closing time. The winner is the one that got that very last bid in at the mere moment before the auction closes. The winning bidder is super happy but how much higher could the bids have gone? Online auctions technology has removed the sniper and increased auction proceeds with anti-sniping feature. Anti-sniping accelerates the bidding so more bids can be placed, thus increasing the final bid.

Proxy Bidding
Have you ever run an online auction fundraiser and the bids come in s-l-o-w-l-y one by one? Although small increments for online auctions can provide engagement and activity it may not produce the maximum potential for the highest bids. In a standard online auction after each bid is placed the outbid bidder receives a notification but then NEEDS to bid again to back on top, and because people are busy they might forget. Proxy bidding or a more descriptive term is automatic bidding moves the bidding up efficiently without the bidder needing to be involved on every bid. Proxy bidding accelerates the bidding so more bids go higher, faster.

Convert Live Auction to Virtual Auction

Virtual live galas are quickly replacing in-person event fundraisers. You may see these being called: virtual live gala, ungala or live online auction. By any name the live event larger screen to be tuned in to the live stream event activity. Use a secondary device for the actual bidding and donations.

Virtual Live Auction requires two parts:

  1. Virtual live stream platform
  2. Bidding software for real live bidding

Virtual Live Stream Suggestions

Virtual Live Stream types range in sophistication from simple to fully produced.

This means opening the door to event more bidders potentially increasing the number of bidders and in turn increasing the final bids. The virtual live gala can range in sophistication from very simple in a single room, sitting a desktop or a full staged production. This decision will then lead you down the path of choosing a live stream mechanism. There are three major types of live stream options each with unique features:

Online meetings all attendees gather and immediately interact. Differentiator-May not have a buffer to live feed. Minimal registration. Examples:

  • Zoom
  • Google Meet
  • Ring Central

Webinar style has a more defined registration & tracking for better planning. Differentiator- lobby and buffer then ‘open the door’. Examples:

  • Clickmeeting

  • WebEx

  • WebinarJam

    Social media style has live alerts increasing visibility to those that use the platform, this also comes with less privacy yet more familiarity. Examples:

  • FB Live

  • YouTube Live

  • Instagram.

The questions you want to answer when deciding on what type to use is:

  • What are your needs?
  • Will this be for a single-use, multi-use.
  • What are the budget constraints
  • How many seats needed for admin, emcee, auctioneer?
  • How public do you want to broadcast?

Latency is a valid concern when choosing a live stream service. We did a little bit of the homework for you here.

In summary for streaming services,

  • Zoom & Zoom Pro Webinar ~less than second
  • LiveStorm ~2-15 seconds
  • YouTube Live ~2 seconds using ultra
  • Facebook Live ~24 seconds

Read more for an in-depth review and to see examples of each in practice.

Bidding Software

The power of the paddle can still be tangible in this new virtual phenomenon. Typically the live auction has a handful to a dozen items up for auction. Add a paddle raise to the virtual auction to increase participation for all the viewers to donate and support the cause. Utilizing a program that allows bidders to easily tap to bid and tap to donate vastly increases engagement. The easier you make it to donate, the easier supporters can participate.

Use the platform that was built for bidding and streamline the virtual auction from registration through checkout with all the bidding and paddle raise in between.

This is what the bidders will see as you take your live auction virtual on the Auctria platform. They will be viewing this from a page on YOUR dedicated website! You are controlling exactly what the bidder will see. When the viewer never needs to navigate away to make it super simple to make a bid or donation. Quick tap bid → which means quick tap fundraising!

Post Auction Event

Continue the giving opportunity by posting the auction event recording to YouTube and other social channels and enable more donations. With YouTube Giving, the event lives on with the option to accept donations directly. According to YouTube’s website:

YouTube Giving is designed to help strengthen the way creators and fans engage in charitable giving on YouTube. Some videos and live streams give you the option to donate to a nonprofit that the video creator is supporting. YouTube covers all transaction fees, so 100% of the money you donate goes to the eligible nonprofit. Donations to nonprofits are non-refundable

support.google.com/youtube/answer/6318560

Thank Everyone

Remember to thank all sponsors, donors and bidders for their time and generosity. Make the thank-you sincere and timely. Thank publicly and privately. Send out the week after the event takes place. If it is a very generous donor do write a handwritten thank you. Thank sponsors and donors on social media tagging them. To extend the appreciation, thank them as the funds are spent reporting on how their contribution helped the do-good. Continue the conversation to maintain and grow the relationship for further partnering opportunities.