What to do in 2022, Futureproof the Event Fundraiser

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 not and a few solutions:

  1. Don’t cancel the income
  2. Futureproof the event fundraiser
  3. Mindful messaging keeps the mission front and center
  4. Fill the space with meaningful content

1. Canceling an event cancels the income

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.

Fundraising gurus are echoing this message:

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,

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

2. How to Futureproof Fundraising

So now that we have shown that fundraising now is imperative, let’s review the ‘how to’ in 2022. Utilizing the variety of tools that are available you can still make an impact and continue with auction fundraising activity:

  • Plan A online fundraising
  • Mindful messaging
  • Seeking donations
  • Impact video
  • Event wrap up, thank you

Plan A, Online Event Fundraising

Because the future of in-person gathering is unknown Plan A should be online fundraising. This will futureproof the event if there is another outbreak for concern for gathering. The benefit to starting online is minimal disruption due to public gathering rules or safety concerns. You can run an entire event fundraiser fully online with lots of fun, bells, and whistles.

  • Auction can run online for days rather than hours
  • Add in peer-2-peer for expanded reach
  • Include videos to the event website as testimonials
  • Freshen content throughout the life of the online event. Add new video and featured contents, for sale or auction items throughout the entire event to encourage repeat visits
  • Include a meaningful donation request with quick tap buttons

Online auctions and event fundraising have many 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 is completely web-based. 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 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. Bid extension accelerates the bidding so more bids can be placed, thus increasing the final bid. Proxy bidding accelerates the bidding so more bids go higher, faster.

From Drab to Fab

Going online does not mean socializing and connections stop! Events with virtual components continue to evolve and continue to bring in record-breaking fundraising. In a recent webinar, GFS Events shared a few case studies on utilizing virtual elements such as a week of giving, video testimonials, and virtual events to attract donors.

A few best practices for online fundraising that crushes goals are:

  • Brand your fundraising event & platform
  • Add unique features to your event
  • Minimize clicks to donate
  • Personalize all communication
  • Include an FAQ page
  • Make your call to action clear

Watch back the entire Drab to Fab webinar.

Virtual Live Stream types range in sophistication from simple to fully produced. This means opening the door to even more donors potentially increasing the number of supporters and in turn increasing the final revenue. The virtual live gala can range in sophistication from very simple in a single room, sitting on a desktop, or a full staged production. This decision will then lead you down the path of choosing a live stream mechanism.

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 are needed for admin, emcee, auctioneer?
  • How public do you want to broadcast?

Plan B

Plan B, is if options open up to add in on in-person gathering. Plan B is the party, the gala, the ball, and the banquet. There will be a time and place for this however save this in your back pocket till you are certain that it can be implemented.

  1. 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 in 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.

Bidders are still willing to participate in the auction portion of the event. Give them an easy way to say yes! Here are a few starters for bidders and donors:

  • Thanks for supporting the . As you know our regular activities are being altered by the pandemic. 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 . 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 so we can continue to fund .
  • 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 until .
    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

Donors & sponsors gave to your fundraiser because they believe in the cause. This did not evaporate in the wake of the pandemic. 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 the pandemic shifts, regular activities are being altered by safety and regulations.
  • Due to current conditions, we running an online/virtual event fundraiser to continue servicing… .
  • 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 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.

4. Fill the Space with Meaningful Content

Donation requests. Continue requesting donations from willing businesses. 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. Using consignment vendors is also a great way to bring excitement to the fundraiser. The travel consignments industry has created many local experiences and extended usage windows.

Impact video. Many times an impact video is on the to-do list yet we never get to it. Now that we are less able to get out and publicly gather 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.

Post event fundraising can continue. 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

(https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6318560)

Remember to thank all sponsors, donors, and bidders for their time and generosity. Make the thank-you sincere and timely. Thank both 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.