Fund-A-Need: How to Choose the Right Need to Fund

In this first of a series of articles, we’ll explore how to create a compelling Fund-A-Need that connects with your audience and inspires them to give.

The Fund-A-Need is a valuable tool for any organization.

It can raise funds for anything from classes to a whole new building in a very short time. Essentially, you present the need, then your auctioneer starts the bidding high and your guests make donations at the giving level they feel good about.

So how do you choose a need that will bring in the revenue you require?

A good place to start is by brainstorming with your team all your organization’s needs. Then categorize these needs by urgency, size, appeal, timing or whatever criteria makes sense to you. Once you’ve settled on your prioritized list, you can plan on addressing one need each year during your annual gala event.

Choose a Need that Strikes a Chord

The thing to understand with Fund-A-Need campaigns is that this is an emotional give—the more you can connect your audience with the need, the more revenue you’ll generate. And things can happen quickly.

In our recent webinar, 7 Essentials to Fund-a-Need Success with Auction Brio LLC, Mark Schroeder of Auction Brio, LLC, tells the story of a school that needed a new building. On Thursday, someone pitched the idea of holding a Fund-A-Need at their auction that Saturday to raise funds for the construction costs. On Friday, the leadership team approved the proposal, scrapping their original Fund-A-Need campaign in favor of supporting the new building. By Saturday, everything was in place and they raised $1.5 million in 20 minutes.

Connect with Your Audience

A new building is exciting for everyone; it’s easy to see how the new facility will benefit the students and enhance the school. But what if your need is more mundane, yet still urgent and important? How do you make a necessity into something that’s provocative enough for your audience to support it?

Find a way to present the need so your audience can get energized about it.  Mark Schroeder shared another example of a school that needed a new roof—not the most exciting thing in the world. But the team figured out how to take a sustainable approach to building the roof, using organic materials. They knew their audience had a high level of awareness around sustainability, recycling and wise use of resources. The team explained the project in a compelling way and people were eager to support it. They also received a substantial federal grant for the roof just days before the auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. That really jump-started the process and the Fund-A-Need was a big success.

So don’t shy away from your need if it’s a necessity rather than a big exciting project. Find a way to present it so your audience understands the importance of the venture and the impact it can have.

Types of Needs

You can use a Fund-A-Need campaign for all kinds of needs. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Student scholarships.
  • A new building, roof, cafeteria, or library.
  • A new gym floor, lighting for the field house, outdoor track, or spectator stands.
  • Buses, vans, snowplows, or industrial lawn tractor.
    (One school had a huge campus and everyone understood the need for an industrial lawn tractor. They even raised extra money to fix up grounds.)
  • Science labs, computers, Wi-Fi, musical instruments, or class trips.
  • Medical examination machines, hearing aids, research, or Emergency Medical Service.
  • Participation programs, camps, acting and theater training.
  • Theater and auditorium seats.
  • Support for ailing patients during long-term stays.
  • Plant new trees.
    (One school had 15 mature trees that were wiped out in a hurricane. Replacing the trees would not only beautify the grounds but provide needed shade and cooling for the kids playing football. Once the audience understood this, they quickly raised the money for the trees.)
  • Interactive rooms at a children’s museum.
  • Religiously affiliated retreats.

Whatever need you  choose, make sure it’s a “cannot miss!” project. Don’t ask for something too small. Show your audience that their engagement means something and you will easily get the return you need.

What’s Your Experience?

What kinds of Fund-A-Need campaigns have you organized in the past? Which were the most successful? What made them successful? How did you convey the importance or urgency of the need to your audience? How did you help your audience connect with the need? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear what works in your community.


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