Silent auctions, live auctions, and fund-a-need presentations—these are fairly reliable fundraising methods. They are also quite common. Guests won’t be surprised to encounter them, and subsequently may not be inspired to give. The key to maximizing contributions is thinking creatively about how donors spend their time and money at events.
Donors are looking for a unique experience and creative fundraising methods. If you create a space for them to play, to connect, and to celebrate, you’ll open revenue sources at your event that go well beyond the traditional fundraising opportunities.
There are a few (profitable!) ways to get donors involved at an event. Consider these possibilities:
- Toast the Table: A Valentine’s ball treated guests to not only a great table menu, but a chance to pair it with some rare, high-end wines. Bidders were given the opportunity to bid on a bottle of premium wine to take back to their table to go with the meal. Wines were opened on site by the catering staff and poured with the paired courses. While all the available wines were terrific, the best selections went to the first “buy it now buyers,” adding in a little competition and urgency. Guests really enjoyed the chance to participate in a culinary experience. Some tables bought more than one bottle (anywhere from $50-$250), and by the end of the cocktail hour, all the bottles had been purchased totaling over $1,800 for the cause.
- Re-think your raffle: At a Western-themed event for some local grape growers, bidders were given a set of themed tokens at check-in. During the cocktail hour, volunteers walked around selling the raffle, which was 100 bottles of wine, and bidders tossed their tokens into the raffle seller they wanted to support. The tokens felt separate from “real money”–like bidders were playing a game–but the tokens had the bidder’s bid number on each one. At the end of the night, the bidder was charged for all the tokens found in the raffle buckets.
- Get festive: Gift baskets are a common find at silent auctions. One school added some extra celebrating by offering themed Christmas trees instead. Donors gave real and fake trees covered in baseball team gear, travel gear, cooking tools, and designer decorations. Dressed to the nines, these trees went home to the highest bidder. The winner took home not only some really great gifts, but a tree that shined through the season!
Sometimes, increasing contributions is as simple as increasing your creativity.
A successful donor event is where everyone gets what they want: people connect to the good that’s already happening around them, the organization meets its funding goals, and the donors have a great time. These are the events that build loyal attendance and grow, year after year.
Where can you give guests a chance to play? How can you help them celebrate? When can they “buy-in” to special parts of the event?
Careful attention to a guest’s experience really pays off.