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Thank You, Auctioneers!

April 05, 2017
Did you know that March 18 was National Corn Dog Day? Or that, in July, you’ll be able to celebrate both National Ice Cream Day (July 16) and National Milk Chocolate Day (July 28)? There seems to be a special day set aside for every interest throughout the year. But we prefer to celebrate for a little longer – and this week is our chance.
 
April 3-8 is National Auctioneers Week, and we’re thrilled to take a minute to celebrate those people who do so much to help our friends in the non-profit world raise funds for so many worthy causes. So consider this our love letter to our gavel-wielding, (sometimes) fast-talking associates.
 
Thank you, auctioneers, for…
 
Organizing gala events to maximize funds raised. Your encyclopedic knowledge of how a well-run event should flow helps take the guesswork out of setting an evening’s agenda for organizers everywhere.
 
Being a wealth of knowledge for non-profits running their first fundraising events. Everyone is a rookie at one point – but with your help, even those putting together their first event can be successful right out of the gate. This helps young, fledgling organizations survive those lean early years.
 
Helping to spread the message of the charities with which you work. The work of the non-profits with which you work comes alive when described from the stage. Putting the charity’s story into your hands guarantees that it will be told in a way that draws supporters in and makes them even more ready to lend their support.
 
Making sure our partner non-profits raise the most money possible with our fundraising auction travel packages. Your ability to read the room and get everyone involved helps keep the atmosphere loose and fun, which encourages those with the ability to give a little more to do so.
 
Helping insure that all of the event attendees leave with a smile on their face. You bring a spark and a joy to your job that can’t help but light up the room. From the winning bidders to those who just watched, you make sure that everyone goes home having enjoyed the auction and the event surrounding it – and in doing so, you leave everyone with a pleasant feeling about the organizing non-profit, too!
 

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Preparing the Auctioneer

January 11, 2017
Auctioneers sell items, right? That seems to be the job description: Stand on stage, maybe talk fast, and sell sell sell, getting the biggest bids possible for your non-profit fundraising auction lots. But to look at a professional auctioneer as someone who only handles running the bidding process of an auction is to miss so many other ways in which this broker can be beneficial.
 
At Mitch-Stuart, we love it when our charities and non-profits get the most money out of our fundraising auction travel packages. It’s why we recommend working with a professional auctioneer; what an organization has to spend to hire someone from the outside, it usually more than makes back. Auctioneers are trained in the art of raising bids and can maximize the value of your items.
 
But it’s not all about high bids for a professional auctioneer. If, along with the gavel, you give your hired pro a few important items before getting started, he or she can focus on what you’re really selling that night: Your mission.
 
First, make sure your auctioneer is fully up-to-speed on the goals of your non-profit. A mission statement can be helpful here, but go a bit beyond, too – answer the who and the what, sure, but also the why. What has made this assemblage of people, this entity, so passionate about its work? Passion is contagious: If your auctioneer shows passion for your mission, it will help persuade donors to support it.
 
Also, donors want to hear where their money is going. Giving your auctioneer some background on the impact of your organization’s work will allow some of those tidbits to come out just as your supporters are thinking about supporting your non-profit with a bigger bid. And while the inclination here may be to write down all of those facts and figures, make sure you also include the context into which those numbers fit. Numbers are great, but the full picture of how those numbers work together to impact the community you serve can help your donors understand why this auction is so important.
 
Finally, give your auctioneer good stories. It’s important to get the facts and figures in there, sure, but it can be just as important to be able to tell the story of someone you’ve helped: A family in need, a first-generation college attendee, a struggling veteran on a holiday made better by a hot meal. Catching the attention of the audience by putting it in the shoes of someone your non-profit is helping can add an emotional side to your “ask,” to go with impact statistical details.
 

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Let Your Donors Surprise You!

December 14, 2016
If asking for donations is tough, asking for big donations can be terrifying. But if you’re not asking for more money, you won’t get it.

One of the most common worries we hear from auction planners is that they’re not sure that their donors can afford one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. But as our Senior Vice President Michael Upp and auctioneer Kathy Kingston recently detailed on their “Mythbusters” teleseminar, that line of thinking may leave your organization with a smaller haul from a gala event.

It may be true, for instance, that some of your donors will not be able to afford a big-ticket auction item. Whether it’s a younger supporter or one who gives more to your organization by volunteering, not everyone will have the same resources at their disposal. But to focus on your average donor when planning an auction can severely limit the amount of money you raise. After all, it doesn’t take a room full of bidders to win a trip – just a couple of them with generous, open wallets. If only one person will win the item in question, then focusing on the biggest donors makes sense.

In addition, spending is not always done with the logical side of the brain. There’s a cliché in the sales world, “people buy on emotion and justify with logic,” and that may be even truer when it comes to giving to a cause for which they are passionate. According to Harvard Business School’s Gerald Zaltman, an astounding 95 percent of purchase decisions are made unconsciously. So even if your donors may not think that they’re looking to spend a lot of money at your gala, they may *feel* like it’s a good idea – and that can be a big motivator.

Finally, to worry about your donors not having the money to bid on big-ticket items is to worry about something unknowable. It could be, for instance, that a supporter who rarely gives more than a few dollars at a time has been saving up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or maybe a bidder just got a big raise at work and is looking to use it on a major vacation. In order for your donors to surprise you with their generosity, you have to give them the opportunity.

According to a 2012 fundraising study, 44 percent of donors say they could have afforded a bigger contribution to their favorite causes. By offering more expensive auction items, you give those supporters a chance to help more.


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Little Extras, Big Benefits!

October 12, 2016
It can be easy, in the rush of putting together a fundraising gala, to treat the set-up as a checklist and skim over some of the items therein. Music? Check. Photographer? Check. There are plenty of decisions to make, and not all might create money right now, at this moment. But theres a lot of goodwill to be mined from what might seem like smaller considerations for a planning committee. And that goodwill can help donors remember your organization, both for future events and for other fundraising drives throughout the year.

We love it when non-profits add a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. fundraising auction travel package to its gala event. Theyre designed to grab attention, to make donors sit up in their chairs and start dreaming about vacations to far-away places and as they do that, they leave an impression on the attendees about the organization hosting the soiree. In addition to your auction lot list, however, there are other ways to try and add that extra-special shine to what could be an overlooked element of your night.

The DJ: There is a skill to disc jockeying that sometimes goes underappreciated; its often a good idea to hire one, rather than depending on a computer playlist or, worse, the radio to provide tunes. But if you really want to get people talking, reach out in your community to find a DJ who spins real records. Not only will you know youve got someone committed to the craft, but youll also add an extra visual element: Records just look better than laptops. Best of all: Many DJs who spin from records do so because they have certain specialties, and so it may be easier to find a disc jockey with expertise in, say, 50s and 60s soul (or the music era of your choice) to fit your theme.

The Photos: We love professional photographers for their skill, their flexibility and, from a business standpoint, their ability to deliver photos that your organization can use as promotional materials in the future. But your attendees will also appreciate the chance to capture their own memories from the evening. And while many have cameras on their cell phone, few will have the ability to make animated GIFs, for example, or paper flip books. Consider hiring an outside vendor to provide a photo booth experience, such as an automated GIF maker (stitching together several photos in quick succession to create a herky-jerky animation) or a flip book printer, to help donors and guests make memories on their own.

The Drinks: A couple of good choices of wine, a local brew or two or maybe a sponsor? Its very easy to overlook any sort of alcohol choices, because its pretty hard to go wrong with offering adults free drinks. But its also a great place for a little extra inspiration. Were in the middle of a craft cocktail renaissance right now, and there are numerous bartenders in your city that are creating fascinating new drinks. Find a local expert and create your own, themed specialty drink list! It doesnt have to be long maybe one for guests who like lighter mixtures, and one a little boozier but its the type of added extra that will get guests talking. And if the drinks are big hits, they might even be reaching out later to get the recipe!


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Three Ways to Supercharge Your Fundraising Auction

September 14, 2016
If your organization has been running fundraising auctions at gala events, you might have, by now, fallen into a pattern. You know when the decorations go up, you know who to contact for food, and you even know which emcee or professional auctioneer to call.

But just because a certain idea or decision has become automatic doesnt mean that its the best one for your organization. Its good to reexamine those automatic choices that you may be making for your fundraising auction from time to time, just to make sure that youre earning every dollar possible for your cause.

Need some new ideas? Here are three small ways to maximize fundraising auctions earning potential.

Shake It Up: Its tempting to arrange the items of a gala auction in the same way one would arrange an award show: Opening with the smaller items, and then building to the big money-earners. And it makes sense on an emotional level, to crescendo throughout the event to its climactic end. However, from a pure money-raising standpoint, leaving the biggest items until the end may mean keeping some of your biggest supporters on the sidelines. After all, if a donor has set a budget for their bidding and really wants, say, that gorgeous trip to Bali, he or she could sit out earlier items of interest to save up. And then if that supporter doesnt win the trip, the budget goes home, rather than into a different purchase. Mixing up the order of items a couple of smaller ones, then one of the big-money lots, then back to a couple of smaller ones makes it more likely that your biggest monetary supporters will walk away with something.

Dream BIG: If you want to raise big funds from an auction, you have to ask for big funds. Sure, youll have a certain number of donors willing to overpay for a basket of goods from local artisans (and putting that basket together will help strengthen ties to your community, as well), but you cant get what you dont request. So, upgrade that trip: Offer the weeklong European sojourn alongside the weekend in Las Vegas (with our consignment travel packages, you dont have to pay for them unless they sell, anyway). Give your donors the chance to step up to the plate; you may be surprised by what happens.

Something for Everyone: On the other end of the spectrum, though, there will be some donors who cant pay for the luxury travel, the expensive memorabilia, or even the local artist gift basket. Maybe they just believe in your cause so much, they wanted to support it in person, on its biggest night. Not only do you want to make sure that they have a great time, but you also want to give them the chance to participate in the gala fundraising. Thats where a good raffle can come into play. Giving people the option of trying to win a big prize via a small donation and a drawing keeps smaller donors engaged throughout the evening as a participant, not just an observer. Its one easy way to make sure everyone in the room is excited while still generating revenue for your non-profit.


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Do You REALLY Make Money from the Highest Bidder?

March 07, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, auctioneer and SocialSmarts founder Corinne Gregory tells us how activity, not deep pockets, drives auction fundraising. Enjoy!)

If youve ever been to an auction and Im assuming since you are reading this, you are already a veteran of at least one event -- you are aware that the high bidder is the one the auctioneer sells the item to when the bidding has concluded.  So, its natural to believe that the high bidder is the one who is making the money for the charity during a Live or Silent Auction.

Well, folks, let me be the one to break it to you: It isnt true! Yet so many charities covet the high bidders because they truly believe that these individuals are going to make more for the cause. Even most auctioneers will work particularly hard on getting to the high bidder because they feel this is where their energies should be focused. And that may be costing you money and not making you more as you would expect.

First of all, there is a common misconception that, in order to make more money at your event, you need to invite more people with high net-worth. While it would seem to make sense that people with more money will be prime targets to spend more and be your high bidders, frequently the opposite is true. When people have ample discretionary income, they tend to buy things that they want as it comes along. They arent going to wait around and save up just to buy at your auction. Thats not to say that these individuals arent generous or wont contribute to your auctions bottom line, but they arent going to be the ones generating the most bid activity.

So then, if the people at the top of your buying pyramid arent going to be the ones generating the most bids, who is going to help you make more money? The answer is simple, really: everyone else.  Activity is where the money is.

Why is activity so important? Well, although we do collect money from the high bidder, each time someone puts their bid number down on a Silent Auction form or raises their Bid Card during the Live Auction they are raising more money for the charity. The second, third and fourth high bidders are helping raise the price of that item. Ultimately, the high bidder is the one who is determined to hang in there and out-bid the competition. So, as I like to say to my auction audience, Its the job of the second, third and fourth high bidders to make sure that the winner pays appropriately!

So, if we are making money from any and all bidders that participate, its crucial to have audience engagement. We want them all to bid -- more bid cards in the air means the revenue to the charity increases. That means, as an auctioneer, I need to be courting the second and third high bidders, giving them permission to stay in the game, and not just focusing on one or two potential high bidders. In fact, I coach my audience, letting them know they can play along all they want -- be my second and third high bidders all night long. But, if they dont actually want the item, they should pull their cards down before I say Sold!

So, remember, while we do ultimately collect the money from the high bidder, we make money from every guest that places a higher bid on a Silent Auction form or raises their bid card during the Live Auction. Its important to keep your entire audience engaged and interacting because, even if they dont win, their participation ensures that the charity does.

(Big thanks to Corinne Gregory for sharing her insights with us this week! For more information about her, go to auctionhelp.com and corinnegregory.com.)
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