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Raffles on the Road

November 16, 2016
We love galas. The pomp, the fancy menus, the gorgeous, decked-out venues, all of it – including, of course, the fun and excitement of a fundraising auction. But we also recognize that it is a ton of work to throw one; when your organization is responsible for everything from set-up to tear-down, it can stretch the resources of even a larger non-profit.

The good news: If you’re looking for a fundraising opportunity without throwing a gala event, or your in-person fundraiser is still months away, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages for events big and small, and ever since we added raffles to our repertoire of tools, you don’t even need your own soiree in order to send a donor on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Need a way to raise money beyond the gala auction?

Join the Arts: If your non-profit is an arts organization, like a theater or ballet company, it’s a no brainer to offer raffle tickets in the lobby and even add a purchase form to your program. If your charity isn’t? Pair with one, and offer to split the proceeds! You’ll both raise money and gain an ally in future efforts.

A Partner’s Party: Is your non-profit close with a local business – maybe an area law firm, advertising agency or other corporation? See if you can set up a table at their holiday party or summer barbeque! It gives the company a fun attraction for their celebration, and it gives your charity access to potential new donors and a fundraiser that doesn’t need extensive planning.

Nowhere: For that matter, who needs a venue at all? Offer your donors a chance to win a trip to any of our Destinations of Excellence® from anywhere. Raffle tickets can be purchased over the phone, by email or even online, and since your audience isn’t limited by geography or venue, this type of fundraiser can bring in big bucks.


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Guest Post: Take a Chance on a Raffle!

June 29, 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, Kelly Russell tells us about a recent experience running a raffle using a Mitch-Stuart travel package as the prize. Enjoy!)

A client of mine wanted to offer a Golden Ticket Raffle at their event without losing one of their live auction items. They tried something unique that worked well. They chose eight consignment packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc. as options, and allowed the winner to select any one of the eight amazing vacations. We had a few great outcomes to our evening.

It expedited our timeline at the top of the auction.

Once we declared the winner of the Golden Ticket Raffle, we did not have to wait for the winner to rifle through the catalog to determine what they wanted to take out of the live auction line-up. They had the entire night to think about which location would make for their dream vacation.

The variety added interest.

With all the options, many people were interested in taking their chance in the raffle. If you won, you were going somewhere great. MSI has a wonderful selection of packages and many include airfare so you get a complete experience. This adds to the interest factor.

Dedicated packages allow for pre-sales on raffle tickets to guests.

Nothing is worse than not being able to attend your childs school auction when you go EVERY year. With a set raffle selection, you are at least offering the opportunity to participate in absentia. Bonus: If you have a limited number of tickets to sell in your raffle, as well as a limited number of attendees at your event, pre-sales broaden your donor base.

Gamble with a new idea and see how it works at your next fundraiser!

Need a great consignment package for your next event? Let the folks at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. know that Kelly Russell at Artisan Auctions sent you!

(Big thanks to Kelly Russell and Artisan Auctions for sharing this with us! For more information about Artisan, go to artisanauctions.com.)


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Giving Tuesday: How We Can Help

November 04, 2015
First, it was Black Friday, the traditional first day of the Christmas holiday season, taking place the day after (and, increasingly, the day of) Thanksgiving. Then, Cyber Monday became a way for people returning to work to procrastinate on the following Monday by looking at deep discounts from online retailers. Soon after, to counteract the marketing power of major chain stores, there was Small Business Saturday, to promote local concerns.

And now, to help Americans remember the thousands of worthy and important non-profits that rely on donations, theres Giving Tuesday, which falls on December 1 in 2015. After the first days of holiday spending are finished, a day is reserved for lending a hand to those who help in local communities and across the nation. Its both a celebration and, if used properly, a chance to kick-start the end-of-year fundraising drives. More than $50 million was raised on the day in 2014, according to several of the major non-profit sector donation processors.

At Mitch-Stuart, were best known for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, which charities can offer on a consignment basis during galas and other events. But there are ways to utilize these money-raising tools on Giving Tuesday, as well, that will both make a donors once-in-a-lifetime travel dreams come true and bring in a chunk of change to be used to fund good works.

One of our most recent programs can make Giving Tuesday fundraising a breeze. By setting up a Mitch-Stuart Travel Raffle, you can give your donors a chance to buy tickets, in many cases online (where permitted by local laws), for a chance to win a fantastic trip package. Organizations can make it a one-day frenzy, where tickets are only available on Giving Tuesday itself, or they can sell tickets for weeks in advance and do the drawing on December 1. Either way, using the extra publicity of Giving Tuesday to help promote the raffle can lead to more tickets sold and more funds raised, all without planning and executing a gala or event.

Of course, with Giving Tuesday in such close proximity to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many potential donors may still be in purchase mode. If youve got a list of big supporters that you think may be interested in buying individual trips, we can work with your organization to offer a Mitch-Stuart travel package at a buy it now price. It allows the donors to take the guesswork out of how much theyll have to pay for that weekend trip to the beach or once-in-a-lifetime adventure, while also allowing you to piggyback on the season with a more traditional shopping experience.

A Giving Tuesday promotion doesnt have to end on that specific day, either. If your organization has an upcoming gala or major fundraising event, you can make December 1 the official first day of ticket sales, too, getting an extra signal boost from the pseudo-holiday. And if youre planning on offering Mitch-Stuart travel packages at that future event, you can also utilize some of our promotional collateral available for each individual trip.

Want to pump up your Giving Tuesday fundraising? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
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Introducing: Mitch-Stuarts Raffle Packages

September 02, 2015
Were excited to introduce a new way to incorporate Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities into your non-profits fundraising plans. Now, along with adding excitement and the allure of a luxury vacation to your gala charity auctions, or selling multiple trips to the same destination via a buy it now option, we can also help you reach out to donors and supporters of all ages, income levels and even tastes with a raffle using our travel packages as grand prizes!

With a raffle, non-profits can get a larger percentage of their bases to buy in to supporting a cause, whether it is in person at an event, by mail or online. Instead of trying to get big bids out of a subset of your donors, organizations can get everyone to participate.

So, why create a fundraising raffle?

  • It allows supporters who may be able to attend a gala, but not be fiscally able to bid on a silent or live auction item, a chance to participate and give what they can. It can be easy to get caught up in the big ticket, big bid items at a fundraiser, but 100 people giving $20 is the same as one person giving 2,000.
  • It can be done in conjunction with an event, or separate from one. Now, charity auction fundraising doesnt have to happen once a year. Raffle tickets can be purchased by mail, online or in person, and it doesnt need to involve catering and theme decorations.
  • Its FUN! The anticipation, the chance to win, the dreaming of what one could do on a Caribbean cruise or a trip to the Super Bowl a raffle can add excitement to any auction event and get the whole room involved. Raffles help maximize results by getting people engaged while donating to your cause. They can even involve large target audiences like family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, as gala attendees often buy tickets for those not in attendance.
  • Raffles can raise incredible amounts of money for your organization. You can easily raise $10,000 and, when tied to galas and events, you can exceed $25,000 and raise as much as $100,000 or more all at no-risk!
  • Its easy. Give us your price range, and we can give you a list of trips that would be hits with your crowd. You can raffle off one trip or give your winner a choice of three different adventures, which will attract a broader audience and sell more tickets.
There are as many variations of a charity raffle as there are travel opportunities in our catalog to choose as prizes. For more information on this exciting new opportunity, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!


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Case Study Scottsdale Cultural Society

March 26, 2014
One donor is heading to Bali. Another is off to Maui, staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. And yet another fulfilled a self-described bucket list item by attending the Grammys in Los Angeles in January of 2014.

When the Scottsdale Cultural Council needed to add an extra element of WOW! to its ARTrageous fundraising gala, it turned to Mitch-Stuart for help. And one unforgettable night later, the organization has raised a tremendous amount of money and offered its biggest backers once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Council, which can be found on the web at sccarts.org, offers the citizens of Scottsdale and visitors chances to be a part of world-class art while also fostering younger or newer artistic voices. That can mean anything from concerts and performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art and even public works seen throughout the city.

All of that, of course, takes funding, a portion of which is brought in every year at the ARTrageous gala. This year, Natalie Cole was the special guest, and the evenings theme was An Unforgettable Evening. As a part of that, the SCC worked with Mitch-Stuart (and our technology partner, GiveSmart) to offer Unforgettable Travel Packages, including our show-stopping trip to the 2014 Grammy Awards.

We wanted to try something new and the trips were fun and exciting, according to the organizations Director of Donor Relations Eileen Wilson. Our event committee members thought that by offering the trips it elevated the level of our silent auction and caused a buzz at the event.

Utilizing GiveSmarts silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuarts expertise in travel arraignment, SCC was able to cause that buzz and add to an already unforgettable evening.

The experience was very easy, Wilson added via email. And [the] customer service was excellent.  I was actually surprised that we sold multiple trips.


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Harness the Power of the Creative Brainstorm

December 10, 2013
For philanthropic organizations looking for fresh ideas for fundraising events and auctions or overall business improvements, brainstorming is a natural way to gather thoughts for consideration. But does your organization brainstorm strategically, with a real end goal in mind? All the creative ideas in the world don't add up to results unless they link to an overall strategic direction, set by the brainstorm leader, whose job is also to fire up the group! Some teams dread brainstorming, seeing it as a waste of time or as a cause for performance anxiety. It neednt be! Here are some pointers that work for Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

The judgment-free zone. The atmosphere should be welcoming, positive and all-inclusive, with the promise that every idea will be considered. This way, the participants wont be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of ridicule.

Dont go in cold. Brainstorms work best when the participants are prepared. This can mean anything from preparing a detailed creative brief describing the situation and the goals as well as providing suggested websites to visit for more background.

Start by setting the objectives. Do you want a slew of creative ideas to break an existing event out of the doldrums? Are you seeking to create a draw for a new audience segment? A helpful way to start is to discuss some trends in the category s well as what the competition is up to. Non-profits must also keep in mind the serious nature of the cause they represent/raise money for. This doesn't mean you can't be creative, just keep ideas within certain bounds.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down all of them. Even though some ideas wont make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often come from a simple phrase. My donors love exotic travel for instance, can open the doors for bringing in expert partners such as Mitch-Stuart, Inc. to do the heavy lifting.

Avoid diminishing returns. During any given brainstorm, there is typically a time where the initial excitement dulls and everybody falls into an awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to do to get the juices flowing again. People just need to see it in a different light. Or else bring out the candy!

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas, fleshed out to give the team something more to build on. A creative team leader can help further the concepts by adding greater detail and graphics to ensure the best result.
 
If traditional creative brainstorming isnt working for you, check out speedstorming a combination of brainstorming and speed-dating or brainstorming on steroids.


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A Fundraising Success Story

January 22, 2013
Open Avenues empowers people with disabilities, age 16 and over, to reach their full potential. They offer job training and a life skills program to help these adults become self-sufficient.
This organization, with the help of Allison McElroy, Foundation Director, would like to share some of their secrets to fundraising success.
Open Avenues has worked with Mitch-Stuart Inc. for the past six years on their Spring Fling event. Prior to partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Open Avenues relied mainly on local merchants to donate auction items. Since working with Mitch-Stuart, this reliance on local merchants (and the inherent donor burnout) has disappeared producing more successful and lucrative auction events.
Deluxe vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are the most popular items at our auction, says McElroy. The Mitch Stuart model works so well for us since we dont have to pay for anything that is not sold.
She goes on to say that the company helps her plan each year by recommending hot and popular destinations. McElroy then reviews what her audience has selected in the past and what she knows about their likes and dislikes to create a potent and popular mix of experiences.
The best news? Open Avenues credits the addition of Mitch-Stuart trips with a consistent increase in donations year over year.
Want to emulate Open Avenues auction success? McElroy offers some tips:
  • Tap fundraiser guests who have taken a particular trip to act as roaming ambassadors, or PR people to talk about their positive experiences and help influence others to bid on them.
  • Creatively package trips at live auction McElroy offered a Bros on the Go trip using Mitch-Stuarts attractive offer of tickets to any major pro sporting event. By combining two of these trips, the organization made a great way for four friends to go. She then followed that up with a Girls Weekend version as well, packaging two trips to New York City for an expansive girlfriend weekend.
  • Tantalize your guests in advance with sneak peeks at the Mitch-Stuart catalogue to whet appetites and get people pre-planning what they want to bid on.
  • Keep up with your audiences changing taste, adjust which packages you offer accordingly.
  • Time your event previews and vacation package sneak peeks to when people receive tax refunds or bonuses to help them fantasize about how they might spend such funds.
May this advice help you with your next auction!

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10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions

January 08, 2013
Part II
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser
By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

Welcome to the second half of Kathy Kingstons expert advice for your next auction fundraiser.

6. End with Your Live Auction
This costly mistake will kill your bottom line. Do NOT wait until after dinner or after entertainment to raise money. Why? Its too late and by that time many of your guests are tired, inattentive or worst yet gone. You cannot raise money when your supporters are driving home in their car! It is imperative to strategically schedule your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal EARLY in the event when your guests are attentive, awake and ready to bid. You will maximize fundraising when you position your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal before or during dinner. Save awards and entertainment for your grand finale.

7. Ignore Inviting the Right Guests
This fundraising folly has two dire consequences: failure to optimize giving during the auction and loss of future philanthropic support. First, fill your venue with guests who have the capacity to bid and give generously at your auction beyond just buying a ticket to your gala. Second, position your charity auction as a cultivation and relationship building opportunity so that you can turn bidders into long term donors. With this ideal approach you can follow up with your generous bidders and invite them to become more deeply involved in your organization. Remember the first rule of fundraising: People give to people not causes.

8. Stay in the Dark

This often overlooked blunder can easily be prevented. Dim dinner style lighting will lose thousands of dollars and put your beloved supporters to sleep. Illuminate your silent auction brightly. Turn up house lights up fully during the Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal; light the stars of your event your guests. Never spotlight your auctioneer its impossible to see bidders. Brighten up your venue and your fundraising results will shine.

9. Keep It Noisy
Nothing spells fundraising auction disaster more than an audience that does not pay attention and where no one can hear the auctioneer or your success stories. Benefit Auctions require a unique sound system that is different from any other event. Never use the built-in house sound and avoid the bands sound system because neither is adequate for your auctioneer to raise more money. Invest in a professional sound company and use powered speakers on stands that surround your audience. A professional sound system will pay for itself many times over and improve your guests experience so you can maximize your fundraising!

10. Dont Have Any Fun
People spend more money when they are enjoying themselves. Did you know that the #1 reason people attend an auction is to have fun? (MORPACE 2008) Infuse your benefit auction with interactive income activities that rain money such as Heads and Tails, Premium Dessert Frenzy, Sign Up Party Boards, Super Silent Auctions, Centerpiece Auctions, Gift Card Sweep, Auction Chicken, Wild Card Auctions, Pot of Gold and much more! Propel your profit and add fun ideas to get those bid cards waving!

Kathy Kingston 2013  All rights reserved.
www.kingstonauction.com  603-926-1919
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10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions

January 03, 2013
(Part I)
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser

By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

This week guest blogger and auctioneer extraordinaire Kathy Kingston brings us Part I of a two-part post featuring mustDONTs for successful auction fundraisers. Read on and stay tuned for Part II next week.

1. Leave Money in the Room
THE most expensive mistake you can make is using a volunteer amateur auctioneer. Why risk it? Retaining an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer can increase your net auction profits from 20% to over 300% immediately. Uniquely experienced and dedicated to maximizing fundraising, a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost it pays!

2. Dont Ask for Funds
Its financial suicide is avoid a Fund a Need Special Appeal. Lets face it, not everyone wants or needs a live or silent auction item. Create this opportunity for everyone to contribute to your great cause at a level that is meaningful to them. Ignite generosity with a well conducted, inspiring Fund A Need that that can literally double your live auction profits in just 10 minutes!

3. Offer Too Many Auction Items That No One Wants
This catastrophic calamity will insure that you lose thousands of dollars. First, be sure to match your auction items to the unique profile of what your auction guests really want. Second, less is more. Reduce the number of auction items and focus on fewer unique items that produce bigger results. Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences that are unique to your supporters. And remember to consider adding consignment items to complement your donated items to add excitement and dollars.

4. Plan a Party and Forget Fundraising
An epic error is to plan your auction fundraiser like its your social soiree, business function or even worst a wedding. Focus first on fundraising not your centerpieces, entertainment nor the color of tablecloths all which raise zero dollars. Remember, your charity auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. You simply cannot afford to lose precious dollars or support in this new economy. Strategically design your benefit auction to emphasize your unique mission and how your donors can make a difference. Proudly promote your cause and emphasize that the reason Why We Are Here is to raise funds so that your guests can change lives and improve your community.

5. Bore Your Audience
The quickest way to lose money and momentum at your benefit auction is to sedate your guests with a string of talking-head long speeches. Just say No BS. (No Boring Speeches!) Insist on a few well placed brief inspiring remarks that emphasize first person testimonials and your success stories. Capture the hearts and wallets of your guests and showcase your cause and your transformational results.

Kathy Kingston 2013  All rights reserved.
www.kingstonauction.com  603-926-1919

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Are You Ready for Your Holiday Fundraiser?

December 11, 2012
During this hectic holiday season, your holiday fundraiser may have to work a bit harder as it competes with other social gatherings such as office parties. According to a recent survey from Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc., the number of businesses planning a year-end party is up 83 percent year over year.

In addition, 17 percent of responders said that more money is being budgeted for their event in 2012, and 10 percent said this would be their first year back on the scene, having gone one or more years without one.

No one can attend every event they are invited to, are you armed with enough bells and whistles to make your end-of-year fundraiser stand out in a crowd of various invitations? Here are some things to consider as the date approaches.

Increase Awareness Yes, you can keep increasing awareness as the date approaches. Take advantage of online news sites (see the local Patch news outlet and others in your community). These sites often allow one to post event information directly on the website. Also send media alerts and updates to daily newspapers, local TV stations and radio outlets.

The Personal Touch This can be as sophisticated as timed reminder e-mailings or text messages to those as-yet-to-RSVP, or as old-school as making personal calls to encourage attendance.

Get Social Even in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, savvy event planners can cut through the clutter and engage invitees through simple social media channels. Is your event on Facebook? Does it have its own hash tag and are committee members tweeting on a daily basis? Be sure to research what other social media sites resonate with your attendees.

And hurry up! The clock is ticking. Get more gala ideas here at the Mitch Stuart website and we would love to learn any of your fundraiser tips!
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Tis the Season for Direct Marketing Appeals!

November 27, 2012
Fifty million pieces of charity mail are delivered on average per day.  However, it is likely that one from your organization was just tossed in the trash yesterday, leaving you scratching your head, trying to figure out why that letter was never opened.

Direct mail fundraising accounts for the majority of the roughly $300 billion contributed annually in the U.S. Thats right. The bulk of charitable money isnt from foundations or corporations. Its from folks like you and me writing checks for 10 bucks.

Direct mail fundraising is both an art and a science. Its conceiving, producing and mailing the right appeal to the right list or donor prospects at the right time and measuring the result.

In its modern form, direct mail fundraising appeared in the United States after World War II when nationwide charities such as the National Easter Seal Society sought ways to broaden its fundraising base. It was only with the advent in the 1960s of the ZIP code and, later, the computer that direct mail fundraising began to gain wide use.

The use of direct mail fundraising spread during the 1970s, when computer technology quickly allowed direct mail to become how most Americans learned about, and first provided financial support, for their charities of choice.

Its the same today. Technology drives the response, whether the mail sends people to a website or donors see something on the web and clicks to contribute.

As veterans of successful fundraising campaigns incorporating direct mail, we wanted to take an opportunity to provide some useful dos and donts:
  • Do draft shorter, more succinct notes to established donors
  • Do draft longer missives with those you wish to acquire (on the theory that someone who is willing to send you money wants to know a great deal about the organization.)
  • Do offer premiums (results show an 11 15% lift in response rate and a 40-50% increase in average gift)
  • Dont underestimate the pull of a powerful P.S. with a call to action
  • Dont neglect the personal touch (refer to the potential donor by name early and often!)
  • Dont stress what YOU are offering; stress what benefits donors will accrue by participating

If done correctly, direct snail mail or email should be provocative enough to cause even the most jaded to rip or click. What additional tips have worked for you?

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SOLD! Ten 10 Steps to Your Most Successful Auction Ever

November 05, 2012
Going, going, gone! Paddles up, neck and neck, in exciting competitionnothing thrills quite like the emotion of bidding for something highly desirable. That emotion (and thus the bidding) is heightened when attendees embrace the cause behind the auction. Smart organizations can create a perfect storm at fundraising events, guaranteed to make guests feel good about themselves and the cause, resulting in huge gains.

Welcome to the Mitch-Stuart Blog. As the leading provider of no-risk travel packages for charitable fundraising, it is our goal to give you easy-to-use advice and cutting edge point-of-view on topics of interest to your industry. Thus, our first blog post will focus on how following the advice of expert auctioneer, Kathy Kingston, of the renowned Kingston Auction Company, can ensure your non-profit auction meets and exceeds its fundraising goal!

Kathy Kingstons Cardinal Rules for Record Breaking Benefit Auctions
  1. Focus on Fundraising
    Show how guests can make a difference. Using compelling video, speakers and other communications, envelop your audience in the cause and how their contribution matters.
  2. Fill Your Audience with the Right People
    Audience development is #1. Take the time to research and cultivate lists of likely bidders.
  3. Find the Right Match
    Solicit auction items that fit your guests. Know your crowd! Do they respond to rich and varied experiences while traveling or are they more about relaxation? Do the homework.
  4. Add Consignment Auction Items
    Complement your donated items and add excitement.
  5. I Can Hear You Now
    Invest in a professional sound system. Your guests will respond best when they are made to feel appreciated in all ways, every detail counts.
  6. No BS - No Boring Speeches
    Enough said.
  7. Stories not Stats
    Success stories inspire generosity appeal emotionally and it will pay off in the bidding.
  8. Dont Leave Money in the Room
    Ignite giving with a Fund A Need Special Appeal where a passionate, involved speaker does the ask to build emotional and financial support.
  9. Add Fun!
    Add profit-making revenue activities to keep those bid cards waving! Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences.
  10. Invest in a professional
    Retain an experienced professional benefit auctioneer who can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd!
    In business and in our blog, we will continue to partner with experts in the field to give your organization and your event all the tools for success, but we want to hear from you too. Please add any of your expert advice in the comments section below.

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