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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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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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Raising Funds Under the Stars

June 22, 2016
Take a look around everyone is outside. Coworkers are taking their lunch breaks at that park across the street. Evenings are spent at baseball games. Vacations involve beaches, camping or long hikes. This is the season for al fresco everything.

So why keep your gala indoors?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves helping non-profits raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages theyre the perfect addition of wow! to any gala program. But we *really* love it when we get to help charities pair the perfect auction destination with an amazing outdoor event. And while pulling off a successful outdoor fundraising gala is not easy, a bit of foresight and planning can create memories for your supporters that will make sure they always think of you and your cause fondly.

Where does your event committee need to focus its energy when planning an outdoor event? Start with these three areas:

Theme: If youre going to go through the trouble of moving an event outside, make it count! Whether centered around a menu item (barbecues, crawfish boils, etc.) or a larger, atmosphere-based idea (with a title like Enchanted Forest or Beach Bonfire), this is the chance to create a night to remember by piggybacking on the beauty of nature. Have fun with it, and dont be afraid to push a little past your normal boundaries; its likely that your supporters will be a little more forgiving about small problems if youre trying something daring and fun.

Logistics: Everything from picking the right location to having enough flat surfaces and tables becomes magnified at an outdoor gala. As an example when inside, you can just look for an extra power outlet, but if you havent run adequate juice to run both the DJ equipment and the temporary lighting, for instance, theres little that can be done on the fly. It might be a good idea to run something approximating a dry run of the event a week prior with as much of the equipment as possible (no need to add rental days for anything gear coming from outside of the organization, however). And before locking into a space for the event, make sure you visit it during the time of day which youll be holding the gala, to check for things like bug population.

Food: The cuisine you serve outdoors is often a function of the seating you have available. If youve got formal tables set up, it may still be easy to present delicate meals requiring all utensils. But if your outdoor space is a little less formal standing pub tables, for instance finger food might be the way to go. Just stock up on wat napkins, in order to avoid long lines at whatever running water is available. Its also important in an outdoor space to think about the distance from the kitchen to the gathering. Is food going to be prepared off site? Will it stay warm as its being brought to the party? And whos going to bring it all? The meal is the most tangible item for which a guest is paying with their ticket get it right, and few are going home unhappy.

Got any other suggestions for pulling off an outdoor gala? Let us know on social media: Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more tips and travel inspiration.


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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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Guest Post: How to Ask Big Donors for Leadership Gifts in Six Steps

December 16, 2015
(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, Keith McLane of KLM Auctions tells us about reaching out to those major gift donors. Enjoy!)

Charity fundraising events pose a tough challenge: You have to mobilize financial resources from donors to meet your aggressive monetary goals. To launch your campaign, you turn to your high-power donors, the heavy hitters who make or break your efforts. Your outreach to them takes first priority.

So how do you address these big donors in a pre-auction fundraising letter and hit all the right notes? Lets take it step-by-step.

  1. Start off with a big thank you for past generosity:

    Dear Stan and Jan,

    Thank you again for the donation of your Tahoe home for the auction; it was incredibly generous and I hope it goes for some really big money this year!

  2. Make your supporters understand how important their contributions are, and how their leadership role will be critical in the new project:

    I'm reaching out to very select families regarding this year's Fund-a-Need. I don't know if you saw my earlier email to the auction RSVP list, but we have an idea we're very excited about: To add artificial turf and a retaining wall to the dirt hill near Annex (beside the ramp between the upper and lower playgrounds). We think it will make a huge difference to the children's experience and really liven up the play space.
  3. Emphasize the immediate challenge ahead, and how the big donor will be a visible trailblazer who sets the tone for the entire community.

    But it doesn't come cheap.

    We've been working with landscape architects and the bids are on the order of $60,000, of which I'd like to raise $50K or more from Fund-a-Need. It's a high goal, but in the past when the (Name of School) community has mobilized we've come in at or above that level and I'm hopeful we can do it again. If we hit the $50K target, we should be able to make up the remainder from the general auction proceeds.

  4. Let your donor know that if they are first in the game, they can be a game-changer in realizing fundraising goals:

    Hence my request. I have no idea if you are planning to contribute to Fund-a-Need or not this year, but our professional auctioneer tells us the most successful technique is to have one or two pre-committed top-tier bids in his pocket. It gets the energy in the room flowing and gets the paddles going up at nice high levels.

    In other words, we don't want to guess what the high bid is going to be, and we don't want to start too low.

  5. Show understanding and flexibility youre not forcing anything on your big donor. At the same time, express your gratitude again and drive it home that they can play a prominent, instrumental role in realizing a community dream.

    I'm asking about a dozen families to try to find someone to start our bidding at $5,000. Yes, I realize that's a large amount and that you've already done a ton for the school and for the auction, for which we are all extremely grateful. And I realize we're coming at families with asks left and right and if this is too much I absolutely, totally get it; no problem whatsoever.

    But looking at past years' bidding patterns, if we can get someone to start at this level I do think we can hit it out of the ballpark.

  6. Establish a basis for quick personal follow-up a call or a meeting. Give another hearty thank you and a reminder to save the date.

    I will give you a call this evening to touch base in person. Thanks in advance for your consideration, and thanks once again for the generous donation of your Tahoe home!

    Take care, and looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.
In these six steps and with personal engagement, you can make your fundraising goals a reality.

Let your biggest donors know how grateful you are, and have them imagine what they could achieve next by dreaming big.

Keith McLane of KLM Auctions is one of California and the Nations top charity auctioneers and fundraising strategists. KLM Auctions auctioneers have all earned the distinguished Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) designation from the National Auctioneers Associationa designation held by fewer than 20 auctioneers in California.


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Guest Post: Fundraising Lessons From Apple Picking

December 02, 2015
(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, were re-posting this wonderful essay by Connie Johnson of the Benefit Auction Institute about the parallels between fundraising and the outside world. Enjoy!)

Eight years ago my husband planted a Honeycrisp apple tree in our front yard. And being Minnesotans we are very biased that all Honeycrisp apples if not the ones from our very own front tree are the best on the planet. Of course, we place a premium on the fruit that the tree produces because there is some amount of work in getting to the point of harvest. Between the watering, the tiny amount of spraying, and the occasional pruning of the branches, there is something very satisfying about getting to the place where we can pick our prized apples.

Here are a few lessons Ive gleaned from our apple tree and some parallels I've found in charity event fundraising:

Some apples are a lost cause. Get rid of them!

Despite our intention to have as near to organic fruits and vegetables in our yard as possible, my husband learned through trial and error that some degree of fruit would be lost without preventive measures like spraying. And even then, some apples still end up taken over by worms, bees or various bugs. We dont try to save those apples. We get them off the tree and into the compost bin so they can feed the soil and serve us in some capacity later.

Relating to fundraising, you should be surveying your practices regularly, analyzing what works best and offloading the practices that have bugs in them. What produces the most donor fruit? Focus there and lose what is ineffective or even harmful.

Some apples are only partially compromised. Save what can be saved.

OK, so heres the thing: At our house we try really hard not to waste what can be saved. And honestly, when you take a good look at bad apples, many apples can be savedat least in part. We pull them off the tree and cut off the bruised or compromised area and eat the part thats OK.
In planning your event, maybe you dont have to dispose of an entire procedure, but merely tweak it for better results. Cut out whats undesirable. Find a way to make whats left work.

Some apples are beautiful on the outside, rosy and colorful, but dont taste good because theyre not ripe enough or theyre overripe. Strike when the fruit is at its peak!

So much of effective harvesting boils down to timing, doesnt it? Strike too soon or too late and the fruit may not taste right. It might be too tart or have little taste at all.

When harvesting donor gifts, you have to consider if the donor is ready for your ask. Have you done the proper work to select the optimum date for your events demographic? Have you informed them of what your nonprofits mission makes possible and what youll be able to do with more resources? Have you reminded them that your event is a key part of your nonprofits giving calendar and how critical each gift is to your cause? Have you let key person-to-person encounters pass by and with them a great opportunity to ask for their support?     
    
When picking apples, your reach matters.

Several weeks ago we got a frost warning. In essence, get those apples off the tree, or lose them! My husband worked so hard to care for the tree and its fruit and I wasnt about to lose those apples to a cold night! I grabbed the step stool from the garage and very carefully pulled down what I was capable of getting to. But heres the thing: I am a petite woman and could not reach all of those apples by myself. I plucked off what I could, but I also knew my limitations and called in reinforcements. My husband is a tall guy and was able to reach higher (the Benefit Auction Institutes tag line) to get those last apples down.

In the world of fundraising galas, you know as well as I, that it takes a solid and strategic team effort to get your best results. Look carefully at your limitations, opportunities and resources, and make sure that the right person is working on the right task to optimize the event that you work so tirelessly on for months.

Enjoy the fruit and share it.


At a family party before the final harvest we let everyone pick an apple off the tree. We had plenty and some gifts are meant to be shared. My soon-to-be three-year old niece heard she got to choose her own apple so I brought her out to the tree and hoisted her up. She looked at her options and then yanked her favorite apple off. Before I could even get her inside to wash the apple, she took a gleeful bite out of ither apple moment, and that sight made my week.

Isnt the point of fundraising to share the bounty? To make sure that the resources that your nonprofit needs are within reach because of the generosity of people who care about your mission and programs? Then share. Share donor resources. Share stories donor, program recipient, volunteer, staff member. And give everyone on your team a chance to have their apple moment. It is the very best part of fundraising.

Happy harvesting!

(Big big thanks to Connie Johnson and the team over at Benefit Auction Institute for sharing their apples with us this week! For more information about the Institute, go to benefitauctioninstitute.com or call 651-318-0115.)



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Guest Post: Dont Get Dumped by Your Donors

March 24, 2015
(Were happy to turn over our blog to Christie King of cKing Benefit Auctions and the Benefit Auction Institute this week. It can take a lot of effort to attract a new supporter, but just a little more work can turn a one-time donation into a long-term relationship. Read on to find out more.)

Many donors only give once. This may be a shocking statement, but its true. One thing almost all nonprofit organizations have in common is the issue of how to keep donors engaged and giving year after year. Here are a few suggestions to help with donor retention.

After each event, print the list of donors who attended, then pick up the phone and call them. Do not go this alone. Divide the list among your board members and have them assist in making these calls I already know what youre thinking Were going to get our board members to do this? Yes! As leaders of your organization it is critical that they make these calls. And their part is easy, rewarding and fun. All they need to do is thank your donors for their support. If the donor does not answer the phone, they can simply leave a message of thanks. Ideally these phone calls should take place within 24 hours of your event, but no longer than 48 hours afterward.

This simple gesture conveys to your donors that they are appreciated and that they matter. This is critical because nonprofits are often competing for the same dollars, causing donors to become more strategic in their giving.

Keeping donors engaged and informed is also important in donor retention. I suggest you reach out to them via a special email every quarter sharing progress of various activities their money has supported. This tells your donors that you respect their investment enough to share its impact over time. And, of course, time builds trustcritical to building long-term donors.

Develop a Donor Retention Plan and follow it. Dont leave this very important step to chance.

Thanks for the tips, Christie! To find out more about cKing Benefit Auctions, find it on the web at ckingbenefits.com. For the Institute, head to benefitauctioninstitute.com.


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Guest Post: On Consignment

February 18, 2015
(From Mitch-Stuart, Inc.: Word is spreading about the advantages of auctioning consignment items at charity galas! Our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers recently wrote a blog post on the topic, and we love their enthusiasm for getting the best possible travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions into the hands of bidders. That post appears below, with their permission.)

Seemingly every day I receive a message from a client asking How do we secure great items for our fundraising auction? Does this question sound familiar to you and your committee? You are not alone in this quest to find high profit items that will excite your guests and get them to bid.

Experience has taught me that in order to have a successful fundraising auction you need the following four components in place.
  1. The right people in the seats. These guests must believe in your cause, have the financial resources to support the cause, and the desire to help.
  2. Great items for the attendees to purchase. Everyone is strategic in their bidding and will not bid on items they dont intend to use. Pre-event promotion is always a good idea so attendees arrive ready to bid on items that excite them.
  3. A great ambassador like a fundraising auctioneer. He or she will be the glue that holds the other components together and motivates the audience.
  4. A cause that people can easily support. Those donating their money at a fundraising event want to make sure their donation will make an impact on the lives of others.
If you have three of the four components in place then great, youre almost there. But the component Ive seen left out most often is #2 great items. If the right people are there, the right auctioneer is there and the cause is right, but the items are wrong, a charity will leave so much money on the table because they werent strategic in their item procurement.

I hear from many charities throughout the year. They tell me they would love to have better live auction items but dont have the resources. I totally understand. In fact, getting the right items for a live auction is more challenging than ever for some.

One possible solution for these charities may be and I stress may be consignment companies, great businesses that are totally focused on putting together trips and experiences that make unique and wonderful top-shelf items.

These companies purchase items at volume wholesale prices, mark them up a little, and then provide the item or package to not-for-profit organizations at no initial cost. The charity only pays for the item after it is auctioned and sold at the charitys gala. Rest assured a good fundraising auctioneer never sells an item below the cost of the package.

Another advantage of using consignment is that the packages can be sold multiple to times to several bidders, a donated item typically can only be sold once.

When the auction is over the charity contacts the consignment company, informs them which item was purchased, provides them with the funds and then gives them the contact information of the person who won the item.

The consignment company will act as the concierge and contact the bidder directly and work with them all the way until the bidder utilizes the trip. Typically quality consignment companies can be flexible, if needed, to modify the trip to meet the needs of the buyer (its important the consignment company acts as the concierge so the buyer receives the personal service they deserve and the charity can focus on other matters).

Another great point about these companies is that they often under promise and over deliver and that will make the winning bidder feel even better about the item they purchased. Thats pretty rare in todays world.

I do have one caution. There are a lot of consignment companies out there. Do not go with one you just found on the Internet or the cheapest. You need to use a company that has an outstanding reputation and a great track record for delivering what it promises.

I hope this helps those charities looking for unique items and experiences their guests will truly love to bid on. Sure, there is a cost involved. But even with the cost big dividends await.

(We want to thank our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers for the great summary of why non-profits should work with consignment sellers to help give their auctions that wow factor. If youre ready to send a donor on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!)

Scott Robertson Auctioneers
srauctioneers@gmail.com
239-246-2139


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Case Study Robert F. Thomas Foundation

April 30, 2014
Robert F. Thomas, a doctor in Sevier County, Tennessee, is said to have made as many as 1,000 house calls in a single year. He was a doctor, a minister and, maybe most crucially, a member of his community, one concerned with making sure that everyone, rich and poor, had access to healthcare.

Since his passing in 1980, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation has continued to build on Thomas concern, raising money to help provide health services to everyone. The organization has had help from, among others, Thomas most famous patient; he was the doctor who helped deliver one Dolly Parton into the world, and she has repaid him for the service by helping to raise funds and keep his dream alive.

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

Dolly Parton is a huge part of what we do, but shes not the sole person who funds us, said Amy Woods of the Thomas Foundation. We have a lot to bring in, a lot to do. Our biggest fundraiser that we do is the Evening of Elegance, and thats where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundations major and smaller fundraising events. Donors have gone to Canada and the Caribbean, New York and Napa Valley, and everywhere in between. While the experiences have varied wildly, Woods said that the experience working with Mitch-Stuart has remained the same.

I love the fact that I call and can ask, what should I be looking at this year? she said. Theyve never let me down.

After a few times working with Mitch-Stuart, providing trips to vacations spots nearby and far-flung, Woods has started to see donors even requesting the availability of certain destination packages for upcoming auctions; trips involving culinary tours are popular, as are excursions to New York City.

Ill have people call and say, Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if Im going to go there anyway, Id rather buy it from you and help the foundation, she said.

Those trip packages, which have attracted a fan base that includes a local mayor, have combined with other auction items like cars and, at one special event, even an Egyptian Arabian stallion to make the Evening of Elegance the countys must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


Its really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, were always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuarts catalog, Woods said.

Thanks to Amy Woods of the Robert F. Thomas Foundation for taking the time to speak with us! For more information on the organization and its important work, visit it on the web and on Facebook.


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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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Engaging More Auction Donors: 3 Keys to Your Most Successful Benefit Auction Ever

January 07, 2014
This weeks guest blogger and fundraising auctioneer extraordinaire, Kathy Kingston, updates us about ways to tap into key giving trends at charity auctions.

According to Kathys extensive benefit auction industry know-how, benefit auctions are booming across the United States. In fact, many of her clients broke all-time fundraising records this year.

Americans are incredibly philanthropic. 75% of Americans give to Charity, according to Sharon Danosky, fundraising consultant and president of Danosky & Associates. Over 16.3 billion dollars are raised annually at fundraising auctions in the United States according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Kathy encourages nonprofits, schools, and event planners to tap into some of the reasons why people give, often the secret to increasing donor participation at benefit auctions. This advice can help you best select travel packages and other live and silent auction items as well as better planning of all elements to ensure your most successful auction ever.

Kathy created this acronym, MSL to illustrate how she sees auction guests giving at fundraising auctions: meaningfully, locally, and strategically. Here is how it applies to the ways donors are giving.

Meaningfully. Todays donors give to causes that are near and dear to their hearts, either via personal experience or when someone close to them asks them to become involved. How can you translate this meaning to your event? Kathy strongly suggests making sure the events mission is central in the conversation. Not just as the beginning and end of the night, but threaded throughout, visually, conversationally and any other creative way you can think of. Make sure that your auction guests understand the impact of their gift.

Locally. Think globally, act locally is more than just a lovely thought. It is the mantra of many of todays charitable givers. It is up to fundraising auction and event organizers to demonstrate how donor dollars benefit local causes and strengthen communities. Whether the cause is kids, animals, neighborhood beautification or something else very directly applicable to your audience, Kathy says Demonstrate the cause and effect for your attendees, make it live and palpable through special guests, video, live demonstrations etc. Clearly show how an auction donors participation will impact your local community.

Strategically.
Given the changing demographics and buying preferences of auction audiences, Kathy sees a trend towards generous giving during the fund-a-need special appeal. Kathy sees the fund-a-need special appeals as a powerful strategic vehicle for giving at charity auctions. In fact Kathys experience over the last several years shows that revenue from fund-a-need is actually outpacing silent and live auction revenue. All donors want their dollars to work especially hard. In many cases guests prefer to give to the cause and not necessarily purchase an auction item.

Think about MLS as you begin planning your 2014 events!

What trends are you seeing for donor engagement at your auction? What are your ideas? Contact Kathy at Kathy@kingstonauction.com or visit her website at http://www.kingstonauction.com.


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Avoid these Six Fundraising Faux Pas

December 03, 2013
Even the best event organizers can use a refresher course on ways to perfect their next fundraiser! Take a look at these potential planning hiccups and make sure to take steps to overcome or correct them.

1. Not knowing your audience As you plan your fundraising auction and, ask yourself who your attendees are. This will help establish everything from the dcor to the dining as well as the all-important (most important) auction items you are presenting. Work with your board and consult a travel expert like Mitch-Stuart Inc. to select packages that are a win for your audience based on age, average income, level of sophistication, geography and other factors.

2. Bad timing A business associate recently scheduled a big event without consulting an important organization calendar and were sure you know the rest his event now collides with something else of interest to his audience. First rule of event planning, check all possible conflicts before securing a date. This goes for potential event conflicts as well as holidays, potential bad weather dates, even TV moments like season finales of mega-popular shows! It also pays to see what similar events come right before and after yours. Check them out for theme and location, etc. to make sure to avoid the dreaded event redundancy. Meticulous, thorough planning at the very beginning ensures a most successful event.

3. Poor communication with donors and prospects
When encouraging attendance to your fundraiser, how many reminders are mandatory? How many are too much? There is no perfect number, but you do want to plan according to some variation of this formula.
  • Save the date (pre-sell)
  • Printed, mailed invitation
  • Email reminder (or 2)
  • Day of email (particularly for those who cannot attend but might like to bid virtually!)
  • Post-event email (if your event is able to sell items afterwards; if not then as a Thank You)
4. Not taking advantage of current technology If you are having a silent auction, consider using mobile bidding with companies like GiveSmart, a national customer service company engaged in using technology to create an approach to fundraising that raises more money, streamlines the process and delivers an enhanced donor experience. With today's mobile bidding technology, you can bring efficiency and excitement to your silent auctions.

5. Not growing your donor base or allowing attrition Avoid this by scheduling ways to keep your current donors engaged and increasingly invested. Do so via direct mail, email blasts, newsletters, interesting events to attend and other ways to generate ongoing enthusiasm and anticipation. Work with your auction provider to get all the news on exciting new experiences and destination to whet donor appetites.

6. AVOID "auction sale" attitudes
Always treat your events as opportunities for donors to give of themselves for the causes they believe in, not as a way to get bargain deals. Make each auction item description deluxe and exclusive and remind attendees where their donations are going!


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Event Best Practices: Hire a Professional Auctioneer

September 24, 2013
Many non-profit organizations watching their expenses think that anyone with an exciting and engaging personality can master the art of auctioneering at their next fundraiser or charity auction. Not the case.

Often times we see organizations hiring celebrities or local talent to steer the live auction but the truth is that hiring an experienced auctioneer is the most effective way to raise maximum funds for your benefit.

Hiring a licensed professional such as a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) over a fun personality can be the difference between big profits and not so much. A polished professional who sweats the details can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd! As an added plus, they will assist with making sure your organization procures hot auction items including both donated and on consignment, that keep driving excitement and bids items that fulfill fantasies such as dream vacations and experiences. Professional auctioneers will help you take your auction to the next level!

Here are some tips for selecting the right auctioneer:
  1. Ask for a written proposal: Make sure the auctioneer wants the job and really understands the parameters of the event. Have proposers include fee, out-of-pocket expenses and an outline of how they see the event going. Look for creative flourishes that may set them apart.
  2. Credentials: Ask your potential auctioneers about their credentials and their experience. Be sure to look for auctioneers who have professional certification from the National Auctioneers Association. Youll want to know how long they have been certified along with any other accolades they may hold.
  3. Key Questions: Like any interview process, be sure to ask for a list of previous clients that they have worked for. Referrals are often the best way to get a sense of the type of auctioneer youre dealing with and if they will be a good fit for your organizations event. Ask for the video! Seeing them in action will also tell you how good they are at the job.
Your bottom line is at stake. Make the wise decision and choose a real auctioneer for your next event.


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Mistakes

June 11, 2013
By Tom Harrison

Its been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Theres a lot we can learn from some of the really bad decisions that have been madeso that we can make better ones. Or at least we can make our own mistakes rather than simply repeating these whoppers.

Here are 13 mistakes we all wish we had known about without having to actually make them!

Mistake 1: Cutting acquisition quantity to improve fundraising ratios, but destroying your future revenue stream in the process. If you cut back on acquisition, youll have fewer current donors to cultivate next year and will start a downward revenue spiral thats difficult to reverse.

Mistake 2: Hiring the wrong major gift leader. You dont want a major gift leader who meddles with your successful direct response program instead of visiting with donors. Or one who tries to restrict direct response (DR) communication with donors based on how much theyve given rather than based on who can actually be personally cultivated. Major gift officers should generate major gifts.

Mistake 3: Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce fundraising messages.

Mistake 4: Getting seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire higher value donors and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization. The lesson is that you need a program that acquires those higher value donors plus all the other donors.

Mistake 5: Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget. By raising two years of operating costs up front, it gives you time to increase your revenue stream to meet the new operating budget.

Mistake 6: Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. A wise accountant serving as a new board member addressed a nonprofits $100,000 budget shortfall. He suggested actually spending more money on revenue-producing activities. He correctly noted that the DR program raised $3 for every $1 spent. Increasing the DR budget by $50,000 raises $150,000with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.

Mistake 7: Accepting Watchdog standards. Dont brag about your stars. Instead, teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary and often misleading cost ratios.

Mistake 8: Chasing blindly after the next big thing. The fear of being left behind can cause us to leap before we look. Protect your core revenue streams, and budget separately for R&D with dollars you can afford to lose.

Mistake 9: Making it look too easy. If people take your fundraising programs for granted, theyll be tempted to water them down by mistakenly cutting frequency or insisting on more stories of success and less emphasis on need and urgency. Worse still, when the resulting fundraising efforts fail they will it will be blamed on the channel or the donors or your department, rather than on the dilution of the strategy.

Mistake 10: Forgetting to test. Why would anyone abandon a control for something new without testing? Maybe theyre afraid to be proven wrong, or because testing is difficult, or testing costs more, or maybe they just cant imagine that their idea could fail. Always test.

Mistake 11: Believing that you are the target audience. Meet the donors where they are, rather than where you wish they were. Make it easy for donors to financially support programs that they are passionate about, not programs that you (or your program people) wish donors were passionate about.

Mistake 12: Being so afraid of being called a micro-manager that you dont manage enough. Its irresponsible to stand by and watch your people make mistakes that you know, from experience, will damage your organization. Sure, you sometimes need to allow them to learn from their own mistakeson the small stuff. But on important matters, you owe it to your organization, your people and yourself to teach your staff the right things to do and the right way to do them. If theres one thing experience teaches us the hard way, its that not all ideas are of equal value.

Mistake 13: Being afraid to fire someone. If someone is not succeeding in his position, he is hurting the cause you represent and likely demoralizing other employees. Your organization deserves top-performing employees. If someone isnt cutting it, even after youve worked to help her improve, let her go. It will allow you to hire someone better, and will allow the exiting employee to find a position where shell contribute more and be more highly valued.

There may only be seven deadly sins, but there are myriad marketing missteps. If you have others to add, wed love to hear from you!

Tom Harrison, CEO
Russ Reed
russreid.com


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