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Developing an Audience

February 21, 2018
When it comes time to organize a fundraising auction, the first committee to be formed might in charged of item procurement. And it’s true: It is easier to raise money with better auction lots than worse ones. But more important that what’s for sale might be who’s doing the buying. Are the right people in the audience to make sure your non-profit is getting full value out of its items?

Mitch-Stuart has helped facilitate the sale of more than $1 billion in fundraising auction travel packages over more than 20 years of experience. In that time, we’ve seen plenty of different committees and all sorts of organizational structures. But one that is near-mandatory is an audience development committee, dedicated to making sure the right supporters are there and primed to bid.

In an age of divided media channels, when it might be hard to pick places to advertise and reach a large audience, contacting your supporters with the audience development committee may be the best marketing available. There’s nothing as motivating as a personal invitation, and that’s where your board can make a big difference, more than individual paper invitations or other ideas. That human contact allows you and other “recruiters” to not only gage interest, but also gain insight into what is working and what isn’t in the eyes of its donor base.

By engaging meaningfully with your supporters – especially your biggest donors – in the run-up to a fundraising auction, you can get an idea on what they’d love to see on that item list. Maybe one is looking for a romantic trip for an upcoming anniversary. Maybe another wants to find a beach paradise. By getting a cross-section of what supporters want, you can give them the chance to support your cause and check an item off a shopping list at the same time. This makes the job of the item procurement committee easier in two ways: Not only do they know on what to focus, but also it can lead to the acquisition of small, but still treasured, items for the auction, the type that might be easier to get.

On the night of the event, the job of the audience development committee isn’t over. Making sure donors are engaged and enjoying themselves will make sure that they come back next year, too. That could mean acting as table hosts, talking with sponsors and supporters, or even working the silent auction tables. The best way to attract donors to a gala event is making sure that those same people had a good time at the last one.