Our friend Mark West sat down with professional auctioneer Micki Pickering to discuss simple ways that non-profits could generate revenue at their fundraising events. Here are 5 revenue generators you can use, plus some great ideas for simple yet engaging fundraising games you can run at your next gala.
Create a Strategic Event Timeline
The event timing can cost you money if you get it wrong or improve your fundraising potential if you get it right. Your event needs to keep engagement high throughout the evening, so your attendees are enjoying themselves.
Consider the timing of your fundraising; you ideally want to do your fundraising earlier in the evening, so you don’t lose donors if they decide to go home early. People tend to leave if they’ve already had dinner and enjoyed the entertainment, so the best time for the live auction is after dinner but before the entertainment.
A clear event timeline will also reduce the occurrence of schedule clashes where there are large gaps in the program or conflicting things happening at once. For example, you don’t want your auctioneer to start the live auction while your caterer is serving dinner because people will be distracted wondering when they will be served.
Getting the timeline on paper is only half of the battle. You also need to have someone to enforce the timeline and make sure the event doesn’t run late. If you fall 30 minutes behind, you risk people leaving before the end of the gala program and potentially missing out on donations.
Hiring professionals for the technical aspects of your fundraising event improves the experience of the donors and the success of the event. A professional auctioneer, for example, has the experience to advise you of potential issues they see on the horizon. They can suggest possible solutions from their experience to overcome those potential issues and keep your event running smoothly.
Micki Pickering, Owner of Hoot Auctions & Benefit Auctioneer, shared with us that when she was auctioning at a recent gala, the caterer was ready to start serving dinner at the same time the live auction was scheduled. She knew that she was not going to be able to hype up a hungry crowd, so she suggested that the non-profit play a video while dinner was being served and then wait 6 or 7 minutes to start the auction. That way, everyone had dinner in front of them and was in a better mood to bid in the live auction.
The same goes for other technical aspects like AV; hiring professionals rather than volunteers means that they can spot potential issues and come to you with solutions. In Micki’s example, the impact on the event timeline was only 6 or 7 minutes, and the non-profit had a profitable live auction.
Use Consignment Items
Don’t be afraid to use consignment items in your live auction and silent auction. The benefit of these is you can sell attractive consignment items multiple times to increase the revenue from one auction item. Micki once sold our Tuscany Trip five times in a live auction, and it created $68,000. The non-profit promoted the item ahead of the fundraiser and then, at the event, ran a slideshow with the pictures and details to prime donors to bid on the trip. George Wooden’s (BW Unlimited) Rule of Seven states that people need to see something seven times before it really registers for them.
Run Fundraising Games
Fundraising games are a great way to create excitement and attract donations from all attendees, regardless of their ticket level or giving potential.
A great fundraising game is ‘Pay What You Pull’, where you have a bag or box full of poker chips or balls numbered 1 to 100. The attendees then pull a number out, and that is what they pay for their token. If you sell all 100, then you will raise $5,050 with a game that is very simple to set up and run.
Another great game is Heads and Tails, where you sell “lives” in the game in the form of necklaces or bracelets. The auctioneer will ask everyone who is participating to stand up and choose either heads or tails by placing their hands on the corresponding body part. The auctioneer then flips a coin and calls out heads or tails based on the coin flip. If they get it wrong, they take off a necklace or bracelet, and if they get it right, they remain standing. When they get it wrong, and they have no “lives” left, they sit down. This is a great game to play before a live auction because it creates some excitement and engagement ahead of the auction.
When you run games, you need to decide if you will let people buy multiple entries and if you want to place limits on the number of entries participants can buy. It is beneficial to allow people to increase their chances by buying multiple entries, but at the same time, if someone buys all the entries, that could ruin the atmosphere you are trying to create with games. Find the limit that works for you, whether that is 2 or 5.
Great alternatives to raffle games are:
Use Bidding Software for Your Fundraising Event
Bidding software increases the money you raise by 30%. It adds value for your donors because they can bid from their phones and look up details when they need to. It also reduces a lot of the work of running an auction for your non-profit.
Get more revenue-generating tips and games from Mark and Micki in Episode 91 of our webinar for non-profits.
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At HGA, we're dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations Raise More Money through coaching, auction items, and auction software.