Jason Ledlow, Trevor Nelson, and Amy Meyers sat down at the end of 2022 to answer your questions about non-profit fundraising. They discussed working with a board, nurturing donor relationships, and how to maximize revenue from galas.
What is the Best Way to Motivate Your Board?
The best practices to motivate a non-profit board include:
1. Talking about mission and purpose often to keep your board members engaged with the bigger picture.
2. Holding your board accountable by setting deadlines and following up.
3. Being the expert that the board can look to for guidance. Non-profit board members are smart in their field, but they may not have experience in fundraising. You need to tell them what they need to do and how to do it.
How Do You Get Rid of a Board Member that is Not Contributing to the Organization?
It all starts with a conversation about the expectations that your organization has of board members. Give them some guidance on how they can meet the expectations to give them a chance to improve. It is an uncomfortable conversation for all parties involved, but it gives the board member a chance to step up their game.
If the board member continues to fail to meet your organization’s expectations, then the next conversation is that they are not a good fit as a board member. A great way to approach this conversation is to try and find them another way they can contribute to your organization that better matches their talents and the time they can dedicate.
How Do You Find More Donors?
At HGAFundraising, we do something that we call the “people exercise” with every non-profit we work with. Get all of your board members and leaders in a room and ask them to pull out their phones and go through their contacts. Ask them to call out the names of anyone who fits one of the three categories:
1. Can they write a $10,000 check and not miss it?
2. Can they fill a table with people that will spend money?
3. Do they have special access to something or someone that would be beneficial?
It is a powerful exercise that can instantly grow your donor lists and raise money for your non-profit. The people in your phone are your sphere of influence, and you can work on connecting to their sphere of influence and so on and so forth.
How Do You Manage Donor Relationship Once You've Established Them?
The key is to build and manage the relationship year-round, not just when it is time to ask for money. It is really powerful when you touch base to say thank you or to see how they are doing rather than only talking to your donors when you want money.
Jason Ledlow likes to call as many donors as possible to build that personal connection. If your donor list is too long to be able to call them all, then separate your list into categories, so you call your top donors, text the next category, and email the rest. The most important thing you can give people is your time. Spend time with your donors, so they don’t just feel like you’re treating them like an ATM.
What is the Best Post-Event Etiquette?
Starting with your committee, do an event debrief to celebrate how much you raised and thank everyone involved.
For your donors, follow up to thank them for their support. The personal touch is key to making your donors feel special, so they will want to support your non-profit again in the future. You may not have time to give all of the event attendees a personal phone call, so you can decide on a donation threshold where you’ll call the donors above that amount.
Handwritten notes are another great way to offer a personal touch if you don’t have time to make phone calls but want something more personal than an email.
What Are Some Good Underwriting Ideas for Galas?
Everything that can be possibly underwritten should be underwritten, even the bathroom stalls.
A great place to start is to make a list of everything that costs you money and set a price. Be smart with your pricing. The goal isn’t just to get the cost covered; it’s to raise money ahead of your fundraising event.
Then, get creative and look for other underwriting opportunities. Think about who is on your donor list and what would be a good fit. For example, you could ask a plumbing company to underwrite the bathroom at the gala. This is a great match for their business and is the most trafficked area at a gala.
You can also get multiple sponsors underwriting the same aspect of the event as long as you don’t list it as an exclusive opportunity. For example, you could get multiple businesses sponsoring the red carpet at your gala or even multiple sponsors of the bar.
Underwriting is a negotiation. You get to decide if your underwriting prices include tables or not. Just be smart about your calculations, so you’re not losing money on the deal. You don’t want to give away a table in your underwriting, assuming that the bank president will bring rich friends who will bid only for them to bring the bank tellers for a free party.
Amy Meyers says it is best to be blunt when selling tables and affirm that it is a fundraising event, and you would like people in the room who will support your organization’s mission and are going to spend money. She likes to call it the “we want bidders, not eaters” conversation. In a perfect world, it would be the committee or the person who has a relationship with that donor having that conversation, so it is coming from a peer rather than a stranger.
What is the Best Way to Use Social Media to Advertise a Fundraising Event?
Most non-profits use social media as a place to celebrate and tag their donors in thank-you messages after events rather than as a place to sell tickets or raise money. This is because social media requires a constant stream of engaging content to build a relationship. We have seen organizations do well if they are able to record video content and images of the work they do to share on social media, but that’s used as a way to get people interested in the work the organization does rather than selling.
For many non-profits, the time they spend wondering about how to use social media is better spent calling people in their network because they already have those relationships.
Should We Use Printed Invitations for the Gala?
It depends on the event and the people invited. For nicer fundraising events, it is nice to have a printed invitation, but for smaller events an email invitation is fine.
Amy Meyers says that she has found that printed RSVPs work better than online RSVPs. They just ask the table captain to provide the names and numbers of their guests so they can do the check-in and open the auction ahead of the event.
How Should We Deal with Fundraiser Guests Who Want to Back Out of Their Purchase?
If we look first at how to prevent fundraiser attendees from wishing they didn’t purchase an item or feeling like they paid too much for an item, the secret lies in focusing the event and the auction around your non-profit’s mission. Jason, in his time as an auctioneer, has seen $500 bottles of whiskey sell for $9,000 with no regrets because the bidder was donating money, the item being bid on was secondary to that.
In both silent auctions and live auctions, remind bidders why you are raising money. For example, you could say, “we are raising money to send kids to camp; every thousand dollars we raise send a kid to camp.” This keeps your bidders mission-focused.
Where problems occur is when the auctions become transactional. When you put a value on an item, it then becomes transactional because it becomes about the bidder getting a deal rather than making a donation. So, the best solution is preventative.
If your state requires donors to know the retail value of an item before bidding, put it in the small print “for tax purposes, the retail value of the item is X.”
If a fundraiser attendee does want to back out of their purchase, then you can try to focus the conversation back on your mission by telling them the impact of their contribution. If that doesn’t work, it may be best to refund donors in some cases. An unhappy donor has the potential to do a lot of damage to your organization.
What Are Some Out-of-the-Box Silent Auction Ideas?
Trips & experiences are a great way to offer unique silent auction items. You can contact businesses and organizations in your area to create some out-of-the-box experiences. For example, you could work with the local fire department to do a kid’s birthday party and create a package around that where a pizza parlor donates pizza, and a bakery donates the cake. Get creative and layer things to create a unique package.
The best-sellers are things like liquor baskets where you layer liquor with little bits of pieces from Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
In silent auctions, you want to stay away from items where a local business is trying to get its name out there. For example, a dentist who donates a free cleaning or a photographer who donates a family portrait shoot. Many people have their go-to provider for these kinds of things, so they won’t bid on them. You can get creative and put multiple of these items together in one package or create a balloon pop game where they win these as prizes.
What Was the Best Revenue-Enhancer You Had in 2022?
Amy Meyer’s best revenue-enhancer in 2022 was inspired by a guest on a previous webinar, Lisa Kirksey. She combined a wine pool with a golden ticket raffle so that everyone who bought a ticket got a bottle of wine. This allowed her to hold a raffle for a Tuscany trip because her state laws otherwise prohibit raffles where tickets hold no value.
This is a great revenue enhancer because there are opportunities to underwrite the golden ticket raffle and get wine donated to maximize your fundraising.
Want more? Jason Ledlow, Trevor Nelson, and Amy Meyers answered questions and shared examples from 2022 on Episode 95 of our free webinar for non-profits.
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