Do you ask your board or event committee to bring in silent auction items but nothing happens? Is it like pulling teeth to get them to even round up gift cards from their favorite stores? You need to paint a picture for them and tell them what you actually want. Create some ideal auction packages and pass out the list. Then they can say “Oh yeah, I know the owner of that store. I can probably get that.” Otherwise they might not think of it.
Here’s a great annual FREE resource for you. Every year pro auctioneer and charity auction expert Sherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions puts out a guide to the best auction items that she saw the previous year. She just released her 2018 list and it is chock full of great ideas for your next auction. Sure, the standard stuff is in there (wine, trips, etc.) but there are always a few innovative items that can inspire you to create something truly unique for your next auction. Give it a download today.
In February of 2019, @fundraiserchad was honored to be a guest on Simon Scriver’s Amazingly Ultimate Fundraising Superstar Podcast.
Simon spoke with Chad about his Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Databases, tips for selecting the right fundraising database for your organization and one of Chad’s favorite topics, personal productivity.
Tim Keller, of the H.K. Keller Fundraising Auction Team, joins @fundraiserchad to share the 6 best live auction money makers…
#1 Unique Experiences
The first category is experiences that are unique to the organization. We work with a theater that’s able to sell a trip to New York to be there for the audition. The theater fans, they love it, and spend big money to be able to sit there with the producer. That’s a unique experience that the organization is able to provide. Unique experiences are the number one seller in a live auction.
#2 Food & Wine
Second is food and wine. Right now, food and wine is very, very big. That could include trips and experiences. We have found that providing a trip for groups of people, for two, three or four couples have been big sellers with food and wine experiences.
The third is travel. People love to buy experiences, so when we can create a travel experience for them, something that’s a little unique, a little different than just something they can buy, it sells for big money.
#4 Entertainment & Sports
The fourth item is entertainment and sports. Anytime we can get people backstage, behind the scenes, into the locker room, they are willing to pay big money for that.
The fifth item is pampering. This could include shopping sprees, spa trips, anything that people can do to relax and have fun together. Again, we’re back to experiences.
Sixth and lowest on the list is stuff. The people coming to your events already have all the stuff they need. They don’t need your stuff.
One of the things that we do to help organizations find the right things for their auction is to conduct a brainstorming session, and it starts with this question, “Who do you know that knows someone?.” Because there’s people within your board, people within your team that have connections to amazing things, not just all over the country, but all over the world. And all it takes is a simple ask and you have a fantastic auction item.
Does it seem like you spend your entire board meetings going through reports? Do you spend all your time talking about what has already happened and very little on the future? You need to get those reports out of your meeting discussion, read in advance and just accepted at the meeting. What’s the tool here? A consent agenda. Give @fundraiserchad‘s free template a download, tweak it for your organization, and reclaim your board meetings in the name of strategic discussion!
So, you think your organization is ready for its first fundraising database/CRM? Or maybe you hate your current one and you’re thinking about making a change. Where do you even begin?
How to Select the Best Fundraising Database
The key is not to select THE BEST fundraising database. Chances are you don’t need the one with every single bell and whistle. You need the one that is right for your organization and your staff. You have budget constraints, staff skills, time constraints and conversion issues to take into consideration.
My top recommendation is the take a step back and figure out what you actually want and need before you start looking at specific products. There are a ton out there and it quickly gets overwhelming. Knowing your requirements before you start will allow you to quickly eliminate options and move others to the top of the list.
Here are a few other articles and resources to help you with this process:
- How Not to Choose Fundraising Software (guide) (credit: Bloomerang)
- Fundraising Databases – What Questions Should You Ask (article) (credit: Marc Pitman)
- A Buyer’s Guide to Fundraising Software (eBook) (credit: Bloomerang)
Current Fundraising Database / CRM Options
Okay, okay, I made you wait long enough. Here are all the fundraising databases that I’m currently aware of that are being offered by credible and ethical companies. Many of these companies also share anonymous data for research purposes and do their part to increase the body of research in the field. A win for everyone! The first few are my favorite (based on actual experience with the product) and then it switches to alphabetical order by company name. I’ve included a quick demo/spotlight video if I could find one for each product and any notes on my personal experience with it. Do you know of a product that’s not on the list? Please let me know. Happy shopping …
Bloomerang is @fundraiserchad’s database of choice. He’s been around many of the leading products and by far Bloomerang has been the easiest to use on all fronts. Many databases excel at ease of data entry, a few are good at reports and queries and very few make setup and changes a breeze. Bloomerang makes all of these steps easy, even for non-techies. They also have a completely free offering for very small shops (under 500 donors & less than $100,000 in revenue annually). Please shop around and see what else is out there, but be sure to add Bloomerang to your list if you’re in the market for a new donor database. Click here to schedule a demo with their expert staff.
But just because it’s my favorite, doesn’t mean Bloomerang is the right fit for your organization. You have to check it out. If it isn’t, here’s a comprehensive list of other options (and please contact me if I missed one and I’ll be sure to add it).
I’ve seen NeonCRM in action at a few organizations and it’s a pretty good tool. I find it a little clunky on the back end (difficult to setup / make changes) but for some organizations it can be good value for the investment.
Wild Apricot is focused more on membership type organizations but can be adapted for use at any nonprofit. I have not seen the tool in action; however, I’ve had some great interactions with their staff over the years and they provide a lot of good service to the industry.
Many moons ago I was a GiftWorks subscriber. The company was founded in Lancaster, PA which was the next city over for me for many years. My organization got in during the startup years and watched it evolve. Unfortunately that evolution and the customer support seemed to slow down when they got bought out, but I have not had interaction with them in recent years. I have always liked this product.
(formerly Telosa Software)
You really need a fundraising plan. You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants and take opportunities as they come along. That’s reactive fundraising. You need to be proactive.
A structured fundraising plan is the key to success. It’s actually been proven to be the number one indicator of fundraising success. Fundraising shops that simply have a plan, regardless of what is in it, perform a lot better than organizations without a fundraising plan.
It goes back to the old Ben Franklin quote, “If you fail to plan, then you’re really planning to fail.” So please, invest the time to put together a simple fundraising plan which will take your fundraising operation to the next level.
Wow Your Donors with Personalized Video
Video is incredibly powerful. It can be an amazing tool for fundraising — especially for donor stewardship.
Everybody has a video camera these days … it’s built right into our smartphones. You don’t need fancy equipment. You already have it. Just turn it on and say “thank you.”
Please watch the video above if you’d like to see a sample of what this looks like.
You can do this. All you need is a smartphone, a message to share and email — that’s it!
Imagine sending personalized video emails to your donors simply saying “thank you” and showing your program in action. Remember to use phrases like “you made the possible” and “we couldn’t do this without you” to make the donor the hero of your video. Have you ever received one of these? I bet your donors haven’t either.
To help celebrate Halloween, here are my top five fundraising horrors to avoid …
#1 – Window Envelopes
Window envelopes have no place in fundraising. What normally comes in window envelopes? That’s right, bills! Do you want your fundraising appeal or even worse your thank you letter to arrive looking like a bill? Get them out of your office ASAP.
(see also: Ban Window Envelopes from Your Fundraising)
#2 – Thasking
Never ask for anything when you say thank you. It cheapens it. When you say thank you, speak genuinely and say what you appreciate about donors. Don’t ask them for anything else. Don’t ask them to come in your event, don’t ask them to volunteer, and certainly don’t ask them for additional donation. Don’t even do it subtly by doing things like slipping an extra envelope in with your letter (just in case they want to send it back with a donation). There’s a term for that … it’s called a THASK (credit: Lynne Wester). A thank you ask. Don’t do it.
#3 – “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It”
Or another way it often comes up … “we’ve always done it this way.” It’s often said by a long time volunteer or founder. But you have to innovate. If you don’t the law of diminishing returns will eventually kick in and your fundraising will start heading in the wrong direction. You need a constant supply of fresh ideas and a boss/board that’s willing to support you as you implement them.
#4 – Monthly Fundraising Events
I’ve seen so organizations that can’t get ahead because they are constantly stuck in fundraising event planning. Some organizations even have events every single month! They think they need to do that to raise money. In truth, they are actually limiting the amount of money that they can raise because they don’t have the time to focus on building relationships with donors. I like to recommend that most nonprofits have no more than two big fundraising events in a year (unless they have a full time events coordinator). This gives you the space to make them unique events, have them highly sponsored (that’s where you make the money) and still have time to build donor relationships the rest of the year.
#5 – #GivingTuesday
I’ve talked about it before. I have a love hate relationship with #GivingTuesday. My primary issue with it is why would you want to solicit your donor on the same day that every single other organization that they support is soliciting them as well? You’re just bombarding them. So, what I like to do that day instead is to simply give thanks. Don’t ask for anything. Just reach out and thank them personally. You’ll really stand out from the crowd and they will remember it.
Those are my “Top 5 Fundraising Horrors.” I hope you can avoid them all this year (and every year). Happy Haloweeen!
Jen Love and John Lepp of Agents of Good share 6 Sweet Ways to Show Donor Love …
#1 Remember that Your Donors Want to Feel Good
The part of the brain that lights up when you give to charity is the same part of the brain that lights up when you have sex and when you eat chocolate — it’s the pleasure center of your brain. Giving feels good. So always remember when you’re talking to your donors that they want to feel good and they want to help and fix something. So, think of sex and chocolate and write your donors!
#2 Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Mail File
If you take 20% of your file, they’re most likely giving 80% of your revenue. With this group, mail them something special like a bigger envelope with lots of handwriting all over it. If you follow the 80/20 rule and you produce this mail pack in house, it will do a lot better than mailing the whole file exactly the same thing.
#3 Use Fundraising Delighters
“Fundraising delighters” are things that you don’t expect to receive from the charities that you love but change your perspective on the experience. This can be things like photographs, postcards and quick video updates.
#4 Create Paper Clip Moments
The power of the paper clip is that computers and machines cannot paper clip. So, when a donor sees a paper clip they feel like there was a human involved with the creation of the mail piece. It’s a very small touch, but it’s very meaningful.
#5 Always Maintain an Abundance Mindset
This one is more for you as a fundraiser, and it’s to always maintain an abundance mindset. There is so much information out there and so much we can look at. So, always keep your mind open to learning new things and surround yourself with people who will challenge you and keep you open to new things.
#6 Thank & Report Back With Double the Effort
When you ask your donors to give and then do so, you must thank them with double the amount of effort that you put into asking them. And you have to report back on what you did with their giving. Only then can you ask them again and repeat this cycle. Make sure you ask them, make sure you thank them and make sure you report back to them on what you did with those funds.