An Interview with an Auction Liaison at Independent Schools

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1 An Interview with an Auction Liaison at Independent Schools

2 FIVE TIPS FOR HOSTING A RECORD-BREAKING FUNDRAISING AUCTION AT YOUR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL Whether you were caught up in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm at the end of the last auction or you ve been preparing to take the lead for many months, you are now in charge of your school s fundraising auction. Chances are you ve been handed at least a manila folder full of timelines, contracts and receipts from last year s event. You may even have been on last year s committee so you have a good sense of the process ahead. Whether you are new to the process or a finely groomed successor, these five tips we ve gleaned from those who have recently been in your position may serve you well: Tip 1: Unleash Your Inner Carnegie No matter how beautifully you decorate your function room or nail your theme, your auction s success is determined by how much money you bring in for your school. Ultimately, every penny earned comes from the work you and your team do in the months leading up to your event. You need to galvanize attendees of course but, most importantly, you must master the art of directly asking for donations from all potential donors. So what to do if the hard sell is way outside your comfort zone? Not a problem according to legendary salesman Dale Carnegie: Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success. So start by fanning those flames. You ve stepped up to this role because you believe in your school. Before you reach out to donors, answer these questions for yourself: 1. Why is this school such a high priority for me? 2. What does this school give my children and my community? 3. What sets this school apart from other similar institutions? 4. Why is the particular activity you are seeking funds for critical to the school s mission? Develop a clear 60-second pitch about how and why this school and this function matter to you and make it authentic by ensuring it is in your own voice. This is your most important sales tool.

3 Tip 2: Don t Reinvent the Wheel You may have already spoken with the most recent auction chair about their experience and downloaded all their thoughts. If not, make this conversation a top priority. Ideally, you should pull together the entire team from the most recent auction as close to the event as is reasonably possible and just let them talk through the whole experience. Host a get together, provide them with liquid sustenance and get them talking and take thorough notes about what went right, what went wrong and how the event can be improved or should stay exactly the same next year in the following categories: 1. Auction committee design and operation Which parent volunteers are likely to step up again this year? Are there any personality conflicts amongst these parents that we need to bear in mind? Was the schedule of meetings and format efficient and effective/ 2. Auction evening itself The program and flow The meal The location and logistics 3. Event budget 4. Marketing 5. Post-event follow- up Were donors, sponsors and participants formally thanked? Have fundraising results been reported? 6. Interaction with school community Who in the school administration was the most helpful? What tips do you have for working with those in the administration who were challenging? 7. Silent Auction logistics and donations 8. Live Auction logistics and donations 9. Corporate Sponsors 10. Raise the Paddle - logistics 11. Bidders Who has been a reliable big bidder each year? Which bidders might be open to pre-event commitments or establishing a challenge match pledge? 12. Donors What donated items were most popular? Which items are likely to be donated again? 13. Open ended questions: What happened at the last minute that could have been avoided? That could not? What was more time consuming than you expected?

4 Tip 3: Leave Payment Processing to the Experts A dollar saved is indeed a dollar earned so be sure to bring a critical eye to all the costs involved in your function as you prepare your event budget. You know to scrutinize the costs for the venue, catering, marketing, décor, entertainment and professional auctioneer services. But take a close look as well at a hidden cost that may save you a significant amount of money: the cost of collecting electronic payments. There are several auction software solutions in use throughout the independent schools community which offer to collect and process electronic payments as part of their auction services. But chances are good that if you look carefully at the total cost of using the auction company s process you will end up spending much more than you should. The more your auction raises, the greater your potential savings if you stick with a payment expert such as Diamond Mind for this critical piece of your event. One recent auction chair told us of a $5,000 savings she netted for her event by using Diamond Mind for all their payment processing while sticking with their event management software for everything else. Please contact us at (888) for more information about how Diamond Mind can bring savings to your event through reliable and efficient payment processing. Tip 4: Leverage the Power of the Paddle A terrific way to increase donations with minimal effort is to include a Raise-the-Paddle ( RTP ) during your evening. You may have heard of this referred to as a Paddle Call, Cash Call, Fund-A- Need, Flurry, the Plea or Special Appeal. Whatever the name, the purpose and design is simple: during the live auction portion of your program, the auctioneer announces a special appeal for a discrete purpose and then asks the audience to raise their paddles to give at different levels to this project. Ideally, a small group of donors gives at the largest level ($1,000 - $10,000 or more depending on your community) inspiring more donors to give at each successively lower level. By establishing a range of giving levels, the format encourages more guests to raise their paddles, hopefully spurring almost everyone in the room to join in. RTPs are so successful because they promote camaraderie and healthy competition amongst the attendees. To maximize the power of the paddle, remember to: Choose a compelling project: Choose a single but emotionally gripping purpose for a short and quick fundraising appeal such as a large piece of equipment, a scholarship fund or a special project.

5 Talk it up: Market your appeal item and explain the RTP ahead of time in all of your preauction marketing including your catalogue, signage, display tables, etc. Set appropriate levels: Establish a few levels of giving that you can reasonably expect participation in, for example $2500, $1500, $1000, $500, $100. Choosing your high and low end are critical. In choosing your high end, be sure to incorporate Tip #5 below for planting leaders. Nail the appeal: Introduce the Raise-the-Paddle with a personal, convincing and emotional testimonial. Target the appeal for one to two minutes maximum. Leverage the timing: Time the Raise-the-Paddle strategically so it takes place near the middle or second-half of the program to re-energize the room. Tip 5: Plant Leaders Nothing deflates the energy around a live auction or Raise-the-Paddle ( RTP ) more quickly than a failure to get an opening bid or a pledge at your highest RTP giving level. Conversely, robust and enthusiastic bidders will infect the whole room and inspire other attendees to give. If you are new to the world of auctions, you may be surprised to hear that this does not have to be left to chance. Savvy auction chairs cultivate their high bidders and improve their own sleep -- well in advance of the big night. To lock-in a high bidder before your big night, debrief your previous auction chair and/or committee as recommended in Tip #2 to identify which bidders might be amenable to preevent commitments. Once you have your list, identify your committee member with the best relationship to each bidder, perfect your pitch (Tip #1) and reach out. Working with your board chairman, your organization s board should be your first stop. The most successful events have the full board s commitment. Ask your chairman to explain at a regular board meeting what is expected of each member for giving, attendance and attendee and donor recruitment. And be sure to make you ask clear and specific: At what level can I count on you to raise your paddles?

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