There is a store in my town in Massachusetts that has served it's community for 80 years. It is a place that has just about everything. From penny candy to appliances to toys and shovels. It is called the West Concord 5 & 10. As an example of how utterly reliable they are when you are in a pinch- Over the holidays I was working on a craft project. I always try and do something "home-made" every year and this year I was making bird seed eggs to give to my bird-loving friends. The recipe is incredibly simple. Mix bird seed with gelatin and hot water, mold and dry. The trick with this operation is that you need plastic easter eggs to mold the eggs and allow them to dry. Cut to me, stalwart Christmas Elf out to buy my supplies. It's about 15 degrees in December and I am on the hunt for easter eggs. I tried KMart and CVS. I tried Walmart. No luck. They all looked at me like I was a crazy person. And then I went to the 5 & 10. The very nice woman said, "oh sure, how many do you need? I'll just run downstairs and get them". The 5 & 10 comes through again.
So what happens when an institution like this one is struggling? Their primary supplier for much of their inventory went out of business, leaving them in the lurch. In order to fill their shelves, they needed to find a new way to source much of their product. This story is eerily similiar to the stories we hear every day from nonprofits who are challenged, who are trying to keep their doors open. The only way to keep the doors open is often to rally your community to help you.
So in this story, it was a Mom and her daughter who came up with the idea for a Cash Mob. You've heard and seen Flash Mobs where a group of people slowly and stealthily begin to sing and dance in some public place with unsuspecting folks all around. Well in our story they were not singing and dancing but they were shopping. This creative duo set out to get the word out and encourage the community to come and shop at the store and purchase at least $20 worth of goods. The Mom sent an email to her friends, the daughter posted on Facebook and the story spread. The next thing that happened was two local stores created their own offers for the day of the Cash Mob. Reasons to be Cheerful offered a bowl of soup to all customers who had a receipt from the 5 & 10. Concord Teacakes donated scones and cookies for customers at the 5 & 10. If you've never had a scone from Concord Teacakes, that alone would have been worth the trip.
On the day of the Cash Mob, 900 people came together to do something good for a landmark that they did not want to lose. From all accounts, the outpouring of support was nothing short of miraculous. I don't know what their receipts were that day or how this story will end. But it is a wonderful example of the power of spreading the word, of using social media to invite support. It is really a story of goodness in action. And if you are ever driving through Concord, Massachusetts, in addition to the many other historic landmarks in town, make sure you visit the West Concord 5 & 10 and see what you might pick up. You'll be glad you did.
One of the projectst that the BiddingForGood marketing team has worked on this spring is a new video showcasing our mobile bidding platform in action. We shot video at a number of events. You may have seen our previous video from last year. We thought it was time to spice it up and highlight new learnings that have come out of the hundreds of mobile bidding events that we have done.
Bidding on smart phones and tablets is the hot, new thing in fundraising auction events. Each organization that does it for the first time creates a fun and novel experience for their attendees and the results are obvious. Friends go head to head against each other bidding on their phones. If you have a very social group that attends your events, they can maintain their usual conversations without having to go back and forth to clipboards the whole night.
Close-out is another process that has been simplified and streamlined. Because bidders enter their information and credit card when they bid at the beginning of the night, the end of the night becomes much easier. Our system captures everything in simple reports, and everyone goes home happy.
The most important piece of it all is that you make more money. It's simple math. More bidders = more money raised. By opening your auction items up to our community, you gain new supporters. And by allowing your own guests to access the auction anywhere and anytime, on any device they want, you are raising more money from your own community.
Watch the video below, and let us know what you think in the comments section!
Daft Punk released their new album Random Access Memories and I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop. My favorite track on it so far is “Giorgio by Moroder” where disco and electro-pop pioneer Giorgio Moroder tells stories about the beginning of his musical career and how he developed his sound. At one point in the middle of the track he says:
“Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want. So nobody told me what to do and there was no preconception of what to do. “
I find these words inspiring because I think they can apply to more than just music. In many instances, whether it’s a career move or who you’re inviting to a dinner party, you have choices to make. Sure, there’s a “traditional” way of what to do and how to do it, but sometimes you have to just go with your gut and do what you want to do.
At BiddingForGood, we work with a lot of organizations who are in this predicament: should they stick with the same live event with bid sheets and clipboards for the sake of not upsetting their community or messing with tradition? Or is it time to make a leap and run an online auction or even go so far as to introduce mobile bidding at their live event and replace those bid sheets?
In many of the conversations I have, committee members are worried that their guests are going to be unhappy with the choice to have mobile bidding during the event or they worry that someone is going to be angry that certain items were bid on online and not available for bidding the night of the event. It seems to be a combination of things: being afraid of the unknown and also worried about changing from the norm.
In her book, "Lean In," Sheryl Sandberg writes that apparently there are signs all over Facebook's office that say "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" It's a powerful and profound idea, something I think anyone can and should spend time thinking about and applying to their own lives. What would you do at your next fundraiser if you weren't afraid of anything or anyone?
Sometimes we get so caught up and worried about others being upset with our choices that we forget what’s really important to us. Most of the time, as a fundraiser for a non-profit, raising as much money as possible from your auction is the priority. The potential grumpy guest cannot control whether or not you run an online auction or choose to have mobile bidding at your event. It’s a matter of letting go of “the way it is” and instead taking a leap and trying something new.
If you’re toying with the idea of running an online auction or having mobile bidding at your event, you should take that leap! Don’t be afraid. If it's of any reassurance, in a recent survey, we found that 81% of bidders enjoy bidding online and 95% agree that fundraising auctions should be open to the public. The most important thing to them is that the organization raises the most money!
Giorgio went on to collaborate with artists like Donna Summers and Blondie, scored soundtracks for many movies such as "Flashdance," “Scarface,” and “Top Gun,” and continues to influence countless artists and musicians today.
So take it from Giorgio or Sheryl Sandberg…or take it from me: try something new, take some chances and when all is said and done, you may be surprised with the results.
…Unless you share with everyone!
As the frenzy of the spring auction season slows down, we have taken some time to reflect on the successes and the "tense moments" that our clients have experienced at their fundraising events. We’ve brought together some of the best ideas we’ve heard that can really make a difference in your fundraising success, whether you are a brand new auction chair, or a seasoned pro. This has been a really fun project for me because it has allowed me to share what I have been hearing and learning from our clients.
Since I started working at BiddingForGood in November, One of the projects I’ve been working on has been gathering feedback and interviewing our customers about their successes. I’ve written up success stories for our website and highlighted some of them on the blog. Auction chairs, development directors and committee members have been nice enough to take time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences with me.
What I’ve found is fundraisers are continually working to improve. Yes, their organization may have grown their revenue from the previous year and blown away their goal, but they are still looking for ways to raise more for their cause next time. One of the questions I always ask is, “what would you do differently in the future?” The answers I get are less about what they would do differently, and more about what they would do better.
An arts organization I spoke to said that they were excited to work on integrating the leaderboard further into their event next time. They felt that the leaderboard was an integral part of encouraging people to keep bidding and critical to their auction’s success. They doubled the amount raised from the previous year and think by incorporating the leaderboard even more next year will be even better.
A health and human services organization described how they had built their items out minimally, with a picture and a very short description, and then displayed everything in a separate room at their event. They are already thinking about how they can provide better descriptions and images of their items online, so they can use the display at the event to highlight special items and make it less overwhelming to guests.
A school I spoke to said that their development chair had attended PTA meetings the month before the auction to get the word out and get parents preregistered. Next year they are planning on holding a separate drop in event after school the week before their gala, where parents can preregister while picking their children up. This will be their third year using mobile bidding.
Auction chairs, development directors and committee members are inherently generous people – dedicating time and effort to raise awareness (and funds!) for their causes. Through my emails, phone calls and conversations with them, they’ve been generous enough share their expertise with me, which in turn has given us the opportunity pay it forward and share it with you!
There are a host of ideas here and we hope it will be a helpful resource to you as you plan your next auction or pass the reins on to the next auction chair. Download the piece, “The Best Kept Secrets of the Auction Chair” here.
We’re also going to host a webinar on the same topic, including actual tips from real auction chairs, on June 4th at 3:00 EST. Register here. While you’re at it, check out the success stories section of our website, for examples of how organizations (like yours) have creatively used BiddingForGood. And finally, feel free to leave a comment sharing your own secrets!
One of the big questions we all face is how to deal with stress. Every day I work with clients who are faced with a good deal of it while working on their auctions and preparing for their galas.
I’ve been thinking about stress management recently and the best approaches to manage stress. I asked myself what the most stressful job I could think of was and the first one that came to mind was a doctor. When I read The Checklist Manifesto I learned that some doctors use checklists to make sure they are covering all their bases. Having a checklist can reduce stress by helping you remember everything you need to do. We have created checklists for our clients to use to make sure they are ready to run their auctions and hopefully to reduce their stress. From checklists for the New Auction Chair to checklists for Acquiring Items, there are lots of ways we help them get more organized.
I decided to do some reading and find out other ways doctors deal with their own stress. A lot of tips were things like taking a break, taking deep breaths, and taking a moment to remember what important work they're doing. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest one. There was another tip that I noticed in article after article that stood out; Make a point to spend time with your family and friends.
This also seems like a simple tip, but the more I thought about it the more its significance sank in. The people we love fuel us. When we feel most frustrated, exhausted, or burnt out, these are the people we should spend our time with. Not so we can vent endlessly to them about all of our troubles, but to enjoy their company and remember what’s important to us. The people we love can’t help but bring us joy, and I believe that joy diffuses stress like nothing else.
A few weeks ago I found myself stressed out and talking to a good friend about it. In the process I got an idea to create a ‘Joyful Things’ list. I decided to make a list of anything and everything that brings me joy. Everything from being brave to hot showers to laughing showed up on my list. I ended up with 101 joyful things. I decided that every day I would make a point to do something on my 'Joyful Things' list. I have stuck to my decision and it has made for better days.
I invite you to make your own ‘Joyful Things’ list. Take a few minutes to sit down and write it up. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will come to you. There are no rules. These can be people, places, things, activities, ideas, anything! Then when you’ve had a long day and feel worn out, take a look at your list. I promise you it will help you find joy in your day. One of my joyful things is inspiring other people. I inspired my brother to make his own list and I hope that I’ll inspire you to make yours. There is such joy to be had in life. Let’s all try to find more of it and see what a difference it makes.
This morning as I was settling in for a busy day at the office, with my endless to-do-list and calendar of meetings, Thomas, one of our sales guys, came into my office with a plant. It was actually a mini herb garden in a pot, something that I have been thinking I need to get planted myself at home. After all, it is spring and even we New Englanders are beginning to believe that summer is 'a coming. I was naturally surprised and particularly so when Thomas said- Happy Mothers Day. Wow. What a thoughtful gesture. I'm not sure my own kids will be that thoughtful (but don't tell them I said that).
So it got me thinking about how much the small gesture means. There are alot of things that fundraisers do in the course of their work that is about saying thank you. Almost all organizations will acknowledge donations and gifts, but how often do those thank you's come unexpectedly? How often are your supporters delighted and surprised by a thoughtful gesture from you or your organization? How often do you receive a hand-written note these days?
I know that I am going to sound dreadfully old school and old-fashioned here. In fact, I think I'm actually sounding like my Mom and her Mom who always used to remind me about the fact that writing thank you notes was "the polite thing to do". Remember when you were a kid and someone in your life suggested that you write a thank you note after a holiday or special occasion? Few kids really appreciate what it means and I really do fear it is a dying art. But as fundraisers we need to be particularly attentive to cultivating relationships with our supporters. We need to be continually finding ways to connect with them and remind them that we appreciate them and can't do our good work without them.
But let's bring this post into the 21st century for a moment. Let's talk about how we connect and thank people in todays world, beyond the old-fashioned thank you note. I read a great article recently about "listening". One of the points of the piece is that good listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give another person. In some ways by giving our undivided attention to someone, we are saying "you are important to me and what you say is valuable to me". Well one of the ways that we can do that today is by listening to what people are saying about our organizations. How often do we take the time to respond to a favorable comment on a blog post or a social media post? When a happy customer refers someone to us, how often do we find ways to thank them for that.
We have instituted a program at BiddingForGood whereby we do a thank you program for the loyal customers who act as references for us. One month we sent delicious cookies from BakingForGood, a company with a mission like ours. Yum. It has never been an expensive gift. Expensive is rarely the point. The point is that we are remembering to show our appreciation. We are remembering the small gesture.
So Thomas has made his way to the top of my "Favorites" list today. Just like a parent will always say that they love all of their children, I am quick to say that I care about all of my colleauges on both the sales team and the marketing team. But boy, today I appreciate the small gesture from Thomas.
So on this Mothers Day, what small gesture can you offer? What gesture will make your Mom or your friends who are Moms happy. And when Mothers Day is over, how can you find ways to "Thank" your customers and your supporters. It's not always easy to find the time, but it will undoubtedly come back to you in surprising ways. On this Mothers Day, one of the greatest holidays ever invented, I celebrate appreciation, generosity and thoughtfulness. Thanks for listening.
Moms on a Mission
Are you a mom on a mission? Do you know a mom that is on a mission? I speak to hundreds of mothers a month who are balancing life, work, and volunteering to head up the auction for their school or local nonprofit. For some the auction is one out of a host of things they do. All of these moms tend to be extremely humble. From my perspective, moms often downplay the huge impact they have in their community. I like to call these change agents “moms on a mission”. These mothers are showing true leadership by taking action and giving back to the community as volunteers.
I decided to ask a few of our clients who are Mothers some questions about life and auctions to give us some helpful tips. Online auction proceeds of the auctions represented below ranged from $74,000 to $16,600. All of the mothers represented had auctions that raised more money in 2013 than in 2012…they are doing something right!
1. What does volunteering mean to you?
“Volunteering helps to raise more money, and I help enable the school to fund important programs” said Sybil from Chaparral Elementary. Dara with the Emerson Foundation in California said “the only way for a community to really works is to serve the needs of everyone and if people band together and give their time and effort to help out.” Lilan from Friends of Broadway Elementary said that she believes in “helping, contributing and making impact for a special cause.”
2. What is your biggest tip for balancing family and work/volunteer life for other moms on a mission?
Lilan said “try and stick to a schedule with family time and volunteer/work time.” Dara said “Don’t be resistant to asking for help when you need it, and know when to say no without feeling guilty.” Sybil said to “put family first.”
3. What do you find is your biggest struggle in creating a successful auction?
Dara said “Getting enough volunteers to help. Our community middle school is only for 3 years and it is very hard to get parents involved.”Lilan added that she is challenged by “marketing the auction to a greater community. Although we have a supportive parent community, it would be nice to reach outside of our parent group.” Sybil stated that “getting the items” for the auction was the biggest struggle. (We've certainly heard that one before)
4. What is your winning recipe for a successful auction?
Lilan suggested building a great team of people who can be divided among three tasks: 1) Soliciting donations as well as rallying others to do so, 2) Organizing and writing enticing content for the auction site, and 3) Investigating channels to market the auction. Dara added “Solicit, solicit, and solicit. The more you ask the more you receive (it is like asking people on dates, maybe some will say “no” but eventually someone is bound to say “yes”). I also think it is best to have detailed descriptions about what you are offering so that bidders don’t need to ask questions. Witty descriptions can also catch a bidder’s attention. If bidders do have questions, answer them as soon as possible”. Last but not least, Sybil said the secrets to success were “great items and parent hosted parties.” What are parent hosted parties you ask? This could be Dad’s backyard beer fest, Moms and Margaritas, or Kids Pizza Cooking Party for example. Sometimes the very best and most popular items, like parent-hosted parties are right under your nose.
5. Any other suggestions or tips you have for other moms on a mission?
Sybil was kind enough to offer “Ask others that have done it before for tips.” Lilan added “we all want the best for our children. However, the focus should be that we “do our best”, not necessary “get the best.”” Dara added that the first year the foundation took its auction on-line, no one wanted to do it and the room was uncomfortably silent when people were asked to volunteer. There was a pregnant pause, as it is known. She said “I couldn’t take it anymore and before I knew it I volunteered! When I told the story to my friend he responded by saying, “I have learned to ignore those pregnant pauses.” Everyone has to do their part to be part of the solution and moms on a mission need to convince the other parents of this. It is corny but Hilary Clinton was right, it really does take a village.”
Thank you to Lilan, Sybil and Dara for sharing with us their wisdom on auctions and life. It is important to realize that every community is slightly different and that auctions often need to be tailored to the audience . You need to experiment to find the right recipe that will bring the best results for you, then keep on improving while trying some new and creative strategies. Feel free to visit our website for some more “Tips and Tricks.”
I salute all you moms out there and all you do for your community and the greater good…you are not alone!
My two year old son Miguel loves all big vehicles, from tractor trailers to bulldozers to backhoes. Today were we were visiting a local supermarket called Rosebuds when he saw a backhoe and started jumping and screaming for joy. I ran over to the backhoe to get a closer look (it was parked, of course) and to show Miguel, but when I turned around Miguel was still standing 20 feet away, frozen. I was surprised that Miguel was not running in front of me like he usually does. Although, once I thought about it for a moment, it made sense. After all little Miguel is not quite 40 inches and here was a huge machine that could look scary if you had never been up close to one before. I picked him up and held him close and we made our way over to the big backhoe. Miguel started to cry for about 3 seconds as his fear took hold of him, then his curiosity started racing which brought a big smile and giggle. He had triumphed over his fear today.
Now you are probably asking yourself: “What does that story have to do with my auction?”. It’s easy for all of us to focus on our fears and stop cold in our tracks like Miguel did today. Maybe you had an auction that performed so well last year that you are afraid you can’t get better results. Maybe it was your first year of the auction and it did not raise the expected funds. The power of our platform is that is gets easier, your network grows larger and more effective the more you use the platform. The more auctions you run, the better the BiddingForGood community gets to know you and the more inclined they are to bid on your items. The more auctions you run, the more business relationships you build to help donate items or services to your auction. The larger your networks becomes, the more your network can share via social media and continue to build support and new bidders.
The fundamental idea here is that taking ownership for the auction can be uncomfortable. Often the excuses we use can help us to shine a light on our fears so we can face them directly. I deeply encourage you to run at your auction fears with support from your volunteers, auction committee and our support staff. The personal and professional growth that comes as a result of facing your fears will be well worth the initial discomfort . A great quote from Nido Qubein, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, is “the price of discipline in less than the pain of regret.” Running an auction does take discipline and “putting yourself out there” but a successful auction is worth it!
I don't get out much. Well that's not exactly true but when it comes to work these days, I am pretty much head down focused on BiddingForGood and our clients.
So it was a very nice and welcome change to get out and visit with another organization that is also "mission-driven". I was invited to participate in a strategic conversation with Peace First, a 20 year old national nonprofit that has been building a generation of peace makers. At their core, they believe that "children are natural problem solvers and creative thinkers". The organization is committed to investing in children's ability to see themselves as leaders. The idea began as a festival called the Peace Games that set out to help children learn skills around peace-making, around negotiating conflicts and building community. It began at Harvard University and now has evolved into a program that is touching children and adults across this country and even abroad.
The most recent iniative from Peace First is the Peace First Prize. This is a program to invite applications from young people from 8-22 who are demonstrating compassion, courage and the ability to create collaborative change. They have partnered with an impressive list of organizations who have helped them get the word out about the program. City Year, 4H, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, Teach for America and more. Here's Chelsea Clinton announcing the Clinton Global Initiative's Support for the program.
But the real heart of this program are the stories from the applicants. Here's a sample-
“Picture a school where there is ‘good gossip’ and students use their words to build each other up rather than tear each other down.”... Tyler began by creating an anti-bullying video. He has gone on to speak at conferences, at camps, even on the Today Show.
"Jessica started the We Care Bear Project to bring stuffed animals to scared and injured children being helped by firemen and police officers...." Her efforts have put bags of teddy bears in every fire truck and ambulance in San Diego as well as at Ronald McDonald houses in San Diego and Las Vegas. Next step- New York City.
This 12 year old is a real fire cracker. She has founded an organization called Conserve it Forward and is downright passionate about frogs, among other things..
Read more about the applicants here.
Well I could write all day long about these incredible kids and the work that they are each doing in their communities to make a difference. But what I really want to talk about is the power of rallying people around a mission. Peace First is looking for help. They believe they are at an inflection point in the life of their organization. They have a big mission, a very dedicated staff, and plenty of positive signals from supporters- from celebrities to educators. But now they want to take the next step. They want to scale their program and have greater impact.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? So many nonprofits are passionate about their mission, have brought together dedicated folks, but need support to get to the next level. Support comes in many guises. Almost every nonprofit needs financial support. That is a given. But what else do they need? This is what was so inspiring to me about the session with Peace First. They invited a group of people to come together, made a very compelling presentation about their work and their impact and then made a very specific ask. They are looking for strategic counsel, they are looking for big ideas and they are looking for help on tactical implementation. And they are making it sound very exciting and rewarding to be part of the effort to scale their organization and further their mission. I'm not sure how many people who were at this meeting will step up to do more. Most of us have lots of commitments and need to make smart choices about where we spend our time and put our valuable energy and passion. In a perfect world, our expertise and talent will fit with the needs of the organization that we are committed to. I'm not sure what I will decide to do or how I can most help them. I do know that I left the meeting energized and excited about what they are doing.
Where do you need help? How can you ask for help and inspire people with your mission and your purpose? What can you offer supporters in return? Can you allow them to get closer to the heart of what you do? Can you give them something tangible to take away? Can you teach them something new? Can you challenge them in ways that they have never been challenged before? If you can crack that code, you will be on your way to taking your organization to the next level.
At BiddingForGood, we love celebrating the achievements of our customers. This post is one of a new series on our blog, highlighting success stories. We hope that you can learn and be inspired by these stories, which demonstrate the variety of ways that different organizations are using BiddingForGood. For more stories of our customers’ successes, you can also check out our summary of 10 Auctions That Rocked in 2012 as well as the success stories section of our website!
The Fayetteville Lions Club’s mission is community support with an emphasis on sight preservation. They provide eye exams and eyeglasses for those with financial needs. They also support diabetes awareness, sight and hearing surgical options, and World Services for the Blind (a training facility in Arkansas that provides job training and independent living skill development for those who are visually impaired as an adult).
The Fayetteville Lions Club used BiddingForGood to help streamline their televised auction fundraiser. Now in its 62nd year, Auction on the Air is one of their major annual fundraising events. It started as a radio call-in auction but since 1982 has been televised on the local public access TV station. The 62nd Auction on the Air was the first auction where bidders could pay with their credit cards.
This is a classic before and after story. Before using BiddingForGood, items were placed on display boards and the TV announcers would focus on roughly ten items at a time. They would alternate talking about the items, the leading bids, and the donors. Then people would call in to place bids on the items. The whole process was very time consuming for the volunteers – it ran for five hours on two separate nights and volunteers were needed to answer the phones. They would fill in bid sheets and then pass them around to other volunteers as more bids came in. In addition, the volunteers were also used for for all of the pre-auction preparation!
With BiddingForGood, the Fayetteville Lions Club set up the auction an entirely different way. They set up the auction items to close at different times during the live broadcast. The TV broadcast focused on the two announcers, and the items that had been donated. Instead of the announcers focusing solely on the leading bid, they had the opportunity to spend more time showcasing the websites of the donors and the actual items. They could televise an item from the website with a voiceover or they could focus on an item in person that was closing soon (e.g. a lazy Susan of sunglasses). People could also access the auction website and browse the catalog for themselves.
Instead of people calling in to place bids, they logged on to the auction website and placed bids. This meant that volunteer time and effort could be allocated more efficiently. Instead of spending their time answering phones, volunteers spent more of their time gathering items and promoting the event. Because the station had an efficient way to broadcast the auction, they were able to drive significant bidding in the auction. Ultimately, this made the event much more successful and even reduced the amount of time volunteers were spending on the auction. Not only did the Fayetteville Lions Club surpass their goal, they made a 75% increase on it!
Check out the Fayetteville Lions Club’s success story on our website to learn more about their good work!