Editors Note: We are very happy to welcome Michele Balcom, our new Sales Director, to the blog team. She will no doubt write occasionally when inspiration strikes. She has already been an enormous asset to the company and we are so happy to have her join us. If you have questions for her or for any of us, don't be shy. We love hearing from you.
I’m the new girl. New to the team. New to writing a blog post. New to the non-profit world. And embarrassingly enough, new to donating time. During my interview process the senior team at B4G asked me what charities I was passionate about. I thought about it and stumbled. I named a place or two, I think, where I had sent checks over the past year and gave it a positive spin (as any good Sales Director would). Now that I have been here a few weeks, I understand what the question really meant.
I have spoken to, heard stories from, and learned more about nonprofits in the month of November than I ever had before. I have seen huge loud gregarious acts of generosity and small quiet acts of kindness, all in the course of my day-to-day business. I have seen and felt people's life passions. I have heard people’s pleas and I have seen people’s heroic and selfless efforts to raise money for causes that move them. I am in awe. My self awareness meter is dangerously in the red.
At B4G we are allowed to take time off to volunteer. We are encouraged to help out our causes. We are invited to share our passions. This isn’t a plug for my new employer; it’s a comment on doing the right thing. And a deep look into the mirror of my own non-performance in charitable volunteering spurred me into the blogosphere.
While we all know that writing a check is vital for the organizations we care about, giving our time is just as important.
My second blog post ever will highlight something that I am passionate about. Somewhere I have volunteered. Somewhere I felt humbled.
And I’ll write another check.
Tis the season to be grateful and to give thanks. Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. It’s a time of year when I give thanks and yes reflect a bit on what’s important. I think about what lights me up? What inspires me? So as I sit and ponder these thoughts in my office at BiddingForGood, I watch the good news stream through my email box.
Every day, oftentimes many times during the day, I get an email alert about another nonprofit or school that has decided to work with my company to help raise their much-needed funds. It would be so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and stress (stress..who me?) of running a marketing team and of reaching out to customers and partners and prospects. There is plenty of work to keep us all very busy indeed. Most days we’re thinking about email campaigns and social media posts and web site conversion rates. We’re trying to support our sales team and our client services team. We’re opening new markets and forging new partnerships. But it’s way too easy to forget about the impact of all of the work that we collectively do every day.
So today, I peruse my inbox and see a long list of schools- charter schools and Montessori schools, public schools and private schools. I see corporations like Kimberly Clark who are doing phenomenal employee auctions to benefit their charity partners. Companies like Kimberly Clark and AT+T are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through the generosity of their employees.
I see arts organizations like Inner City Arts and The Choral Arts Society of Washington DC. I get particular delight from organizations like this. I sit back and imagine children getting exposed to the arts, or musicians sharing their gift of music with their communities. I see temples and health organizations and nature conservancies. I see organizations like Girls for Africa that exists to transform the lives of orphans in Ghana. What is not to love about helping organizations like this?
If I visit our website, I find auctions for organizations like Art To Beat Cancer which is supporting new therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer. And I find Home for the Howlidays. This organization raises funds to rescue, heal and find homes for abandoned or homeless dogs and cats in high kill shelters. I don’t linger too long on this site because I am desperately yearning for a dog in my life. Our old dog, Gussie, died a couple of years ago and there is a big hole for me with no devoted friend to sit patiently by my side. The timing is not right for a new dog now but I can take great pleasure in knowing that my company and our work is helping an organization like Home for the Howlidays.
So I am grateful. As I look forward to my favorite holiday and I ponder the brine I will use on our turkey this year, or the stuffing recipe that we will try this year, I think also of how lucky I am to have family and friends who will be with us. I think about how lucky I am that we will have food on the table. And I am very grateful indeed that the work that I do has such impact in the world. There is great need in the world and it feels so satisfying to be doing something about it. What are you grateful for? And where are you having impact? I’d love to hear from you.
Back in the summer, I wrote a post about maximizing your BiddingForGood subscription by running more than one auction, and provided some ideas on different ways to do that successfully. There is another fantastic idea, but it requires a mindset shift on your part. Because of the ‘Buy It Now’ functionality, your unique homepage can also be used as an online store. So what does that mean for you? Think like a retailer! The ultimate shopping season of the year is upon us. What could you sell that your community would buy as gifts for their friends and families?
Your store can be whatever you make it. Do you sell turkeys to your community for Thanksgiving? Then, create a turkey store on your BiddingForGood page and use the email and social sharing tools to get the word out and sell more turkeys than you have ever sold. Does your school have great paraphernalia? Put together the t-shirts, sweatshirts, bumper stickers and any other items that someone would want as a holiday gift. But make sure to figure out how many you have in stock or could order, so that you can fulfill the full amount.
Even if you don’t have items, we have seen Fund-A-Need ideas that were very successful. Right after Hurricane Sandy last year, I attended an event where they raised money towards rebuilding little league baseball fields that were destroyed. Around this time of year, many groups try to give back to those who are struggling during the holidays. Funding a big holiday dinner or presents for children are other ways to help without even having to procure items. On your homepage you can offer different donation amounts, so that everyone can give something, no matter how big or small.
In the holiday season there is a real emphasis on giving back. Couple that with the largest shopping time of the year, and you have a winning combination for fundraising. Through your BiddingForGood subscription you are able to take advantage of both; tapping into gift giving season and ensuring that those dollars are spent charitably. We have a great piece called ‘It’s the Most Important Fundraising Time of the Year’ with more ideas on how to make this work for your organization that you can download here. And a webinar called 'Two Quick, Easy Online Holiday Fundraiser Ideas' this Thursday the 14th at 2pm as well. Register here. Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, Housing Works realized that Banksy, a famous graffiti artist, had donated a painting titled “The Banality of the Banality of Evil,” to their thrift store. Housing Works is a New York City based nonprofit that focuses on “ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts.” Banksy, a controversial British artist, is spending a month in New York City chronicling his projects on his blog, “Better Out Than In,” which is described as “an artist’s residency on the streets of New York.” His artwork has previously sold for as much as $1.87 million at Sotheby's auction house. Bidding started at $74,000, but by 9AM on Thursday had reached $310,400. Bidding closes at 8PM ET on October 31, 2013. You can view the item here.
So what can other organizations learn from Housing Works and Banksy? The success of this piece so far – already raising more than a quarter of a million dollars for Housing Works – is a great illustration of the power and growing importance of online fundraising.
Organizations are often worried that people will not be willing to purchase and bid on expensive items online. While not everyone has $300,000 to spend in an auction, people are purchasing more and more online and do buy expensive items. It remains to be seen if the Banksy painting will be the most expensive single item sold to date on the BiddingForGood platform. The Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association once auctioned a biplane for $330,000 on our platform, and we have seen many items sell for $25,000 and more. This means moving your auction online is a natural choice, when people already purchase clothing, books, and even groceries online. The easier you make it to support your cause, the more people will be happy to do so!
Flexibility and the ability to be nimble are also important for fundraisers, today. Housing Works is using BiddingForGood to host their annual benefit auction in November, but once they realized they had the Banksy piece they created a special auction in one afternoon to capitalize on the notoriety of Banksy. We feel great that we were able to help them get this auction up and running so quickly. Mostly it’s a testament to our software platform. The client asked if our platform could handle the number of bids they anticipated. We have handled over 15,000 bids in an hour and we assured them we could handle even more.
If your organization is fortunate enough to receive World Series or Superbowl tickets or any highly desirable one-of-a-kind item, even when it’s not time for your main fundraiser, having an online auction means that you can easily benefit from the donor’s generosity virtually instantly.
So, Housing Work’s Banksy auction is a great example that proves the value of online auctions! You can check out bidding on “The Banality of the Banality of Evil,” here.
Feel free to check back and support Housing Works’ efforts to end homelessness and AIDS for their annual benefit, Fashion for Action later in November. Read press coverage of the Housing Works auction on Bloomberg, the New York Times, and the BBC (to name a few). And, remember to support all the worthy causes on BiddingForGood.com!
I always encourage my clients to use social media to promote their auctions because it is such a vital tool. I recently read in a 2012 survey for nonprofit organizations that 93% of nonprofit supporters are using social media. If your supporters eyes are on social media, you need to be on there as well! It’s a great way to reach a lot of people and it’s easy for friends of friends of friends to share about auctions too. And today I’d like to offer a word about the importance of having a Facebook page and updating it frequently for your organization in general.
Last year I mentioned Cat Haven, a client of ours, in a blog post and liked their Facebook page to learn more about them. Since then I’ve been an avid reader of all their posts. There are so many beautiful pictures of kittens and cats that need to be adopted. (The occasional adorable video too! ) There are also adoption follow up stories where I learn about the happy owners and their beloved new pets.
From their dynamic Facebook page, I’ve really come to know what Cat Haven is all about. I’m always showing friends and coworkers pictures of the latest cats up for adoption. I am also completely enamored with their cat Marco. He is very distinguished looking; he has a white mustache!!
I happen to be the Account Manager for Cat Haven, so I was happy to see there are multiple mentions of their online auction on their Facebook page. I also know that because they’ve got a really strong Facebook page and following that there will be a lot of eyes on their auction as well!
If you have a Facebook page but rarely update your status, it will be more difficult to get the traction you want when you start sharing information about your online auction. You can keep your Facebook page up to date but posting about your oragnization's mission, events happening throughout the year, or exciting pieces of news about your organization. It's helpful to add images with your posts as well. You’ll want to make use of social media year round to keep your Facebook fans engaged with your cause and to really perk up their ears (or whiskers) when your online auction opens!
Check out BiddingForGood's Facebook page to see how we keep our page fresh and interesting! Like our page to stay up to date on all the latest happenings! You'll see all kinds of posts about organizations running auctions with us, news stories full of goodness, and upcoming webinars that may interest you. We'll keep you in the loop on everything BiddingForGood has to offer!
Here at BiddingForGood, we know the importance of good items for the success of your fundraiser. However, just having good items isn’t enough – you need to make sure that you are communicating the value of your items to bidders. If you don’t describe the item in enough detail even if you include a picture, bidders won’t know enough about the item to bid. Our client services team has some suggestions for how to make your items the best possible, so continue reading below to learn more!
1 – Make sure you have a detailed item description.
Make sure your description includes details like size, weight, color, and any restrictions. Instead of the bare minimum, explain the reasons someone would want the item and highlight details about the item. For example, if it is a dinner at a local restaurant, write about the restaurant’s food and include reviews or quotes. If you don’t describe the item, no one will know what it is!
2 – Include a link in the item description.
If the item is a service that is offered by someone else (e.g. a trip, a hotel stay, a dinner at a restaurant, etc.) include a link to the organization’s website. There is probably more information available to a bidder on the website, beyond what you can write in the item description. This helps bidders get the maximum amount of information about the item, which will make them more likely to bid.
3 – Add eye-catching item images.
Include multiple images for an item so bidders can get a better idea of the item. If it is a gift card, put images of what the gift card is redeemable for – e.g. for a salon gift card, you could have an image of the salon, the hairstylist, and examples of their work. Additionally, make sure that the item images are of a decent size and quality. You want bidders to be able to see the photos clearly, whether they are looking on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Images should not be tiny or blurry. You can even take a photo with a cellphone camera! If you do take your own photos, be aware of the background – it should be clear what the item is and you should be able to see it on the background. A sheet or tabletop are better choices than a busy, patterned carpet.
4 – Use the special notes area.
This is where you can clarify things for the bidders. Does the item expire? Are there blackout dates? Is the item only available for pick up? Are there additional charges, like shipping or taxes? This is also where you can specific that an item is only available to members of your community. For example, if someone has donated a week at a vacation house but it is only available to people in your community, this is where you would emphasize that.
5 – Display the item’s estimated value.
Beyond describing your item, this is where you can communicate the value of the item to bidders. There are exceptions, but you want it to be as clear as possible to bidders how much the item is worth. If the organization or the donor of the item would prefer to have the value hidden, it is possible to do that. If the item cannot realistically have a numerical value, you can set the estimated value as priceless. Unique items, such as celebrity experiences or memorabilia, are often set to priceless.
These five tips will help make your auction items successful – the better you communicate the value of your items, the more likely bidders will recognize that and bid on them! Good luck on building your items!
Last Friday, October 11th, was the second International Day of the Girl. The aim of International Day of the Girl Child is “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world” and “promote girls' human rights, highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world.” This concept is in keeping with the mission and values of many of the organizations we work with here at BiddingForGood, which are focused on supporting education, and empowering girls and young women.
Created by the United Nations, the first International Day of the Girl was held in 2012, with the theme of Ending Child Marriage. The theme for 2013 was Innovating for Girls’ Education. The UN Women and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have also collaborated to create a non-formal curriculum to end violence against women and girls, which you can read here.
Innovating for Girls’ Education is a powerful theme for 2013, because there is evidence that educating girls and women can be a “powerful transformative force for societies,” especially in terms of achieving development goals such as democratization and reducing poverty. Additionally, the topic of female access to education has been top of mind lately, through the story of Malala Yousafazi, a 16 year old Pakistani girl who has become an advocate for women’s education. Two years ago, when Malala was 14, she survived a Taliban assassination attempt. Though she did not win this year, she was widely thought to be in the running for the Noble Peace Prize. Malala appeared on the Jon Stewart show this past week, where she told her story and answered questions. She said that when she found out that the Taliban wanted her dead, she thought about what she would say to her would be attacker. She said, “I will tell him how important education is and that 'I even want education for your children as well.'”
Malala’s story of rising above violence and negativity to work toward creating positive change in the world reflects the themes we see in many of our clients' stories. At BiddingForGood, we are fortunate to spend every day working with people trying to foster positive change in their communities and beyond. In an ideal world, many of these organizations would not exist, because the needs of the community would already be met. But until then, at BiddingForGood, we are happy to continue to spend every day helping our customers work toward those noble goals. Hopefully, this year's focus on Innovating for Girls' Education on International Day of the Girl Child, as well as Malala's work, will continue to push girls' education forward and toward the point where a special day to increase awareness is no longer necessary.
I love animated gifs. They’re so perfect in how they encompass a feeling or thought in a short, usually silly, clip. Many of us at BiddingforGood like to share Buzzfeed lists that use animated gifs and silly pictures to describe everyday situations. One of my favorites is “30 Signs You’re Almost 30.”
Organizing and running an online auction can be stressful. But at times it can be a lot of fun and downright silly. So here's a look at the "journey" of running an online auction, described with animated gifs.
You just signed up with an awesome company like BiddingforGood and you’re pumped to run a new auction!
You've assembled your committee for the first meeting your volunteers are ready to start working. Or are they?
The item acquisition team begins contacting local businesses and merchants to ask for item donations.
The team gets ready to build your homepage and work on a promotion plan.
Everything’s off to a great start and just humming along.
But then…the items stop coming in and everything has come to what seems to be a standstill.
You start to worry. Not just about your catalog, but... What if no one bids?
What if you don’t reach your goal?
What if everything goes horribly wrong and they blame you?
So you call your Account Manager at BiddingforGood to check in and they tell you everything looks great (because it does!) and you start to feel better.
As it gets closer to your auction opening, items start pouring in again and everything seems back on track!
The auction opens and people start bidding!
Everything is AWESOME!
No really, it's AWESOME.
Finally – the auction is closed and you’re ready to breathe a sigh of relief!
You’re ready for this to be over!
Everything is closed out and credit cards have been charged. You beat your fundraising goal and are ready to party!
Instead, you take a nap. A long, refreshing nap.
Then get ready for next year’s auction!
But before you do that, you call your friends at BiddingForGood and thank them for being there for you every step of the way
Running an auction or fundraising event can be stressful – almost enough to keep you up at night! People are always asking about worst-case scenarios. But knowing the worst case scenario isn’t helpful, unless you also know how to avoid it or what you can do in case it does happen.
Having run more than 20,000 auctions at BiddingForGood, we’ve seen it all. We prefer to focus on the good things that can happen, but we also know what to do if disaster strikes. We picked the brains of our auction experts to create a list of the “worst things that can happen.” And then we asked them for their advice for best practices to avoid disaster.
We’ve collected the seven most common auction disasters (and how to avoid them) together in Nightmare on Auction Street, which you can download here. We are also doing a webinar, How to Avoid a “Nightmare” at Your Auction Event, on Tuesday, October 8th at 2:00 EDT. You can register for the webinar here.
The most important thing that the auction experts identified to avoid auction nightmares is to have a plan. If you’re prepared, it’s easier to face any challenges that might arise head on. Auction nightmares aren’t as scary in the light of day. So get planning!
If you asked me two years ago why I didn’t have a smart phone, I would have gladly launched into a diatribe about the slew of reasons I did not need or want one. Then about a year and a half ago I learned about BiddingForGood’s plan to launch mobile bidding at auction events. As a member of the Client Services Team I knew I’d be tasked with answering all kinds of questions about mobile bidding. I knew I wouldn’t be able to answer them all if I had never used a smart phone myself. I decided I had to get one whether I liked it or not.
I walked into the Verizon store that night and asked for “the best smart phone you have”. I figured I might as well get the best if I had to get one. At the time I was given an iPhone 4s. Naturally I started playing around with it the second after I bought it. I had to figure out how to check my email and google important things like how “epic” became a word that means nothing.
Next up was bidding on a BiddingForGood demo auction. As a person who’d never even held an iPhone before, I was the best guinea big there was. I quickly found out there was nothing to it. I just logged in, picked an item, entered a bid amount, clicked Place Bid and I was done. I breathed a sigh relief seeing it wasn’t hard at all and figured if I could do it anyone could!
Now it’s a year and a half later and if you asked me why I have a smart phone, I would gladly launch into a diatribe about why I would not live without one. Yes, I’m addicted to Words with Friends and Candy Crush. Yes, I text and email more than I used to it. And yes, I do have mixed feelings about the new operating system (IOS 7 ) I just downloaded. But I’ve also helped a lot of clients and bidders realize that they can take fundraising to the next level by assuring them that anyone who has used a smart phone can figure out how to bid from it; even if they literally just walked out of the store.