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!
I recently learned about a Panera Bread in Boston that has a “pay what you can” program. Customers have the option of paying the listed price, or more than the listed price, or less if that’s what they can afford. When I heard about the program a lot of questions ran through my head.
What is the motivation behind it?
Helping people is the main reason, but isn’t this also good for the face of the company? Yes. And it should be. Companies should be recognized for finding new ways to help other people.
Who is this helping exactly?
Anyone who needs it. Maybe it’s a homeless person or a college student putting themselves through school. It could be a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Or maybe, one day, it could be you or me. Hunger has many faces for many reasons. Panera Bread’s “pay what you can” program is helping alot of different people enjoy a delicious meal, even when they feel that they can't afford it.
Why would someone pay more than the price listed?
I’m of the belief that most people want to help, but they don’t always know how. Paying an extra dollar for lunch, to help another person afford a meal, is an easy and powerful way to make a difference, one meal at a time. Some customers may even choose this Panera Bread over another café, just so they can help someone else.
It’s the same reason that our bidders choose to buy trips, designer bags, and sports tickets on our site. I can find a great pair of designer sunglasses all over the web, but when I shop on BiddingForGood, I know that the purchase will matter to more than just me. If we can continue to find ways to make a difference with everyday purchases, we won’t pause before giving. We’ll give because it’s what we always do!
Everybody loves s
ports. Or almost everybody. If you're not a sports fan, you surely know lots of people that are. Why is it that people are so passionate about sports? Because it brings people together. It brings them together in teams. It brings them together on the sidelines and in the stands and on the golf course. It brings them together in living rooms during big contests like the Super Bowl and the Masters and the World Series.
It touches the human spirit in ways that are hard to explain. We watch athletes, whether they be pros on the basketball court or small fry on the soccer field. We love to watch them show grit, push themselves and demonstrate their commitment to their teammates. And we route for them, we cheer for them. We revel in watching them excel. This is passion and passion drives people to generosity. This is why there are so many auctions tied to sports.
Baseball, one of the great American pastimes, is upon us. The kids, particularly those who have been cooped up indoors all winter, are finally getting outdoors for spring sports. Tennis and golf will challenge and entertain many this summer. (If you are like the golfers I know, you will likely not be entertained but frustrated by your golf game this summer).
College athletic departments are recruiting and promoting themselves and their programs. Before you know it, Pop Warner teams will be out training for the football season. There are legions of sports fans of every size and shape. And when there is this much passion, there is generosity.
If you are a large nonprofit, do you have a relationship with a sports team? There are really exciting auctions now possible in stadiums with fans bidding on their mobile phones. In Boston, the Boston Celtics have relationships with 8 different charities each year.
If you are connected to a school, is there a booster club or an athletic team or a department that needs to fundraise? Do your kids play soccer or pop warner. Here's how you can help support the team. Be a fan who fundraises! The possiblities are endless. Go Team!
I sat down to write a blog today about an upcoming initiative that we are doing to highlight the sports related auctions that are happening on the BiddingForGood platform. I had written a draft last week and came back to re-read what I had written. It was largely focused on the passion that people feel for their teams, for their fellow athletes and for their sports. It was about how that kind of passion often engenders real generosity. But I have found myself unable to finish that blog before acknowledging the incredible sadness that we feel at BiddingForGood about the events at the Boston marathon yesterday.
As a Boston-based company, everyone here has friends who were at the marathon and many who were at or near the finish line. We have staffers who live mere blocks from where the explosions happened yesterday. We had a couple of folks who had taken the day off yesterday to be at this iconic event. We are very touched by the outpouring of support that has come from all over the country. From our colleagues who work in other parts of the country to our clients who have expressed such concern and support. From our President who spoke on behalf of a nation, once again rocked by a horrifying and senseless act, to our local leaders who are showing the real grit and character that Bostonians are so proud of.
Of course the irony of the day has not been not lost on us. I actually live in Concord, MA, where the minutemen march on this day to commemorate the first battle of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1776. We have always celebrated the great spirit and bravery of the men and women who helped form this country. And yesterday as we watched the events unfolded, we were struck again by the bravery and the resiliance of our citizens.
Another local company and partner of ours, Hubspot, wrote an inspiring post "Why We Are Proud To Be A Boston Company". It was beautifully written and echoes many of the sentiments that we at BiddingForGood feel about our wonderful city and its residents.
Elsewhere on the web, I read an inspiring post about a local athlete, Joe Andruzzi, a former New England Patriots player who was at the finish line and jumped in as a first responder. We have actually worked with the Joe Andruzzi Foundation to help them in their fundraising. Joe Andruzzi was not alone. One of the signature elements of the Boston Marathon are the number of people who run for charities. Every cause imaginable is represented and there are many runners who run to support the causes they care about.
We listened with horror about the team of runners who were running in honor of the lives lost at Sandy Hook. Many of their family and friends were at the finish line. That is way too much for any group of people to endure.
But what does endure is the generous spirit of so many. The first-responders and the teams of surgeons and the athletes and spectators who ran not away but towards the blast to help. We are all deeply affected by this tragedy but are proud to be Bostonians. Many thanks for the great support from the BiddingForGood community everywhere.
And the winner is........Kelsey and her charity of choice: Tourism Cares. The 2013 BracketsforGood tournament has come to a close, and it was quite a ride. The championship game on Monday was an intra-department battle. Two Auction Experts in the client services department went head to head; Kelsey with Louisville versus Allison with Michigan. The game was pretty entertaining throughout and Louisville pulled away at the end to clinch it.
So, what does this mean as per the tournament rules, you ask? It means that we get to make a solid donation to a great cause! In order to enter, everyone had to donate $10, just like a normal 'brackets' pool. Kelsey took all the winnings ($160) and has already made a donation online to her charity of choice, Tourism Cares.
Tourism Cares is an organization who's motto is 'Restoring the Past. Preserving the Future.' They save and maintain important historical sites across the world, so everyone can enjoy visiting and learning from them for years to come. Through education programs, mentoring and scholarships they help educate and support young people that are studying travel and the tourism industry. They also make efforts to coordinate volunteers to help clean up and restore historical sites that have fallen into disrepair.
Kelsey, a fun and caring member of the client services team chose Tourism Cares because of their mission. She feels that there are too many historical sites that are not being maintained and preservered properly, especially in developing countries. And it is important to her that these great tourist sites are around for future generations to come. All of us at BiddingForGood are very excited to be helping such a great cause, and we hope they appreciate being the beneficiary of our annual tournament.
We would encourage you to read and support Tourism Cares, or any of the 16 different organizations that our employees chose to play for in the tournament this year. They all mean something special to us here at BiddingForGood, and can always use more support.
See you in 2014!
At BiddingForGood, we love celebrating the achievements of our customers. This post is one of a new series on our blog, highlighting some success stories. We hope that you can learn and be inspired by their stories, which demonstrate the variety of ways that our customers use BiddingForGood. For more celebrations 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!
North House Folk School is a traditional northern craft school in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Their mission centers on building community through the teaching of traditional northern craft. For the past 12 years, they have held a concert every September as their major fundraiser for their endowment fund. It has now grown into a concert series, with two recorded shows and the classic Unplugged concert, with around 700 attendees each. In tandem with the concerts, North House holds an auction and activities on their campus, such as artisan demonstrations.
North House bundled their promotion of the auction in with their promotion for the concerts on their website and in the e-newsletter. Participating hotels and resorts were willing to include it in their e-newsletters as well, since the North House auction website gave them broad exposure. To ensure that all concertgoers were aware of the auction, North House included a business card with a QR code to the auction homepage in all of the ticket envelopes.
Since North House’s concert series spans multiple nights, it had previously been hard to sustain interest in their auction. People would bid on items while they were there for the concert, but could not engage with it when not on campus. With BiddingForGood, people could participate regardless of their location, using a smart phone or computer.
North House also opted into the BiddingForGood philanthropic shopper community. They were pleasantly surprised in the ways that it expanded their audience. For example, one shopper bought a local hotel package through the auction. When they visited, they also came to see North House and check out their work. It expanded the overall audience that they could reach!
North House got more out of their subscription by hosting multiple auctions. In addition to the silent auction associated with the concert series, North House hosted an auction for front row and VIP tickets to the Unplugged concerts. The ticket auction helped drum up hype for the concerts and the front row VIP tickets sold above face value, raising even more to support North House’s cause.
As North House’s event has grown, local businesses have wanted to participate, but could not necessarily volunteer their time. The auction helps with community building, since it provides a way for businesses to participate, as well as mutually beneficial partnerships.
North House made more money from their silent auctions than ever before! In part, they were able to grow the auction without increasing the amount of time they spent on it. They were able to include more items, and the effort to do that did not detract from the concert and artisan experiences.
Check out North House’s success story on our website, and save the date for this year’s Unplugged concert and Points North auction!