Next week, on Thursday, September 27, BiddingForGood will be sharing the stage with Constant Contact at the first of a series of Seminars. The first one will take place in Boston at Space with a Soul.
Spending Less, Raising More is the name of the event and it's all about helping nonprofits and schools run better fundraising events. Why the partnership? Well both companies are incredibly invested in helping nonprofits succeed. While Constant Contact has a suite of tools that have helped all kinds of companies do better email marketing, social media marketing and event marketing, BiddingforGood is all about using fundraising auctions to raise much needed funds for nonprofits and schools. Many of our best practices are about using social media to promote your auctions and using email marketing to solicit items, to promote events and more. There is so much synergy between our two companies that we decided to head out on the road and share best practices, share some new ideas and ways to galvanize your fundraising.
As I've said many times before, no one ever said raising a lot of money was going to be easy, but there sure are a lot of great tools that make it easier and help you be more efficient. We'll give demos of the full line of products from each company and have lots of time for attendees to mingle and get to hear from their peers. BiddingForGood will even do a demo of our Mobile Bidding technology which should be lots of fun for everyone in attendance.
If this sounds like a good way to spend a morning, click here to register. We'd love to have you join us. If you have colleagues or friends who you'd like to invite, please do so. We promise you'll come away with lots of ideas and tips about how to run better events and how to take your fundraising to the next level.
We plan to visit some other cities later this fall. Stay tuned for those dates and info. In the meantime, rock on with your fundraising. We look forward to meeting many of you live and in person.
Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a cat lover. My entire life I’ve had cats and all of them have meant the world to me. Even my cubicle at work is graced with many cat pictures and a Nora the Piano Playing Cat calendar. (You must check out her video on youtube if you haven’t seen it!)
Sometimes after a long day, I head over to the Pet Smart near our office to visit the cats who are waiting there to be adopted. It took a few visits, but I soon realized that Pet Smart hosts the cats but Broken Tail Rescue is the non-profit that brings them there. Broken Tail Rescue posts information on each cat. The basics like their age, name, and gender are included but there’s also a little snippet about how they got there. Each cat has their own unique story.
It reminds me of the many Animal Welfare organizations that run auctions with us like the Pet Network Humane Society that is open now. Pet Network is a recognized leader in animal rescue, adoption, and education. And Cat Haven in Louisiana that has an auction opening today, for example. I recently liked their Facebook page and have seen many touching stories about cats that have been fostered and adopted. They even have a reminder on how to keep pets safe during Hurricane Isaac. Not everyone is able to adopt an animal, but our auctions offer many great opportunities for animal lovers to help and win something they’ll love.
I think there’s an instinct to help within all of us; including animals. Think of all the wonderful stories we hear on the news of animals helping people and each other. The instinct to help each other is clearly a universal one, but some follow that instinct more than others. It is easy to forget with everything else going on in our lives. But every day there are people who don’t forget to help. I know that all of our bidders and clients are among the people who make it a part of their daily lives to remember. If we could all be so generous and devoted as our animals.
This is my first post to our blog and well… there is a lot to cover! I guess a good place to start is who the heck am I? My name is Aaron Rissler and my role here is the Program Manager. One of the things we’re always striving for at BiddingForGood is to make our product as easy to use and intuitive as possible. One of the really interesting projects I’ve been working on over the summer is User Testing. What is that, you ask? Well, I'm going to tell you. It's basically all about us listening to you, our customers. We did a survey earlier this summer to get some input on some of the things we were thinking about adding to our products. In the survey we asked for volunteers to spend some time with us on the phone to look at what we were building and give us feedback. We then scheduled a number of calls to hear the feedback.
One of the areas where we needed input was around the upcoming change to our navigation in our Auction Manager. For years we’ve had the same layout in the software. There were headers on the page that organized our features into different buckets, and well, some people loved them and understood them and others did not. As a company we wanted to give the navigation a face lift and we wanted to make sure that it made sense not only to new customers but also to those who have used us for many years.
The test was pretty straight forward as we needed 2 questions answered; what features should be in the navigation of our tool and where should those features be located (what bucket)? With our engineering team and marketing team we sat down and identified our relevant audience; those who were current clients and those who had never heard of us. We drafted our test plan; with some great help from a Harvard Business School user testing pro! We took great notes to ensure we captured not only the actions of each user but how they felt while using the navigation. We learned from each and every conversation and were able to implement changes to make the product better.
The result has been amazing. We have a clean new navigation which just launched this last week. We believe it will help the longtime BiddingForGood customers and our brand new customers who are just beginning to bring their fundraising to the next level. Not a current BiddingForGood client? Click here to learn more. And if you have feedback for us. Don't be shy. We really do want to hear it. Write us. Call Us. We're all about making our products and services work harder for you.
Stay tuned for my next post: Life on the Road! How to make the most of your event.
I am always delighted to discover other companies that have built their business around helping worthy causes. There is so much need in the world and there is no end to the creative ways that businesses, large and small, can make a difference. That's the premise that BiddingForGood was built on. But today I want to put the spotlight on a couple of other companies that are creatively doing business and doing good at the same time.
BakingForGood is an online bakery dedicated to selling irresistible gourmet cookie gifts that are perfect for any occasion. They essentially took the old-fashioned bake sale and put it online. And while they are selling baked goods, they're also committed to supporting causes that are important to their customers. 15% of the net proceeds from every purchase made on their site goes to a cause of the buyers choosing. We discovered them earlier this year and actually sent some of their delicious cookies as a thank you to some of our partners. How fabulous to be able to buy the things you love (who doesn't love cookies) and do something worthwhile for an organization that you care about.
Click here to watch a short video on the story of BakingForGood.
Another company that I just learned about is called TalkForGood. Their mission is simple- Do good, one call at a time. TalkForGood is a new kind of company that helps people do good by talking on the phone. Each month, TalkForGood will donate a percentage of each customer's phone bill to the charities that they support. So if you are a consumer who talks on the phone... um.. I think that would be just about everyone.. and you want to make a difference, here is a way to do that. Let's do the math.. if everyone you know chose to use this phone system, the numbers would add up quickly. Think about all that impact. If you want to be part of their beta program, you can sign up here.
If you are a nonprofit and want a new and creative way for your supporters to support you in an ongoing way, both TalkForGood and BakingForGood are worth checking out. Or if you are a consumer who likes to shop for a cause, then this is for you too.
So let's sum it up here folks. You can eat cookies from BakingForGood and support worthy causes. You can talk on the phone through TalkForGood and support worthy causes and you can shop on BiddingForGood and support worthy causes. If you are a nonprofit or a school you can do all of the above and further your mission. Yum. Sounds good to me.
Best Practices for your Interns, Volunteers and fundraising Auctions
I recently had the chance to speak with Robbie Samuels, Senior Manager of Events and Donor Engagement at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), about intern and volunteer engagement. We also talked about how to successfully run a fundraising auction for your nonprofit. Robbie has managed 12 silent auctions over the last seven years and has raised amounts ranging from $15K in 2005 to $30K in 2012. Nice job, Robbie!
This blog post will focus on some ideas and best practices he uses with his interns and volunteers to maximize the effectiveness of GLAD’S auctions.
- Learn what it means to be a supervisor. “Raise the bar on your expectations and interns will meet or exceed it.” When interns and volunteers get strong training, know where to go for questions, and are given the opportunity to solve problems, they help build a strong auction team. Treat them as employees and invite them to department meetings and staff events whenever possible. Inclusion helps them understand the bigger picture of your organization’s mission.
- Invest time in training your interns and volunteers. Robbie chooses to spend more time on training and mentoring his interns and volunteers rather than building a large auction committee. Over the years, he has had anywhere from a .5 FTE (full time equivalent) intern to 1.5 FTE interns working for a minimum of 6 months prior to the auction. Look for the combination that is right for your organization.
- Find great auction items. A key component of any auction is the items. Aside from taking note of items auctioned at local charity events, Robbie suggests spending some time having interns and volunteers canvas local businesses in teams of two. He arms them with an auction donor request letter on his letterhead for them to hand out, with a reply form on the back. Another great idea is to make sure your team wear t-shirts from your organization while out on the streets!
- Send an introductory email before approaching businesses. Robbie schedules two large canvassing days, a month apart, and emails businesses a week before he plans to visit, and then again a day before. This approach allows the business to think of what they can offer. He says that sometimes he will walk into a business and they will already have an auction item waiting for him.
- Don’t be afraid to look far and wide for interns and volunteers. Robbie has recruited from Northeastern University, GLAD’s website, and from the community via Craigslist. In fact, Robbie volunteers himself, organizing a well-established Meetup group called Socializing for Justice (http://www.sojust.org). It is a wonderful resource for local internships, jobs, volunteers and networking events.
Robbie is always full of great advice and ways to do things better. He reminds us to not limit ourselves to only local community resources for auction donations. Put together great travel packages by soliciting a hotel stay, restaurant gift cards, tickets to a cultural attraction and/or spa services. Robbie has found that businesses are more willing to donate if they know they’re going to be part of a package, so be sure to mention that in your letter.
Robbie Samuels utilizes his extensive event planning and fundraising experience to improve upon GLAD’s successful annual events. As development’s liaison he engages with donors motivated by GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. Robbie co-organizes Socializing for Justice (http://www.SoJust.org), a grassroots group he co-founded in 2006 to build a cross-cultural, cross-issue progressive community, network and movement in Boston based on the philosophy of abundance. He also provides trainings on the Art of the Schmooze, Fundraising: Getting Past the Fear of Asking, QPR: Suicide Prevention for Community Leaders, and Intercultural Awareness. He holds a BA and an MSW from SUNY Stony Brook. Learn more about him at www.robbiesamuels.com.
I just read a very interesting article about how people view their own creativity around the world. The article which appeared in Ad Age was inspired by a global study conducted by Adobe. It also talked about whether people perceive their countries as maximizing their creative potential. What an interesting topic. Believe it or not, we found this article because we were having an internal debate here at BiddingForGood about how many of our customers think of themselves as creative. We sure hope that most of them do.
Here's the good news. Here in the United States we give ourselves higher marks as being more creative than any other country around the world. 52% of Americans think of themselves as creative. 6 in 10 felt that creativity was very important for the health of our country. In this election season, it's an interesting idea to ponder. But we'll resist getting into an election discussion today. It rarely ends well.
Personally I place very high marks on creativity in life and in work. But for our customers who are putting on fundraising auctions, I would place creativity as a crucial attribute of the organization. Creativity in promotion, in merchandising, and in creating a great experience for your supporters are all really important to a successful auction. Where do we see creativity at it's best? We see it in the unusual and "priceless" items that customers put into their auctions. We see it in the way that they merchandise their auction and their items. We see it in the creative ways that people address challenges around fundraising. And we all know that there are many challenges associated with asking people to part with their money.
So here's to creativity in life, in work and in fundraising auctions. May we never settle for old and tired but always look for fresh ideas, fresh thinking and new ways to inspire our supporters.
Over the last year, we have been talking about the concept of a Smart Auction. This idea was introduced around the launch of our Smart Bidding offering. Being able to bid on a mobile device at a live event has brought very exciting changes to the world of fundraising auctions and we've been right there, bringing the latest and greatest to our customers. Smart Auctions bring together the best elements of silent, live and online auctions and are enabled through any device, from anywhere, at any time.
So along with a new way to think about auctions and to talk about auctions we are also renaming our blog to best represent our world of Smart Auctions. Over the last year, we've actually had two different blogs- Online Auction Central and Goodness in Action. Online Auction Central has been the place where we have shared tips and tricks about running successful online auctions. Goodness in Action has been the place where we have put the spotlight on organizations and ideas that embody the notion of Goodness In Action. As a company we are committed to both sharing best practices, supporting our customers throughout the process of running their fundraising events AND to thought-leadership and sharing provocative ideas to inspire more "Goodness in Action".
So next week our blogs will come together into one blog called Smart Auction Central. We will continue to do what we've always done in these blogs and will continue to share what we know, inspire success and celebrate the great work of nonprofits and schools. As always, we invite you to share as well, to comment on what you're reading, and to spread the good word. We're very committed to our mission which is all about helping you be more successful in your fundraising so that you can further your mission as well. Rock on.
My father has always told me: “Your education is one thing they can never take away from you.” No matter what hardships, judgments, or losses we must face, our education will always be ours to keep. I believe that an education is truly priceless. I think that’s why I was so eager to participate when I learned about Project Backpack, a school supply drive, which benefits a nonprofit called Solutions At Work. They partner with individuals and families to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in the Boston Area.
Each year we receive an email about Project Backpack asking us to help make the school year a little brighter, for our neighbors in need, by helping kids in grades K-5 get the school supplies they need. We receive a list of suggested donations including pencils, notebooks, dictionaries, and backpacks to drop off at our building. Each year I print out a copy of the list and keep it in my purse for the next time I’m near a store like Staples. There are tons of great deals on school supplies this time of year. I recently found very nice notebooks for just fifty cents each! Deals like those make it easy to make a number of donations to kids and families who really need it. The drop box next to our front door makes it very easy to drop off our donations on our way in to work.
Project Backpack also reminds me to encourage our schools to create Fund-A-Need items in their fall auctions. Fund-A-Need items are essentially very specific donations like the list we receive for Project Backpack. A Fund-A-Need item could be a Buy Now Only item for $25 toward school supplies. A bidder can know they’ve helped a lot of kids with one click. Bidders respond very well to these types of items. They know exactly how they are helping, they can donate even if they don’t win an item, and if nothing else grabs them, they can buy a bunch of Fund-A-Need items.
Donations like notebooks, pens, index cards, and glue sticks might seem very simple. But I believe that they are still really important . These are the physical tools that children need to learn. These donations also help our teachers. In recent years, many teachers are paying for these school supplies out of their own pocket. Every donation counts.
On a more personal note, I hope that a notebook I donated will help a young student start their school year off on the right foot. I also hope that it will be a small contribution to an education that that student will one day know is priceless.
I am a huge camp person. Anyone who knows me knows this about me. The picture on this blog is an example of what a crazy camp person I am. I actually convinced my husband and son to build me a camp-like tent in my yard in Vermont. This is the place that I rest and read and watch the birds and my chickens. Sometimes I even think up blog topics. It is a truly magical place. Ok- but back to camp.
So this weekend, I was at a chapel service at camp. It was Parents Weekend in the middle of the season at the boys camp called Lanakila where my son is a counselor. The place was crawling with kids and their parents. We had a near mystical chapel service in the woods, complete with beautiful music and wonderful storytelling about the things that are really important in life. And then.. it was time for the offering.
The Assistant Director talked about the cause that we were supporting with our offering- Village2Village, a village in Africa that Lanakila has adopted. There are a number of ways that the camp supports this village. A former counselor has taken groups of kids there to do service. They have even bulit a re-creation of the castle that is one of the iconic landmarks at camp.
But here's the point of the story. During the chapel service the camp folks were asking for our support of this cause through our offering. They were asking for support for this place on the other side of the world. They had some pictures that were great and helped people connect with the cause. But then, the Assistant Director, Bryan, told us that two young women from the village were there on Sunday. They had come thousands of miles and were willing and happy to talk to us. They were introduced and stood up to great applause. It turns out that these were the first two girls from this village who had actually enrolled in college. And suddenly, the ask became much more real and much more personal. This was not just a place on the other side of the world, but this was a place with real people who cared enough about our gifts and our commitment to them that they had traveled up to the woods of Vermont.
I don't have the numbers but I'm willing to bet that the offering on Sunday were more bountiful and generous than usual. When you tell compelling stories, when real people speak from their hearts about the need, people are moved to generosity.
Our clients are raising money every day on our platform. And we know that when they are able to tell a compelling story about their organization and their impact, they are more successful. That's why we launched the feature on our home page called Goodness in Action. If you are an organization doing good work and having impact, we want to share your story.
So here's to compelling storytelling in fundraising and in life. And I can't help myself.. here's to camp. May every child away at camp this summer have the same magical, mystical experience that I had.
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading the book Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm written by Erin Byers Murray. Erin and I were sorority sisters at Syracuse University. Erin, a former lifestyle editor at The Daily Candy, was (what I think) “living the life.” She got paid to dine at the finest restaurants and to check out the latest in spa treatments. With a lavish city life and an abundance of schmoozing at spectacular parties, she felt like something was missing.
Erin’s passion had always been food and she yearned to learn more about the culinary world, restaurants, and more importantly, where her food came from. Through a chance meeting with the owner of Island Creek Oyster Farm, located in Duxbury, MA, she was able to convince the farm crew to allow her to work with them for an entire year. She was determined to see just how much blood (literally), sweat, and tears went into the fine food she had dined on for so many years. She traded her stilettos for a rubber boots and pants and weathered all the hardships of an oyster farm.
The reason I want to shed light on this story is two-fold. One, I consider Erin a socially responsible person. She wanted to know where her food was coming from and understand the work and production behind the scenes. She asked lots of questions. Two, Island Creek Oyster is an example of a socially responsible company and is located just 5 short minutes away from my home. The company runs and maintains a sustainable oyster farm that not only improves upon the local environment and community, but serves restaurants across the country.
I’m not saying we should all quit our jobs and work on a farm (although I do daydream often), but I think we can start asking more questions about the products we use and the food we eat. I think being knowledgeable may help us feel more fulfilled in how we make our purchases -whatever they may be.
I highly recommend reading Shucked this summer and please check out other books listed on BiddingForGood’s summer reading list.