I get a very interesting newsletter every month from the folks at TrendWatching.com.
This week in their Trend Briefings report they wrote about "Newism" and here's what they say..
"The ‘new’ has never been hotter, as the entire world, from emerging to mature economies, is now creating new products, services and experiences on a daily, if not hourly basis."
It made me reflect on a seminar that I spoke at recently for the Arts and Business Council of New York City. The event took place at the Foundation Center and brought together a number nonprofits to hear about fundraising auctions- new and old. It was a fascinating point/counterpoint as my co-presenter spoke about his church auction. It's an annual event and they do it the old-fashioned way. Here at BiddingForGood, we are so busy looking ahead to what's new that we sometimes forget to remember from whence we have come.
As I listened to him describe their auction, the challenges they face, the hurdles they try to overcome every year, I was actually very excited to realize just how far we have come. With technology, we have been able to break down the barriers of space and time. No longer does a fundraising event need to be confined to one location on one night with one finite group of people. No longer does the auction chair need to sweat how many people will actually show up at the event on the appointed night. Will the weather cooperate? Will the items arrive on time? Will the crowd be "feeling it". With our "newism"- Smart Auctions- many of those worries are mitigated. You can open your auction wide and invite a much broader audience. You can use all of the great tools that the internet offers to promote your event and your auction. You can create a special online destination for your auction where people can preview items in the comfort of their homes, where they can buy tickets, where they can make cash donations.
Most of my career has been about focusing on what's new and what's next. I was lucky enough to be on the original executive team of one of the first search engines on the web (AltaVista) We're talking 1997 here folks. And while it is always exciting to be looking forward, I've learned that it's a real challenge to help customers get ready to take the leap into something new. The Trend Briefing article makes the point that the pace of innovation and this emerging trend of Newism is affecting every product category and the way consumers think about products and companies. I'm wondering what we can do in this climate to help our customers make the leap. One of my favorite expressions is- "Jump in, the waters warm". Anyone have any ideas of ways that we can encourage our prospects to try the new, to move beyond the tried and true? If you have ideas, let us hear them.
What the heck.. it's summer, the air is warm and so is the water. Jump on in!
Here at BiddingForGood, we’re insatiably curious about a lot of things. We’re especially intrigued by anything that concerns the fundraising efforts of the schools, nonprofits, and charities that we serve, as well as the generous folks who attend and bid in auctions to support so many of these great causes.
These are some of the questions that keep us up at night:
- How effective are silent auctions? What gets in the way of success?
- Why do bidders attend fundraising events? Are they focused on the auction at all?
- How much are organizations charging for event tickets?
- What types of items are bidders most likely to bid on?
Fortunately, we have big pool of smart people to whom we can ask such questions – not just our school and nonprofit customers (now over 6,700), but also our Bidder Community, which is made up of more than 330,000 affluent, cause-minded consumers who loyally shop across our auctions. So we surveyed both groups, and compiled the results into a new eBook, The State of the Silent Auction. We should be able to sleep at night now, but we’re eager to have you read the eBook and let us know what you think.
You can find out the answers to the burning questions above – and more – by downloading the complimentary eBook here. Please take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
'Tis the season…to start walking (or running or biking) for charity! Fundraising walk season is in full force and I’m sure you’ve already noticed an uptick in advertisements, posters, along with friends and family asking for donations for an upcoming event.
In fact, just a couple of Sundays ago, on May 6th, my fiancé and I were just two out of the 41,000 people who participated in the Walk for Hunger in Boston. The Walk for Hunger is a 20 mile walk to help raise funds for Project Bread. This walk alone raised a much needed $3.6 million dollars which will help a range of community hunger relief programs throughoutMassachusetts.
It’s been noted that fundraising walks/run/etc can be great way to not only raise money, but also increase awareness for the non-profit running it. According to a 2011 Run Walk Ride Foundation study, the top-thirty “thon” programs raised $1.69 billion in gross revenue for the charity. The top charity was The Relay for Life, raising $415 million. The same study also showed a 1.76% increase in participation too.
Since middle school, I’ve participated in many fundraising walks and runs, my first being the AIDS Walk in NYC. Then when I started running, I also started participating in 5Ks and other charity fun runs and races. (My first 5K ever was the M.O.M.’s Run in Somerville 3 years ago.)
I enjoy participating in these walks and runs because not only am I exercising (which we all know I love), I’m also helping a non-profit with their fundraising efforts, and the events are usually pretty fun! Many of them offer incentives for raising certain amounts of money (I got a nice shirt from Project Bread for raising over $500.), as well as snacks and entertainment during and after the event.
I think that’s why fundraising walks and runs have gained so much popularity in the non-profit world and with its participants: it’s pretty fun way to spend a day (or 3 depending on the event) all while raising funds for a charity you support…and you might even get a cool shirt.
Around the time of when Walter Issacson’s book on former Apple CEO Steve Jobs came out in the Fall of 2011, I started to think a little bit differently about how I wanted to live my life. Jobs preached towards the end of his life about how important it was to make the most out of every single day we have on this big-blue rock. I realized that I was not doing enough with my time. Right around the same time, a friend of mine named David Cohen (http://www.docwayne.org/david-video) was named the Executive Director of a Boston-based nonprofit called Doc Wayne (501c3). David had previously started his own nonprofit called Playing It Forward, so I was not surprised he was charged with leading another organization. He asked me if I might be interested in helping out with his new organization and I jumped at the chance; not really knowing anything about the organization.
Doc Wayne’s mission is to offer youth who are burdened with complex trauma, serious emotional disorders, and severely challenging behaviors an innovative and therapeutic experience. The experience is offered through the medium of team sports based on a specifically designed therapeutic curriculum and stressing positive youth development. Sports played a significant role in my life as a youth (and into my adult years as prior to working for BiddingForGood I spent 10+ years working in professional sports and entertainment) and I was interested to see how this organization could help these young men and women who have dealt with so much difficulty in their young lives.
My role with the organization was simple; referee soccer and basketball games. It was made very clear to me that this was not like most youth sports in that the players have not been exposed to being members of a team and few have ever played in any organized sports activities. With the different traumas or disorders these kids were dealing with I was expecting it to be like a pool of 5 year-olds chasing a soccer ball around a field at best, but it turned out to be something much, much more.
Before coming to play in a Doc Wayne league, players are taught about Doc Wayne’s core philosophy, which is called Do The Good (DtG). DtG is about getting to a place on the field and off the field where you feel effective, and you got there without doing any harm to anyone else. In other words, it’s about working hard to find your ‘positive path.’ It was clear right from the start that the skill level of these kids was not the highest but they completely bought into this DtG mindset and were immediately enjoying this distraction from the stresses of their daily lives. They were also learning how to become more social, shaking the hands of opponents, helping teammates up after falling, and high-fiving after someone scored (All skills they could take with them when they left the field). As an observer, this to me was what sports should be all about: A release from stress, the chance to learn, an opportunity to work as part of a team and to have fun.
Since I started volunteering with Doc Wayne, my fiancée has also become involved with the charity and it now is something that we could not imagine not having in our lives. It’s become something we can do as a couple and feel good about on the ride home at night. We might not have a direct impact in the lives of these kids on a daily basis, but for a little while each week we can share a kind word or show a skill that was not learned before (we might even be getting more out of this than the kids sometimes). It’s amazing to seeing kids deal with their difficulties through sports and I am pretty happy that we have the opportunity.
I hope from this piece you take away two things:
1.) Get involved. I was so wrapped up in me for so long that I forgot how great it can feel to give back. No matter the cause or activity, take some time out of your life and try to make someone else’s better as I’m sure it will come back to you in some way.
2.) Do the Good. I think most people live this way but it’s a simple philosophy…put yourself in a position to follow a positive path and you are setting yourself up for a successful future.
This week on Online Auction Central, we are focusing on the volunteer work of BiddingForGood employees (outside all the great work they do for the company).
Valeria Amato just celebrated her 4 year anniversary with BiddingForGood. She has literally helped thousands of nonprofit organizations raise more money than they ever could imagine. Recently I attended an event where I ran into a woman who ran online auctions with BiddingForGood. As soon as she heard where I worked, she starting raving about Valeria and all the help she has given to her organization. As a Senior Online Auction Expert, Valeria has certainly made a few friends along the way.
The interesting thing here is that Valeria’s good deeds don’t stop when she walks out of BiddingForGood’s doors at night (sometimes very late). Valeria is a volunteer. Need I say more? She volunteers at the Somerville Arts Council in her free time.
The mission of the Somerville Arts Council is to cultivate and celebrate the creative expressions of the Somerville community. Through innovative collaborations and quality programming we work to make the arts an integral part of life reflective of our diverse city.
Having worked with so many nonprofits, I asked Valeria why the Somerville Arts Council was so important to her. Valeria responded, “I like volunteering for the Somerville Arts Council because of their mission is to celebrate Somerville’s community. They hold a variety of cultural and artistic events throughout the year. I also like the fact that it’s not a major time commitment. I can help out for a few hours here and there…and for someone who has a lot of stuff going on, it’s perfect!”
Valeria has been volunteering with the council since the summer of 2005 when she volunteered for one of their biggest events, Art Beat -a 2-day art festival in Davis Square. She has helped with a variety of events and projects with her favorite being the Illuminations Tour, a fun trolley tour of holiday lights around Somerville. Currently, she is helping with their food blog, Nibble and has written a few entries for their restaurant guide. She even tested a recipe for their soon to be published, Nibble Book, featuring dishes from local restaurants. Did I mention that Valeria is also a member of the BiddingForGood blog editorial team?
The most important part of volunteering for Valeria is being able to support and be an active part of your community. She says, “It’s also a great way do something different outside of work and the “regular” routine.” She adds, “The hardest part about volunteering is the wanting to help, but not always having the time.
It is Funny she mentions having time. I asked Valeria, “If you had had more time, what would the second organization be that would volunteer at?” Her response was this, “I actually volunteer at a second place! I volunteer at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market on some Saturday mornings. I help at the information table and answer any questions about the market.”
BiddingForGood is ramping up for our busiest season which includes lots of school fundraising auctions. We asked experienced auction consultant, Alex Durant of Durant Consulting, to give us her words of wisdom about fundraising auctions to better help your school raise more money!
Alex has worked with clients such as The Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami and the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida – so her helpful auction tips are certainly tried and true.
Solicitation - Instead of a blanket ask to donors, be specific! Ask for exactly what you want from each donor. Shoot for the stars! They can only say no, and just might say yes.
Creative packaging – How much money can you raise with a $50 dining gift certificate? Probably about $30. But, if you can package 12 gift certificates worth $50 each- you have “Dine Out For A Year” for total value of $600. This will probably sell for $500 (over $40 per certificate). Throw in movie passes, tickets to a show, etc and you have “Date Night for a Year."
Building your online catalog – Merchandising is key! Utilize images to make your catalog a true shopping experience. Instead of ‘clip art’ icons for categories, I recommend gathering images of the donations from the donors such as hotel property photos and restaurant logos to make the items stand-out.
Timing is everything - Keep your catalog fresh by frequently adding new items. When sending your email blasts, feature these new items. Try to mix up the range of pricing and types of items that are new to the catalog to make every bidder happy.
~Alex Durant, Auction Consultant
Outside of BiddingForGood, there are two things that have started consuming my free time lately: wedding planning and betting on sports. On the surface, the two appear to be pretty much opposite from one another. But, I’ve recently discovered that both provide fun and creative ways to fundraise!
As a recently engaged couple, my fiancé and I have started the adventure of preparing for our wedding. So far, most of my research has been done on the web. My favorite site is OffbeatBride.com, which is a collection of wedding and relationship related posts, amazing photos of real weddings, and a community of brides-to-be from all walks of life. They had a really interesting post yesterday on charitable weddings and creative ways to support the causes you love. In the handful of weddings I’ve been to, some of the couples have given donations to a cause they support in lieu of an actual favor for their guests. But, this post expanded more on the idea and gave some great examples, such as instead of guests clicking their glasses to see the newlyweds kiss, they have to give a small donation! Another couple turned the wedding’s potluck menu into a cookbook and all proceeds from the sales benefitted the charity they chose. The comments section is also filled with some great ideas!
The idea of being charitable during your wedding can even expand beyond the reception: As a part of her bachelorette party, a friend of mine is participating in a fundraising walk to benefit a local rape crisis center. Besides having a great party to celebrate this milestone, it really got my fiancé and me to think of ways to be charitable, even if it’s just a little bit, during our wedding.
Not only are we betting on sports, but sports are increasingly becoming a household topic. My fiancé has always been a sports fan and slowly but surely he’s gotten me interested. It’s gotten to the point where I watch ESPN during my runs on the treadmill because I find highlights of basketball player’s dunking or having an amazing play “motivational!” Regardless of my level of sports knowledge, I have always been a fan of March Madness, betting on the brackets with friends and co-workers, and the smack talk that comes along with it. So, when my colleagues Brian and Eric started asking around about setting up BracketsForGood, I was in immediately! Besides competing with my colleagues, I also love the fact that if (and when) I win, the money we’ve collected will go to my charity of choice, the Hoboken Historical Museum. As Brian and Eric promised, you’ll hear more about everyone’s charities of choice in the next few weeks.
Also as our BracketsForGood tournament came into fruition, we also learned about the original BracketsForGood! As Kaijsa explained in her interview with Matt, the co-founder, BracketsForGood uses an online bracket system to help raise money for Indianapolis non-profits. While it’s not betting on sports, the bracket concept is there and it’s fun for people to participate and raise funds for causes they love. So you can sign me up!
This past week has proven to me that there are many ways for non-profits to creatively raise money. How are you fundraising creatively?
Over the past couple of months, my BiddingForGood colleagues and I have tried to shed some knowledge on what sells well on our site. This time of year is an extremely busy season for running auctions, so you need to make sure that your fundraising auction has key items to help you raise the most money possible.
Online auctions are different than live auctions because you cannot physically see or touch these items. However, with the addition of our mobile platform, this will change everything. (Sorry, I'm in sales.) What I want to talk about is what to stray away from in your online auction. There are things that work well. But, there are also things that don't work as well.
Artwork: Items, like artwork, photographs, and paintings, are all tangible and tend to be hard to view online. People like to be able to know what they are bidding on and know what they are spending money on. You have to make your bidders want to support your cause by having items that are easy to see and easy to visualize. Try to minimize the amount of artwork you have in your auction. I think you will see an increase of activity if you flush out some art pieces in your next auction. (With the exception of some art organizations which have a community of art buyers who are willing to purchase online.)
Jewelry and Clothing: These items are very similar to artwork, where they tend to do better at live events. If I were a bidder, I would find it hard for me to buy an article of clothing or piece of jewelry for my invisible girlfriend online. It's hard to see what the actual item is, so try to limit these items.
Household Items: Sure, I need a rake and a hammer just as much as the next person. But, am I really going to buy it online from an organization that is 2 time zones away? I don't think so. Try to stay away from putting these items online. What you can do is be creative with these items. Have a package with the rake and a gift card to a local home and garden shop. The more creative you are with these items, the better chance you have of selling them.
Consignment Items: I am not saying that consignment items should not be in your catalog. They tend to be higher priced items, and can really beef up your catalog. However, the amount of consignment items you have in your auction catalog should be small and precise. Having all consignment items in your catalog makes your auction look very expensive, and most people won't spend time on your auction. Vary the items and make people want to stay on your auction page longer.
I hope this helps. Try to use these suggestions in your next auction and I guarantee the results will show.
Following in the footsteps of Eric, I’m continuing with our ‘Engaged Men of BiddingForGood’ wedding week theme. I’m excited to talk about how planning a wedding is very similar to planning an online auction. My fiancée Wendy and I are getting married in 100 days from today. We are definitely beginning to feel the pressure of the impending day. While it may be one of the most exciting times for a couple, it also comes with stress. So here are a few things we’ve learned that may help alleviate that anxiety.
Like weddings, online auctions are massive events to produce. A lot of time, money and effort go into making them great. And it’s painfully obvious when either doesn’t go well.
The key, initially and throughout, is organization. There are so many aspects to stay on top of that it is essential that you have a plan, timeframes, and systems in place to make sure it all gets arranged. You don’t want to be the bride or groom that forgets to hire the photographer that you really want in time, or the organization that doesn’t have enough items for their auction. Once you have established the basics in both instances; date, venue, entertainment or activities, then you can move onto the next big step.
And that is: to promote your event. For a wedding, it’s not necessarily called promotion, but sending save-the-dates, announcing in the newspaper, and spreading the word to all your friends and family is important to ensure that all the people you care about can be there on your special day. That is the same approach you should take as an organization. You want to be able to celebrate with all the people that you care about, and more importantly, who care about you. These people that are willing to give their time and money to support your cause are the engine of your event. So reach out to your community via newsletter, advertising, emails, and, if you are a school, notices sent home with the children. Remember that with an online auction, your community is much more than your local supporters. There are amazing people out there who would love to hear about you and the goodness you are bringing to the world. Find ways to reach them. Social media and utilizing connections to people outside your immediate circle will extend your reach. BiddingForGood has a great marketing platform to help you do this, and our Bidder Community is filled with people that may not have known your organization before, but who would love to support it.
This brings me to my next point: partnership. An event at this scale is too hard to undertake alone. A bride and groom not only lean on their family and friends for advice, tips, and support, but they also partner with reputable vendors to ensure that their wedding is one to remember. In the case of an organization, a reliable online auction company like BiddingForGood can be a partner throughout the planning and execution of your event. We want you to succeed as much as you do. Speak with your Auction Expert to get the best advice. Use our webinars, demos, and expertise to your benefit. Like a good caterer, we have many years of experience to offer. You don’t have to go it alone.
Make sure you give your auction the look and feel that illustrates who you are and what you stand for. A bride and groom pick out colors, flowers, decorations, and all sorts of other fun details that give their guests a sense of who they are as a couple. You can customize your auction site, as well as promotional materials to match your organization’s brand. And just like a couple chooses a cake, or a DJ to engage their guests, make sure you get great items to engage your audience. Exciting items in your online auction equals success, just like good food and great dancing are essential to a fun wedding.
Finally, make sure you say thank you. A bride and groom will return from their honeymoon and spend weeks writing out notes of gratitude to all their guests for joining them in their celebration. Make sure you do the same. While your guests may not be the family you would invite to your wedding, they have formed a strong bond with your organization. Show them that you appreciate them and their support, and they are likely to come back for your next event!
This week we take you on a journey of interviews with fellow BiddingForGood employees. Fundraising professionals speak to these experts on the phone and never have the privilege of getting to know them on a personal level. Getting to personally know BiddingForGood's staff can allow people to see why our employees are so good at their jobs in the first place.
Today we have a video of Wendy Jepson, Online Auction Expert, interviewed by our own Brian D'Angelo. As some of you know, BiddingForGood has been touring the country with their mobile technology events. On tour, people are always asking "Is Wendy here?" Wendy has a following of people who want to personally to thank her for her dedicated service. Hopefully this video will help you get to know her.
To learn more about our online auctions and what auction experts do at BiddingForGood, please click here. Stay tuned for when Brian interviews Valeria Amato on Wednesday.