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!
Outside of BiddingForGood, many employees volunteer in their free time. To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we're interviewing some employees this week to learn about their volunteer experiences. To kick things off, I recently interviewed Amanda Rutherford, our Administrative Assistant:
How long have you volunteered?
Pretty much my whole life. My family took us to a soup kitchen and a nursing home to volunteer. My parents instilled volunteerism in us. I have been active in volunteering since high school and in college; I went on alternative spring breaks. One was for Katrina relief. It was a better way to spend my break and I got to meet new people and be around people who enjoyed volunteering too.
Where have you volunteered and where are you currently volunteering?
I volunteer now at Horizons for Homeless Children. (They have been a client of BiddingForGood’s for years with a new auction opening soon.) I’m a Play Space Activity Leader. A lot of shelters set up spaces just for kids. They have activity leaders come in to play and give kids an outlet from the confined space. I volunteer once a week; in a teen mom shelter, every Thursday in Somerville. It gives them a break from the kids for a while. I also worked for Cradles to Crayons. They provide school supplies and clothing for kids in need. I also did some work with the national chapter and also worked with the national MS society. I volunteered and helped with their walk last year and this year. I also helped them with some mailings. Organizations need all sorts of help with all kinds of stuff. Volunteering your time is a great donation too.
How did you get involved there? How did you find out about the organization?
I found ads on the MBTA for Horizons with Homeless Children and on the sites Volunteer Match and Idealist.org. I was on Idealist.org back when I was looking for a job at a nonprofit. I found they also had a database for volunteers.
What advice would you give to someone interested in volunteering?
I’d direct them to Volunteer Match. Other advice would be to think about their interests and where they want to volunteer. It makes sense to find a place that means something to you and to think about you want to do to help. Also, many colleges have volunteer centers. That’s a good place to look too.
What do you like most about volunteering?
It makes me feel really good to know I’m helping someone else.
Do you have any other advice for our orgs who are seeking new volunteers?
There are only so many times you can ask your own members. It’s good to ask people outside the org. One thing organizations might not know is sororities and fraternities need philanthropy hours as part of their membership. I was in a sorority when I was in college. It’s strongly encouraged. We even had incentives sometimes for who had the most philanthropy hours. Like the winner would get the bed in the quietest part of the house. Stuff like that. Alumni could reach out to sororities and fraternities at their colleges.
I learned a lot from my conversation with Amanda. Especially about new ways nonprofits can get the word out that they need volunteers like getting listed on volunteermatch.org or idealist.org. For our organizations, it can make a huge difference for them to have volunteers who can help build the site or promote their online auctions. There are definitely people out there who want to volunteer; they just need to know where and how they can help.
During my first personal training session of the New Year, I had some pretty high hopes for myself. 2011 was a pretty good year for me fitness-wise as far I as could tell: I ran my second half marathon and made many improvements in my endurance and strength training. Or so I thought. At the end of that first session, my trainer pointed to the scale and said “Before you go, we need to do a weigh-in.” Clearly I was expecting to see a bit of a loss or just the same number from the past year. But that wasn’t the case. I gained weight.
Over 3 years ago, I made the decision to lose weight and get in better shape. Ever since then, I have been committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and weightlifting. I’ve lost over 45 lbs. and have kept it off. So to find out that I had gained weight was pretty shocking.
As I spent the next few days thinking about what happened and wondering "where did I go wrong,” it also occurred to me that I’ve encountered a situation similar to this a few times with my clients at BiddingForGood. They’ve been running a successful auction for years, and then surprisingly, their last auction doesn’t raise as much money, even if, for the most part, they did all the right stuff.
After that dreadful weigh-in my first reaction was that I thought I did everything I was supposed to. I even came up with a few excuses, such as: it probably just all muscle and I may just be dehydrated. But, then as I thought about it some more, I realized that maybe I did cut a few corners here and there, maybe I did indulge a little bit more than I originally tracked, and so on.
After your auction closes and you realize that you didn’t raise as much as you thought you would, the best thing to do is first give yourself a few days to decompress and then start thinking about what happened:
- Were there any other events or other factors going on at the organization or in the community that may have impacted your audience’s engagement?
- How did you publicize your auction this year? Did you send out as many emails? What were the open and click rates of those emails?
- Did one of your historically top performing categories do as well as in the past? Sometimes all it takes is not getting one or two of the higher grossing items to change the results of the whole auction.
(You can find a great recap with helpful charts, graphs and comparison data in the End of Auction Report, which Alice wrote about earlier this week.)
Answering those questions and really digging into the results can help you move on the next part that I like to call “What Now?” Now that you have some general ideas of why your auction didn’t do as well, how do you move forward?
- Don’t dwell on it! After a couple of days of moping and feeling aggravated, I told myself that I had to stop feeling bad and guilty. The same applies to auction administrators. This shouldn't completely negate all of the hard work you put into your fundraiser.
What I’ve found in general is that you just need to get creative. What other businesses/contacts can you ask for donations? What are some creative ways to promote and get our supporters excited? You may also want to think about the date that you’re running your online auction. For example, if you’ve been running it before your auction, you may want to try running it after or even running it separately at another time of the year.
- Set Goals! Besides my obvious bigger goal to lose what I’ve gained, I’ve also set some additional fitness- and diet-related goals to help me reach it. As an auction administrator, you should think of some long- and short-term goals for your next auction, such as how much money you’d like to raise next year. Other goals to think about are: reaching a certain number of items or auction bidders, sending a certain number of emails, using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter more often to publicize, and setting a date to have your auction homepage ready.
Once you’ve figured out “What Now?” it’s time to put that plan into action! The biggest lesson I learned from my setback is that it’s an opportunity to reassess your goals, reset expectations, and most importantly, keep moving forward!