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Is Your Fundraiser a Model of Philanthropy?

This past month we’ve heard a lot from event organizers – this being the time of year reflect on what worked and what didn’t throughout the year. We’ve especially heard a lot about our recent postings on auctions. So here, in a final installment about auctions, we turned our focus to the big picture: does your fundraiser follow the party fundraising model or the philanthropy fundraising model?

What’s the difference you say? Well, according to Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS of Kingston Auction Company and author of A Higher Bid, there’s a big difference. “Oh, how big could it be?” you ask. Well, with Kathy’s guidance, one of the largest charity wine auctions in the country went from raising $700,000 to $4.5 million. So to answer you: BIG!

Party Fundraising vs. the Philanthropy Fundraising Model

Kathy isn’t just a benefit auctioneer, she’s also a very in-demand consultant. She says, “An epic error is to plan your auction fundraiser like it’s your social soirée, business function or, even worse, a wedding. Focus first on fundraising – not your centerpieces, variety of wines, entertainment, nor the color of tablecloths – all which raise zero dollars. Remember, your charity auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. You simply cannot afford to lose precious dollars or support. Strategically design your benefit auction to emphasize your unique mission and how your donors can make a difference. Proudly promote your cause and emphasize that the reason ‘Why We Are Here’ is to raise funds so that your guests can change lives.”

So getting back to that record shattering charity wine auction. Let’s see what Kathy did to turn The Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction from a spectacular evening into a spectacularly successful night of fundraising.

RELATED: How the right auctioneer can make all the difference

  1. Audience development – With 600 guests, the gala event was sold out. But it wasn’t just about filling chairs, it was getting the right people under the tent at the chateau – those who could be generous and would care about the charity.
  2. Changing focus from hospitality to philanthropy — Kathy helped the organization develop a razor sharp communications strategy that let guests know in advance the impact of their gifts. The strategy included a PR campaign, one-on-ones with major donors, strategic messaging on save-the-date and invitations, and sending the auction catalog out ahead of time so people could anticipate what they would like to bid on. Once they stepped into that tent, guests were already primed to be generous.
  3. Centering on fund-a-need – Guests knew exactly where their money would be going. Written, verbal, and electronic communications emphasized and amplified the fund-a-need appeal, in this case child literacy.
  4. Volunteer training – Volunteers and board members are more than an extra set of hands, they are crucial to the communications and fundraising strategy. Kathy conducted strategic education programs for vintners, board members and wine auction volunteers on how to ask for donations, how to motivate higher bids during the auction, and to deeply engage guests after the event to become involved as long term donors.

Want to learn more? As a special gift, Kathy is offering a complimentary chapter of her new book A Higher Bid.  Just go to www.IncreaseAuctionProfit.com

“Donations don’t just happen. You need to ask for them!”

It’s the mantra Kathy lives and succeeds by and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

RELATED: Keys to Success: Designing an Inclusive Auction

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