Captain—O’ My Table Captain

How to Invite the Right Bidders to Your Fundraiser Auction

So, who’s YOUR captain? Many of my most successful benefit auction clients strategically use the Table Captains for auction audience development. This article discusses how to strategically use “Benefit Auction Table Captains” to engage more power bidders and donors with a sustainable audience development strategy at auctions and special events. This proven and profitable strategy offers a way to easily and naturally engage your board and leadership to invite the right guests into the room with guests you already know will bid high.

Sometimes called a table host, table captains and half-table captains are a powerful audience development strategy to help you engage guests to be generous during your benefit auction event. This way your table captains will likely make only three phone calls for a table of eight, because most people come to benefit auctions as couples.

Leveraging your table captain’s multiple spheres of influence is one of the most overlooked aspects of developing and engaging audiences at fundraising events. Consider drawing on every single person they know, as well as their personal, business, and social media contacts.

Their key responsibility is to invite friends, family and colleagues and to fill the table with the right people. That means asking guests who will feel connected to your cause who understand they are coming to a fundraiser to support your wonderful mission. If someone says that they can’t fill an entire table, suggest they serve as a half-table captain, which also reduces the number of phone calls.

beautiful-tableEmpower your table captains to go above and beyond. Being a table captain is far more than just putting together guests at tables. Table captains are responsible for communicating with the people at their tables. Table captains are a key leader in donor cultivation and engagement. In this role, they should introduce the individuals at their tables to the key people at your benefit auction, including the leaders, the VIPs, the honoree, top volunteers, and perhaps other guests who are developing close connections with your organization.

Additionally, table captains can help promote the auction items. They should talk about auction items even before your event. And at the event they should bring guests over to silent and live auction item displays and say, “Wow! Isn’t this great? Here’s a great trip package and a dinner and a fabulous experience. Let’s take a look. Let’s bid together. Let’s help set a new fundraising record.” That translates to educated and motivated power bidders who intend to bid high at your auction.

Further, table captains can talk with their guests about the most important fundraising opportunity at your event – the Fund a Need special appeal. Why? Because not everyone wants or needs a silent auction or live auction item. However with the Fund A Need opportunity, every single guest has the opportunity to raise their bid card to support you at a level that is meaningful to them. Table captains can encourage 100% participation at any level from their entire table.

birdhouse-tableTable captains can help you align your guests with the great work your organization is doing. Table captains can play a key role to discover the connections your guests have to the mission and to your members. Understand each person’s interests and core values and how they relate to the core values of your organization. Table captains can communicate the impact of their guests high bidding at the Live Auction and Silent Auction and about their Fund A need contributions.

Most importantly, table captains help build long-term connections that start at your auction event. When you think of every guest as a long-term donor, your table captains are vital to engaging and cultivating auction guests. They can begin by sharing their passion for your mission with their guests before, during and after your auction. This inspires your guests to feel moved by your work, to feel deeply interested in the work you do as a nonprofit, and to be deeply touched by the difference you’re making.

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