What’s one of the most commonly overlooked fundraising mistakes?
Failing to ask, personally.
Failing to ask for people’s help, their time, their generosity. There’s so much to ask for in a fundraising auction event — attendance, items, sponsorships, volunteers, donations, new guests, higher bids, referrals, influence. I once counted and found at least 54 separate asks made in a benefit auction gala event!
So we’d better get good at it!
And, here’s my top secret: You are really not “asking.” Instead, you, dear fundraiser are opening a wonderful opportunity for your donors to make a difference for something that impassions THEM! What an honor.
In my article, “Perfect Your Pitch” I’ll share some insights and some easy tips to ask unabashedly and confidently. To get you started, here are some of my top strategies and ideas that you and your board and volunteers can use right away.
Think about it. Each time you hold your benefit auction, gala and fundraiser, you too can deeply inspire your guests, donors, volunteers and potential new supporters to raise more money for a cause that impassions them.
Nonprofits and schools have scrapbooks full of life-changing stories they forget to retell. They have urgent needs they never describe.
Donors want—and need—to hear about the impact their gifts will have. They want to know they’re making a real difference. As long as you communicate that, your ask will be a powerful and welcome invitation.
First, The First Rule of Fundraising
The first rule of fundraising—I’ll keep repeating it—is that people give to people, for things they care about. When you’re looking for the best way to invite people to your benefit auction event, you might use save-the-date cards and invitations. However, the most powerful, potent, and effective way is to make a personal ask—not by e-mail or text! In person, over a cup of coffee, or at the very least, by phone.
The personal ask makes a huge difference. It’s about cultivating a relationship early—before your benefit auction—and continuing that relationship during and after the event.
Remember, you are now building relationships with your guests so that you’ll continue to raise funds after your benefit auction and to engage donors in your strategic advancement plan. This is because you’ve designed the event as a cultivation event as much as a fundraising event. With nurturing, the relationship you started will continue for the long term. People give to people, for things they care about.
What to Say? How to Ask? A Powerful Primer
As a young professional in my early twenties, I volunteered for a St. Louis YWCA leadership event that provided excellent fundraising training. The presenter, a senior advancement officer at Saint Louis University Hospital who had just raised $60 million for a capital campaign in 1980, taught me powerful words to use when making an “ask.” He encouraged us to pass this wisdom forward. So here you are.
Here’s how I’ve adapted his invaluable words: “Would YOU be willing to consider (fill in specifically what you want) so that YOUR gift will (fill in the impact of the donor’s gift) for (fill in the name of your organization)?” Then, hold the silence, Don’t interrupt. Simply wait attentively and quietly. Listen.
You can use this model at your next meeting and role-play with board members, volunteers and staff. Ask, for example, “Would you be willing to consider purchasing two reservations for our fundraiser auction so that we can increase outreach at schools for the our Great Cause?” Asking, “Would you be willing to consider” is not looking for a yes or no. You’re just opening the door for the donor to consider the opportunity you’ve just graciously offered.
Keep Inviting Generosity
Your fundraising auction gala is the new golden gateway to donor engagement. Attract new donors and build long-term connections that you can leverage at your auction fundraiser. That’s exactly why I wrote A Higher Bid. Think of every guest as a long-term donor. The key is to communicate the impact of the donors’ gift. Ask how you can align your guests with the work your organization is doing. Help your board members to discover the connections your guests have to the mission and to members. Understand each person’s interests and core values and how they relate to the core values of your organization.
Every Guest is a Donor
Create a culture of giving so that 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. It all starts with your personal gracious invitation to give.
There are lots of other great tips for making an ask for fundraising events and auctions. What’s your favorite? Feel free to share your ideas. email@example.com
Ready to go deeper? Take your fundraising to higher level!
Are you really serious about engaging donors and raising more funds?
I’d love to help you break fundraising records and to design and conduct your fundraising event, auction and gala, feel free to contact me for your complimentary consultation.
Kathy Kingston firstname.lastname@example.org 603-235-1196