During my three decades as a professional fundraising auctioneer and consultant, the biggest blunder that I’ve seen nonprofits and schools make is to treat their fundraiser auction as if it were a one-night, once-a-year event. That limited thinking epitomizes a costly outdated model of fundraising.
Why? Because that old event-centered mindset leaves countless money in the room and excludes vital donor engagement. I’ve even heard some people mistakenly proclaim, “Auctions are like a one-day retail business.” And when I started my career 30 years ago, I thought that too.
But it’s just not true. And here’s why…
Your benefit auction is part of a whole, a strategic development process that extends year-round. When you design and conduct a fundraising charity auction, you’re not just staging an event. You are not just selling items. You are not just having a party. You’re developing a philanthropic culture of giving that transcends the night of your event that will propel your mission long into the future!
So how do you transform from that old event model to a new prosperous philanthropy mindset for benefit auctions?
Here’s the exciting news, your fundraising auction IS a golden entry point for continuous year round fundraising and donor development. Auctions, event and fundraising galas, when strategically designed, are a superior way not only to identify donors, but to cultivate them and continue working with them afterward, showing them what a difference their gift(s) make to the organization.
First, let’s take a look at this eye-opening research on what retains donors.
Penelope Burk of Cygnus Applied Research regularly conducts surveys of the donor environment. She says that of the 95 questions posed to donors in Cygnus’s landmark study, none was more revealing than this one: “What would cause you to remain indefinitely loyal to a particular cause, while increasing the value of your contributions over time?” Burk notes that 90 percent of donors who start contributing to a particular cause stop giving by the fifth renewal request, and over 60 percent who make a first contribution never make a second. This disturbing trend limits fundraising growth and forces fundraisers to spend a disproportionate amount of their time and budgets acquiring more donors to replace those one-time supporters.
However, Burk also found that 87 percent of study respondents said they would give again the next time they were asked, 64 percent would make a larger gift, and 74 percent would continue to give indefinitely — if they received the following every time they made a gift:
- Prompt, meaningful acknowledgment of their gifts.
- Reassurance that their gifts will be directed as they intended.
- Meaningful news about their gifts’ consequences before they
are asked for another contribution.
And what about you? What strategies and action steps can you take in 2017 to raise more money, engage new donors and communicate gratitude and mission impact? Consider doing exactly what Burk’s research recommends.
Three Vital Actions To Raise More Funds and Engage More Donors
- Meaningfully acknowledge donor’s gifts within 48 hours
- Reassure donors that their gifts will be directed as they intended
- Communicate news about the impact of their gifts before you ask them for another contribution
I’m excited to announce our 2017 strategic theme: “Invest in what matters. Ignore the rest.”
In the coming year I’ll be focusing on this theme to help you with more education, strategies and insights about audience development, corporate sponsor leadership, donor engagement, board empowerment, communicating donor impact, and high profit fundraising streams for your benefit auctions, fundraisers and benefit galas. Thank you always for your support. Make it a magical 2017!