Turbocharge Your Table Hosts: How to Increase Donor Attendance for Big Bidding

You’ve all heard of table captains. Perhaps you’ve even been a table captain or been asked: “Would you be willing to consider putting together a table for our charity auction?” Many nonprofit and school auctions use this idea of a “table captain” to increase attendance at their fundraising events. In this case, a board, donor or committee member is asked to fill an entire table with their friends and colleagues. Let’s put this idea on steroids to increase donor engagement.

To maximize your donor development and fundraising, let’s reframe this core audience development strategy and rename it “Table Hosts.”

Why Table Hosts? FOR GREATER LONG TERM IMPACT ON YOUR MISSION. Invite your Table Hosts to expand their role to personally invite and cultivate their selected guests to co-create a new culture of giving. Here are five of my top strategies that go beyond just filling up seats.

  1. Empower Your Table Hosts. Personally contact your key supporters and ask them to expand their role as a Table Host. Provide a detailed packet of information about the details your mission, event. Offer valuable training on how to ask people to become involved in your organization. Want repeat Table Hosts year after year – make it meaningful. I love this example. One of my clients, The Children’s Trust created a special an exclusive meeting for their Table Hosts, where during their audience development strategy session, Table Hosts enjoyed sampling and selecting the wines at the venue for their Gala. Cheers!

  3. Strategically Select Each Guest. Sponsors, donors, awardees, board members, volunteers, committee members can all serve as fantastic Table Hosts. However, ask them to be incredibly strategic by hand selecting guests who care about your specific cause and who will come to support you financially. Invite Table Hosts to draw on their vast circle of influence to include their family, neighbors, business colleagues, vendors, and friends. Personally invite guests with a phone call or visit. Remember the first rule of fundraising: People give to people – for causes that impassion them.

  5. Communicate Impact of Their Gift. Focus on your sharing how your mission changes lives. This is not the time for statistics. Shared success stories will emphasize your new strategy of communicating how much your organization means your donors. The first step is helping your Table Host articulate what they love about your cause specifically. Then in turn, ask your Table Hosts to have conversations with their guests about what the guests love about your cause — that’s donor-centric approach to benefit auction audience development. In my new book A Higher Bid, I devoted an entire chapter to innovative strategies to communicate the impact of your donors’ gifts. Just click on www.AHigherBid.com for your inside look now.

  7. Take Care of Your Guests at Your Event. Go beyond just inviting your buddies and then hanging out at the bar or crudités table. Adopt a true host mentality. Make sure your guest’s coats get hung up, buy them a drink, introduce them to board member and donors, showcase your Silent and Live Auction items, talk about this amazing opportunity where they can give at your Fund A Need. Invite their generosity for your cause to make a meaningful contribution to the organization. Escort your guests to your table, lead the introductions. Smile and say yes, please bid again and again when the bidding slows down during the Live Auction. Be the first bid card in the air. Invite quiet attention at the appropriate times during the evening program. Applaud – a lot. You get the picture! Table Hosts are your wonderful embedded leaders at each table – how fantastic is that!

  9. The Party’s Never Over – Engage Your Guests Year Round
    Treat your donors as donors. Thank your guests within 48 hours of your event with a personal call and handwritten thank you note. Add them to our mailing list. Keep your guests engaged year round by inviting them to other events that are meaningful to them. For example, during the year our client Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America holds important donor meetings with top medical professionals to update them on new vital research and inspiring success stories.

Ready to take your benefit auction and event fundraising through the roof?

If you would like more help with new audience development and guest cultivation strategies— and how to apply these ideas and more, let’s talk.

Even if you have an auctioneer you love but would like to incorporate advanced fundraising auction strategies or need a trusted advisor, let’s talk. kathy at kingstonauction.com or by phone 603-926-1919.

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