Seven Tips to Raise More Money in a Benefit Auction – Cash Appeal

By Sherry Truhlar

Many fundraising ideas can help you raise cash, but no other singular activity during your benefit auction will have more financial impact than the cash appeal. It can be such a cash cow that one of my clients has no live auction and only conducts an appeal!

The appeal goes by various names: gift from the heart … cash call … raise the paddle / paddle raiser … community gift … fund a need … or even — as one of my client’s says (tongue-in-cheek) — “the shakedown.” Whatever you call it, there is a strict protocol to follow if you want to be successful. Here are seven pointers.

  1. Select a single item or cause to fund. You will confuse your audience if you have a laundry list of activities or items. I saw an appeal flop at one school because they insisted on raising money for three items. Some members of the (tipsy) audience became confused and thought they could choose which item they got to fund. Ugh! Keep it simple by keeping it singular.
  2. Advertise the appeal. Just as you would advertise a silent or live auction item, you should advertise the appeal. Talk it up prior to the gala… put it in your catalog … highlight it in your program … ensure it has its own display table in the silent auction (see photo). Showcase it!
  3. Describe the need. This can be conveyed in a heart-wrenching video, a heart-warming live testimonial, or via a short plea from someone close to the need who can succinctly describe its impact. Guests need to understand where the money is going, and how it will help the cause.
  4. Offer several different pledge levels so everyone can participate. The appeal is the “group gift” of the gala, but not everyone is going to be able to give at the same level. By offering four to six different levels of pledges, you ensure everyone in your crowd can give and feels good about it.
  5. Begin by asking for the most amount of money (your highest giving level), and end by asking for the least amount of money (your lowest giving level). This is simple psychology. Asking a guest to pledge $100 seems a modest request after they have just witnessed other guests pledging $1000.
  6. Ask guests to raise their bid card to make their pledge public. With few exceptions, public pledging will raise more money than silent pledging. Pledges written on notecards and collected by volunteers just isn’t as effective. When a guest watches a neighbor raise his bid card, there is subtle pressure to do the same.
  7. Announce the total of what was raised. Guests are always curious about the total, and my experience has been that even when the money raised hasn’t been as spectacular as privately had been hoped, guests don’t know it. “Wow, we raised $25,000! ” a guest will tell me (even though we hoped for $35,000…), “That’s WONDERFUL!” Announcing the total inspires guests; they feel good about their participation. You’ll likely even collect a few more donations as guests check-out.

If you’d like more free benefit auction ideas, get Sherry Truhlar’s free “What Sold Great in 2008” Auction Item Guide and weekly Ezine. The Guide features 100+ of the top-selling items Sherry sold in benefit auctions around the country last year. Sign up at http://www.RedAppleAuctions.com

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