There's a lot of debate right now about the economy. Some are saying we're in a recession, some are saying we're in a temporary economic slowdown, some say we're all being silly and some say that all the talk in the media is fueling the fire ensuring we'll be in a recession soon.
No matter which of the many rosy to dismal scenarios you pick, pocketbooks are being firmly closed. One of the areas hardest hit during tough economic times is the charity and non-profit sectors. Unfortunately, that's when many charities need support the most simply because more folks show up on their doorsteps in need.
Annual fundraisers continue in good times or bad. However, in bad times they just don't pull in as much money. The focus of this blog isn't which fund raiser works better than the other, it's simply about one facet of fundraising ---- auctions and door prizes.
Most dinners and fund raisers have a silent and / or live auction these days. Many events raffle of items or give out door prizes.
I've been on all ends of the auction process. I've worked with charities for years, coordinating entire events and putting together auctions. I've also been on umpteen committees where we went scouting for items for auctions, raffles or door prizes.
In recent years I've donated many pieces of my pottery (Hummingbird Hollow Studios) and ads from the Fayette Front Page to local charities.
Here's a few things I've learned over the years:
Many businesses have a set amount they'll give each year whether it's dollars or product. If you want to get the best you need to be there with your hand out when they're deciding how to divvy up the dollars and items.
Personal connections are tops. It's all about relationships.
Most businesses like to give, but they like to be appreciated when they donate. Thank you cards, a quick note or even a phone call or email are a must.
Businesses want to be sure their company get recognition as a rule. They justify the donation by considering it part of their goodwill advertising. If you want a company to give again and again, make sure they get credit in your advertising, newsletters, flyers, programs and when the items are being given out.
When handing out a prize or announcing an auction winner, never, ever do something like "We have a nice lamp here. The winner is Joe Smith." It should always be a variation of, "We have a beautiful lamp donated by Company X in Fayetteville. If you've been admiring this lamp be sure to stop by their store on Main Street. While you're there, say thanks from our charity - they have been a supporter of ours for many years. The winner is..."
If they get business from your event they'll have something for you the following year, and chances are it'll be a bit better than the year before.
Make sure your auction or prize give-away is well organized. There is nothing worse than waiting around while the announcer is fumbling through paperwork or someone is digging around in a pile trying to figure out what to give out next.
If you have a few big prizes and a lot of lesser value prizes, hand out the little prizes first, then put all the numbers back in the hat and award the "good" prize or prizes. Be sure everyone knows they have a shot at the top prize. Again, those who donated those nice items are looking for maximum exposure. If you give out the small prizes and the winner knows they can't get the top prize, they're taking their toys and leaving... why should they wait around? By the time you get to the good stuff, you're looking at a much-diminished crowd which means the company that donated the biggest prizes gets the least advertising from their donation. They may smile, but in their mind they'll be writing that charity off their list (unless you have a really, really good relationship).
Don't lay all the prizes on a table in a corner where they can't be seen. Likewise, be sure that the items aren't all crowded together. Display them nicely so people can view them. They'll be more inclined to buy a raffle ticket or get their cards punched if they're enticed by what they see. Make sure the company or individual that donated the item has a flyer, business cards or otherwise recognized by the item.
If you can snap a photo of whoever wins the top prizes send one to whoever donated the item. Be sure your non-profit's banner is in the background. Chances are when the business gets the photo they'll display it somewhere and your charity will get a bit of advertising, too!
Don't go for quantity, go for quality. It is flat out boring to sit through drawing after drawing after drawing for t-shirts, hats and promo items. Bundle them if you have a large group --- take a hat, a t-shirt and a set of golf balls and make it one prize instead of three small ones. Instead of handing out all those caps one by one, have some fun! At random times toss hats into the crowd, have a clown who goes around handing out t-shirts to kids or people wearing your non-profit's gear. Keep the give-away time short and keep everyone's attention and enthusiasm!
Make sure whoever is announcing the prizes has a personality. If they can banter with the crowd people will remember the auction or raffle as fun and they'll leave feeling upbeat --- and, as long as the rest of the event was a good one, they'll want to come back the following year. If they've watched as their competition was recognized for a donation, they'll be more willing to give the following year.
I have more tips, but I bet you're as tired of reading as I am of writing! I'm sure you have some great suggestions, too. Hope you'll send them.