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Your destination for insight into the world of event fundraising, charity auctions and no-risk travel packages.

5 Summer Prep Ideas For Your Next Charity Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth


Ahhh... Summertime. Time to take a break from your charity’s fundraising activities until the fall, right?? Wait!! Instead, try taking advantage of the peace and quite with these five easy summer preparation ideas that will make things easier as you begin planning for your next charity event.

1. Procure Auction Items Early 

Take the heat off by preparing for your fall live and silent auctions now. Call your auction committee for happy hour by the pool and devise a strategy to round up the best items using these tips:

  • Decide who will be involved with procuring auction items. Board members? Other volunteers? Staff? Find people who are enthusiastic and motivated by your organization's mission and mobilize a committee dedicated to procurement. Consider possible incentives to motivate your team - perhaps a prize for the person who gathers the most items on the list.
  • Establish a theme. Establishing a theme early on will help you and your committee come up with unique ideas for auction items and focus your procurement efforts on items that would be the most ideal for your audience.
  • Survey past guests. Consider a brief survey of past attendees to determine what auction items they did and did not like. Quality matters more than quantity. For more, see Survey Donors to Boost Fundraising Revenue at Your Next Charity Auction.
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Topics: event-production

4 Ideas for Selecting Charity Auction Trips Based on Location

Posted by Ian Lauth


Travel is one of the most popular and best selling charity auction items in North America. Why? Because most people who attend charity fundraising events have a substantial travel budget, which is money they set aside specifically for vacation travel. 

In fact, according to American Express, 53% of Americans save money each year specifically for travel. To see what that statistic looks for an audience at a charity fundraising event, we surveyed over 1,000 winning bidders and found that of those who bid on travel packages, over 69% budget at least $5,000 each year for vacation travel!


This means a vast majority of your charity event patrons already have money set aside for travel that they will be spending one way or another, whether it's at your fundraising event or somewhere else. By offering travel as part of your auction event you are giving them the opportunity to fill two needs with one deed: Spend their travel budget on an incredible Experience while supporting a cause they believe in. 

Tapping into these travel budgets means offering exciting travel packages with unique locations that people will actually want to buy. When procuring auction trips, consider these four factors to ensure you appeal to donors so they place bids on the perfect vacation.


1. Distance

The amount of miles donors have to travel to reach their vacation destination can influence the perceived value of an auction trip. Trips tend to be more expensive than other auction items, and donors may not want to shell out the big bucks to visit a location nearby. 

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Topics: travel-experiences

11 Elements of a Spectacular Online Donation Page

Posted by Ian Lauth

Building Online Donation Pages: 11 Elements of a Spectacular Online Donation Page

Digital giving continues to grow, up 14% in 2013 alone, according to The Network For Good Digital Giving Index. Industry experts agree that this trend is likely to continue to increase, which means if your online donation page isn't in tip-top shape, you will miss out on key giving opportunities.

These slower summer months are the ideal time to revamp your online giving page. Give yourself enough time to test, refine, test again and ensure your organization's website is prepared for whatever the end-of-year fundraising season throws at it.

If nothing else, take a good hard look at optimizing your donation page for November and December, which are the biggest months of the year for online giving. Approximately 40% of online giving occurs in December, and knowing how busy thing get starting in September, it's wise to take the time today to get ready for the end of the year.

Maximize fundraising efforts and give donors a smooth online experience by incorporating these 10 simple yet extremely effective components to your nonprofit's online donation page:

1. Seamless branding

Your logo and branding should be consistent throughout the website, including the online giving page. You want people to feel confident that they are donating to their intended charity. A well-branded donation process that reinforces their value as a donor will make for an enjoyable experience that will entice them to return and donate again.

2. Concise copy

The focus of the online donation page is giving, so it should not be heavy with copy. Consider adding a brief description of the charity's mission and the donation's potential impact, but keep it to one or two short paragraphs. You don't want to distract visitors from completing the donation form. If they want to learn more, they can easily access other pages of your website.

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Topics: fundraising

10 Ways to Stay Cool with Donors in the Heat of Summer

Posted by Ian Lauth


The big season for charity events may have wound down just as the thermometer has inched upward, but that's no reason to take a vacation from staying in touch with donors. These great summertime stay-in-touch ideas will give your stakeholders a break from a hard push for donations without letting your charity fade from their memory. Lighten up your email campaign, have fun with a direct mail approach and give your social media a seasonal makeover.

Your year-round communication plan should ensure donors know they remain top-of-mind and that their gifts are important and appreciated, no matter the calendar page. The slower pace of summer is also the time to send those handwritten, personalized notes to your biggest supporters, letting them know how much they are appreciated.



 Give Your Emails a Seasonal Makeover

1. Make them mobile. Most nonprofits realize the critical role that email campaigns can play in engaging donors throughout the year. But a growing segment of your stakeholders — as many as 80 percent by some estimates — expect to be able to view those fundraising emails on their smartphones. This is even more critical during summer when vacations, increased time outdoors and recreational activities can take people away from their usual computer or laptop screen.

2. Keep it short and sweet. In addition to ensuring you've chosen a mobile-friendly email template, there are a few other things to keep in mind when emailing your stakeholder list during warm weather months. For example, shorten up your usual content into a more breezy, summer-time version. Also, consider adding a fun twist only for the summer months, such as a summer-only trivia game or warm weather contest. Use your email campaign to share a short story or quote taken directly from a client. For more, read the article we posted with 10 email marketing tips for cultivating major donors

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Topics: fundraising

The History of Auctions [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Ian Lauth


Auctions have been used for everything from arranging marriages to auctioning antiquities and works of fine art.  While early auctions were closed by driving a spear into the ground instead of the gavel typically use today, the general concept of the auction has remained the same. Over the last 2,000 years, many specialized variations on the standard “open ascending price auction” have been created to provide a more specialized auction experience that best fits the goods or services up for sale.

Some of the first American settlers, the Pilgrims, were known to use auctions as a common method of selling crops, livestock, tools, tobacco, and even entire farms - so auctions have been an integral part of our nation's history. 

In the last 50 years, charity auctions – typically live and silent auctions – have become an immensely popular means of raising money for nonprofit organizations.  Charity auctions are the fourth-fastest growing segment of the auction industry with roughly two-thirds of all National Auctioneers Association members conducting at least one charity auction annually.

View the infographic → 

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Topics: fundraising

4 Reasons a Charity Auction Specialist Will Inspire Your Audience

Posted by Ian Lauth


Some people have a stereotypical view about auctioneers. They might imagine a really, really fast talking auctioneer who builds immense pressure in a room to sell cars or cattle to big crowds. While that might be how commercial auctioneers work, benefit auctioneering is a completely different game. Benefit auction specialists utilize a unique style, skill and strategy for extracting donations from an audience of nonprofit supporters.

To illustrate the difference between these two professions, we found two videos of auctioneers performing at the top of their industry. The first video shows the speed and style of a commercial cattle auctioneer, who delivers a chant that is extremely fast, intense and inaudible (yet still undeniably impressive)...

Next we have a video of a benefit auctioneer, our friend Danny Hooper, who demonstrates a completely different level of showmanship and engagement with his audience. You will notice his attention to being a good host and entertainer first, and auctioneer second...

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Topics: fundraising

Special Appeals: When's the Best Time to Ask?

Posted by Ian Lauth


The special appeal. The fund-a-need. The funding plea. The "Ask"... The only hotter topic of debate than what to call the special appeal has to be when, exactly, you should schedule it during your charity auction event. Okay, so maybe special appeal placement isn't exactly a burning debate, but it's certainly a subject of discussion within the fundraising community... and it's not hard to see why.

After all, charity auctions have many moving parts -- the silent auction, the live auction, the presenters, the cocktails, the food -- it can be easy to simply place the appeal wherever it seems convenient within the schedule. But, just as with each element of an event, there needs to be a strategy, and in the case of the special appeal, there's more than one school of thought on which strategy is most effective: Specifically, should the special appeal come before or after the live auction? 

We asked two well-known Benefit Auctioneer Specialists, Doug Sorrell and Ben Farrell, to shed some light on the varying strategies for placing the special appeal during a charity auction event.

A quick note: The placement of the special appeal really depends on your audience and the size and scope of your event. As Doug Sorrell puts it: “Both sides of this debate are correct.” We simply wanted to explore the reasoning behind each strategy so you can make an informed decision for your own fundraising event.  

Special Appeal After the Live Auction

The prevailing philosophy among many of the more traditional benefit auctioneers is to schedule the fund-a-need last, after the live auction, when people are swept up in the excitement, emotion and energy of bidding on big-ticket items. Placing the appeal before the live auction can also have a detrimental effect on the level of audience participating during the live auction.  

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Topics: event-production

Charitable Giving Trends in Canada [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Ian Lauth

Charitable Giving Trends in Canada (INFOGRAPHIC)

Charitable giving in Canada is at an all-time high. In 2010, just as we began climbing out of the global recession, 84% of adult Canadians or just under 24 million people reported making at least one donation to charity during the calendar year. At an average donation of $446, the total amount donated to charity was over $10.6 billion.

While this may be a drop in the bucket compared to the $278 billion donated by U.S. households in 2009 at the height of the recession, it is a dramatic increase over the $4 billion that was contributed as recently as the 1990's - showing that giving in Canada is on the rise. It's also important to note that Canada was ranked #2 behind the US in the 2013 World Giving Index rankings of the most charitable nations of the world.

In this infographic, we explore the trends of charitable giving in Canada, including how donations and donation rates vary by age, gender, income, education, and place of residence. Overall the findings show that Canadians are strongly inclined to donate to charity, regardless of their demographic background.

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Topics: nonprofits

Writing Item Descriptions for a Silent Auction is Easier Than You Think

Posted by Ian Lauth


Vibrant tables filled with unique and exciting auction items are the focal point for many nonprofit fundraising events. These silent charity auctions offer guests a fun social activity that also facilitates spending money, which can turn out to be very profitable for your cause.

Attendees of most charity auctions possess a shopping mentality as they circulate through the silent auction tables, browsing items and vying for the top bid spot on the things they want. For many, the combination of competition and shopping can provide an exhilarating experience. Not to mention... it's for charity! So many of the normal shopping barriers such as, "I don't really need that..." don't exist.


As you work on your next silent auction, remember to think of it as your "one night only" storefront. You are setting up a temporary retail store, and just like any retail store that sells merchandise, you must create enticing displays that encourage people to stop, look and buy. A crucial part of creating this shopping experience is the silent auction item description.


Save Time. Keep it Simple. 

Don't waste your time coming up with a unique display for each and every item. It's best to figure out a single item display template that you can use for all your items. Develop a template with the same colors, fonts, layout, look and feel that will work for 95% of your items and then replicate it. 

This not only saves you time but also keeps your displays consistent throughout the event. Your auction tables will have a professional, polished appearance that is attractive and easy to navigate - which lends itself to a smoother shopping experience for your guests.

Auction item displays should be clear, uncluttered and easy to read quickly. Following are a few things to keep in mind before you start creating displays for your next silent auction: 

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Topics: event-production

What is SEO and How Can It Help My Nonprofit?

Posted by Ian Lauth

Easy SEO tips for Nonprofits

Before you skip over this article! For those of you who are new to the whole concept of search rankings, I encourage you to give this article a chance! You probably know more than you think and will be able to make some of these tips work for your nonprofit. 

Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”, has become a frequent topic among marketing and development directors at nonprofit organizations. While most marketers know that SEO can benefit their organization, few understand the factors that impact search and what you can do to help your organization establish a more competitive position in the Google search rankings.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

On it's most basic level, SEO is a strategy for making an organization's website easier to find on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing the code and content of a website so that it is perceived by search engines, such as Google, as being highly relevant for certain search terms. The benefit of a well-executed SEO program is that your site will achieve higher search rankings for targeted keywords, which drives more new users and better quality traffic to your website.

For example, if you are looking for someone to paint your house and you Google "house painter", you are going to get a list of search results for companies that will happily provide that service. In fact, you'll probably get tens of millions of results:

The ultimate objective of SEO is to get a website to appear on the first page of search results. Getting on the first page of search engine results is the holy grail for marketers because websites that show up first get far more traffic - 90% of all clicks - compared to websites that fall to the second or third pages, which receive less than 10% of traffic.

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Topics: nonprofits

eBook: Introduction to Procuring Quality Charity Auction Items


Winston & Winnie

The Winspire Twins

Winston & Winnie love to help Nonprofits raise money for amazing causes. They also love to travel and have a bucket list of amazing Experiences they are determined to complete in their lifetime. Winspire News is the result of this shared passion, offering you fundraising advice, industry news and explorations into each of our incredible travel packages

Auction Item Procurement
Starter Kit

starter kit underline


A free resource with helpful templates to get the auction item procurement process off the ground.

- Donation Form TEMPLATE
- Procurement Letter TEMPLATE
- Procurement Letter Example

Download Starter Kit →