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Charity Auction Fundraising News

Which Auction Packages Should I Pick For My Fundraiser?

Posted by Sharon Ruback

Jul 29, 2014 10:13:00 AM


In the past few weeks, we’ve looked at why offering trips at your auction is a great way to raise money (donors already take vacations, so why not present them with the opportunity to purchase their next trip while supporting your organization?) as well as how highly desirable auction travel packages are developed (if want your event patrons to bid on trips, the experiences you offer have to be exceptional!). Today we put it all together and discuss how to make trips work for you at your next fundraising event. Too good to be true? You be the judge...

If you use Winspire trips and Experiences in your live and/or silent auction, here’s what you don’t have to worry about:

  1. Spending time trying to get trips donated
  2. Creating displays for the silent auction and descriptions for the auctioneer
  3. Coordinating travel arrangements for Winning Bidders

Instead, you can focus your energy and resources on other details of planning your event. 

Picking the Right Trips and Experiences

Spend some time gathering information about your patrons before you select the trips and experiences you want to offer as part of your live or silent auction. Ask board members and key donors where they have traveled in the past few years and where they would like to go in the future. What destinations and experiences are on their bucket lists? A gourmet food experience in Italy? Watching the golf pros perform at the PGA Championships? Boutique Shopping in Paris?

Consider the demographics of your guests – age and income are important factors. A younger crowd might enjoy Costa Rica (great surfing!) and the American Music Awards. For a “more mature” crowd, perhaps wine tasting in Napa or Sonoma, a polo match in Santa Barbara or a journey to Paris and Prague would be a good fit.

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Topics: travel-experiences

Blast Off with the Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Adventure

Posted by Sharon Ruback

Jul 24, 2014 8:58:45 AM


Have you ever considered what it would be like to travel through space? The wonder of space captures the curiosity of many, which makes Experiences like the Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Adventure a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Among the many activities included in the package - such as having lunch with an astronaut  - one that stands out many to visitors is the chance to view NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis up close and personal in the new Kennedy Space Center interactive exhibit

The Space Shuttle Atlantis played an important role in NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program, which began in 1981 and ended in 2011 when Atlantis launched for the program’s final flight. Throughout the 30-year period, Atlantis spent a great deal of time in space travelling 126 million miles during a total of 33 missions.

Now that the Space Shuttle Program is complete, eager viewers have the opportunity to witness Atlantis in the very place where the orbiters launched for each mission: the Kennedy Space Center. The new 90,000 square-foot exhibition opened in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in June 2013 and has been strategically set up to enhance the experience for guests. With more than 60 interactive exhibits and simulators, as well as multimedia presentations, the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit sheds light on the important achievements made by the Space Shuttle Program.

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Topics: travel-experiences

9 Essentials of Highly Effective Nonprofit Content Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jul 22, 2014 10:43:58 AM


“Content marketing is the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted audience, focusing on all stages of the [donor development] process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.”

Instead of traditional outbound marketing methods like buying print, radio or internet ads and hoping for prospects, content marketing takes the inbound marketing approach of pulling donors toward your organization through the development of consistent, high-quality content. By producing and distributing valuable information - and lots of it - you enhance your Nonprofit's reputation, create brand loyalty and ultimately inspire more revenue from your donors.

“Content marketing” has become one of the biggest buzzwords of the digital marketing space within recent years. Successful Nonprofits, corporations, small businesses and even government institutions now understand that to become an authority in their industry, they need to provide proof of their expertise and the content to back it up.

The concept of content marketing is actually nothing new. The first customer magazine to hit the shelves was “The Furrow” from John Deere. Launched in 1895 it now has a circulation of 1.5 million in 40 countries and 12 different languages. Costco publishes The Costco Connection magazine for free each month as a value added feature for their members. This magazine serves to tell the Costco story and ultimately attract and retain customers.

These days, the digital equivalent of a customer magazine is an organization’s blog, which usually serves as the central hub for broadcasting creative and informational content that provides real value to your target market.  The content utilized can take many forms, including videos, whitepapers, infographics, e-books, case studies, Q&A sessions and how-to guides. 

Click Here to see the "9 Essentials" Infographic >>

Is Content Marketing Important?

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Topics: donor-relations

5 Quick and Dirty Solutions for the Most Common Fundraising Mistakes

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jul 17, 2014 7:30:00 AM


Fundraising efforts that flounder are more than disappointing. Nonprofits depend on donations to achieve their missions, and when expectations aren't met, that goal is compromised. Most lackluster fundraising efforts can be attributed to five major mistakes, which can often be solved by taking another look at "how it's always been done".

Here are five quick and dirty fundraising tips for getting your develpment portfolio back on track:

Mistake 1: Using fundraising events ineffectively

Special events can be one of the most effective strategies for raising large amounts of money for a charity. But when done poorly, they can be waste of time and money. Events must be engaging, advertised early and well  in order to attract the kind of donors you are looking for.

The live/silent auction is a key way to raise funds, so be sure to use intriguing Travel Experiences to procure and cultivate new and existing donor relationships. Big-ticket auction items like these boost interest and have the potential to make much more money than cluttered tables filled with smaller items.

Mistake 2: Ignoring useful communication tools

A website, social media, blog templates — all important communication tools for growing a Nonprofit, but savvy organizations will look beyond the obvious. Cloud-based productivity tools like Dropbox (for storing and sharing files) or Google Drive (collaborating on documents, spreadsheets, etc.) are essential for collaborating between members of a committee, especially when everyone is spread out, on-the-go and operating from a mobile device.

Here at Winspire our Nonprofit customers us mySuitcase as a collaboration tool for selecting Travel Experiences and gathering feedback from their team while planning for an event. There is an endless list of free tools available to make collaboration with colleagues and the process of auction item procurement much easier.

Mistake 3: Underestimating the power of communication to donors

Fact: The majority of donors who give a gift and do not receive a proper follow-up will not give again. For this reason, Nonprofits should have a solid donor communication strategy in place. Not only do you need to properly convey gratitude for their generosity, but you must also conduct ongoing communication to keep your Nonprofit top of mind. Putting Experiential travel packages up for bid is the perfect excuse for communicating with donors both before an event (to promote the packages) and after (to sell packages multiple times and/or to reach patrons who were unable to attend the event).

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Topics: fundraising

Millennial Travelers Will Soon Surpass Other Generations in Overall Spending [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Sharon Ruback

Jul 15, 2014 10:30:00 AM


In the travel and hospitality industry, all eyes are on the Millennial generation. Often referred to as Generation Y, this demographic includes people born between 1980 and the late 90's.  Why has this generation grabbed the attention of hotels, airlines and travel companies?

It is expected that Millennials will soon surpass other generations in overall spending. They will become the core customers of the travel industry within five to ten years.  Expect to see major changes in the travel industry to cater to the needs and desires of this important market segment.

How do hotels woo Millennials? It’s a question being looked at by brands that want to reach the young, creative class of tech-toting, oversharing individuals.

According to a recent report in Conde Nast Traveler, a number of hotel chains are getting in the game, opening chic new properties in Europe and the U.S.; even Sir Richard Branson is branching out with the launch later this year of Virgin Hotels. Says Conde Nast Traveler, “Virgin America rocked our world when they came onto the airline scene with leather seats, purple ambient lighting a kick-a$$ in-flight entertainment system, and in-flight WiFi. We’re hoping the same world-rocking will happen with Virgin Hotels, set to make its debut in Chicago in September (CEO Richard Branson also just announced a NYC hotel will open in 2016). What we know about the Chicago property tells us it’s all about communal spaces, including a theater, classroom, yoga/relaxation area, and a coffee and wine bar.”

Here are a few trends common among these young travelers: 

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Topics: travel-experiences

Event Spotlight: How The John Crosland School Revived Donor Development with Their Annual Fundraising Gala

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jul 10, 2014 10:30:00 AM


Any successful development officer will tell you that fundraising events are a crucial part of the donor development process. Events such as an annual gala are important for finding and connecting with donors to help set the stage for a lasting relationship that will move them toward major giving.


Jennifer Nichols

Director of Institutional Advancement

Jennifer Nichols has more than 15 years of experience in philanthropy, marketing and public relations and is a seasoned fund developer, grant writer and program developer.

Jennifer Nichols knew this when she joined on as the Director of Institutional Advancement in 2010 for The John Crosland School in Charlotte, NC. Over the course of 4 years, she has taken the school's annual "Picture This" Gala from a small, family-run event to the successful and widely recognized affair that it is today. We spoke with Jennifer get her story...

What is the John Crosland School?

We are a school for children with learning and attention differences like ADHD and Asperger's. Children who attend the school must have a diagnosed learning difference. The school is dually accredited and has been around for 35 years. We’ve reached 2 states, 8 counties and 21 cities.


Guests: 190
Tickets: $135/each
Parents: $100/each
Live Auction Items: 16
Silent Auction Items: 68

Winspire Experiences Sold: 13
Total Raised from Experiences: $17,400
Event Revenue: $172,320
Event Cost: ($84,518)
Total Raised: $87,802

Why do you fundraise?

We get no federal or state funding. Tuition covers roughly 84-86% of our operating budget each year and the rest is philanthropic. Individual giving takes care of the other 15%, which covers in-house reduced tuition (scholarships), development of new facilities and overall expansion.

Two-thirds of our kids come from public school and a lot of those families have a difficult time paying. They raid retirement funds, sell homes – some families even move in from out of state - so philanthropy for us is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. We are dependent on fundraising, and knowing that we realize relationship building [with donors] must be very strong; because it’s not always coming from these families, it’s coming from outside in the community as people understand why we’re here and what community need we fulfill. That’s part of the reason our annual gala is so important.

Tell us a little about your event, the “Picture This” Fundraising Gala.

The gala has gone on for 22 years, but it had always been in the hands of the families. It was really considered a family night event. When I arrived 4 years ago, I changed it and made into a philanthropic event for reaching donors outside the school.

We still have family festivals that are part of our philanthropic package, but they are smaller more focused fundraisers just among the families and extended group. We do this in-house where we put forth a goal – this year we bought an activity bus – so families are still connected to the philanthropic goals and the mission of the school.

For the annual Gala, we really needed a donor event where we could do donor prospecting. Large fundraising events are a wonderful opportunity to bring our donors and donor prospects into the room and talk about where we are in terms of our mission, where we are in terms of our vision, and give them updates so that they are truly insiders.

This year we did a pretty good job of getting donors in the room, but it’s just the beginning. We’re in the process of developing some extra efforts that we want to do starting in October – we have big plans the end of the year and beyond with regard to our donors.

What sort of extra efforts?

One thing that seems to be a struggle for a lot of smaller Nonprofits - or Nonprofits that have not been great at fundraising – is the development of a solid donor base. That’s one of the main reasons I came to this school, was because they didn’t really have one. They had some annual help among the parents, some help from a few grandparents and families of former students, but they had no real donor base. They had never really done any marketing or - what I would consider true fundraising efforts - certainly not philanthropic efforts. They were lacking advancement efforts - truly considering the holistic package for how to move the school forward.

So that was what I came into. I had done projects like this before – I just knew there was going to be a lot of work involved. Knowing that, we just had to come together and agree on certain fundamental principles.

What did the Gala look like 4 years ago compared to today?

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Topics: fundraising, nonprofits, donor development

Thursday is the New Saturday: 3 Reasons to Plan Your Event On a Weekday

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jul 8, 2014 11:37:00 AM

Charity Events Calendar

Saturday is far and away the best day to hold a charity event or fundraising gala. You will have better attendance and a more focused audience who will spend more money. But what if your desired venue is completely booked for every Saturday until spring of 2016... what then?

Many Nonprofits will choose to host their events on Friday instead because, hey - it's the weekend, right?! TGIF aside, Fridays can be one of the worst days to hold a fundraising event for the simple fact that it is at the end of the long workweek.



Why ThursdayIs the New Saturday

Thursday in particular is a great alternative because with only one workday left, people are excited about the upcoming weekend. But since it is still midweek your guests will tend to be more focused than they would on a Friday, making them more receptive to your cause during the event.

After surviving five full days of work, how do you feel? Arguably, most people would rather throw on some sweats and relax than go from business attire to cocktail attire without any time to recharge. After a long workweek, it is inevitable that you are going have a percentage of your event guests who are:

  • Burnt out
  • Don't stay as late
  • Spend less money 

So what is the next best day? Planning an event for a weeknight actually presents quite a few advantages that could benefit your organization. Beyond the mental state of your guests, here are 3 reasons why weekday events are worth considering:

1. Save money

Almost all Nonprofit events happen on Friday or Saturday nights, which coincidentally is when other large events, such as weddings, concerts, festivals, art gallery openings and award shows take place - just to name a few. As a result, catering companies and facilities are in higher demand on the weekends, making it much harder to negotiate lower rates for your charity event. 

If you host your event during the week when vendors are otherwise sitting idle, you will have a much more appealing case for getting a reduced rate. As part of the development staff, it is your duty to search for ways to cut costs, because the less money you spend hosting your event, the more money you will raise to help your mission.   

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Topics: event-production

3-Step Guide for Setting Minimum Starting Bids on Charity Auction Items

Posted by Jeff Cova

Jul 1, 2014 11:18:00 AM

Charity Auction Items

Setting the minimum starting bid at a low, fair price can help your Nonprofit raise more money per item. Here are some guidelines for setting a minimum bid that will attract and encourage more donors to participate at your next charity auction.  

1. Determine Fair Market Value (FMV)

In the auction industry, the fair market value (FMV) describes the estimated value of an item based on similar products in the market and what the buyer is willing to pay. In order to set a reasonable starting bid for each item in your auction, you first have to determine each item's FMV.

Tangible Items

Some items are easy to price, like a $25 certificate to a restaurant in town; the FMV for this item is obviously $25. Similarly, a pair of Beats by Dre headphones will retail for $300, making that the FMV. Most tangible items will have a price that can be found by doing a little research online.

Even collectibles and sports memorabilia have a FMV that can be determined by doing a few online searches to find out what other people are paying. A quick search on eBay - one of the biggest online auction forums - can help you determine the fair market value of almost anything.  

Intangible Items

Setting-Priceless-Item-ValueSetting an Item's Value as "Priceless"

The perceived value for intangible items can vary dramatically for those in your audience. Instead of announcing your estimated FMV up front, which may limit your return, present these items as "Priceless" and see where the bidding goes.

Sometimes there is no precedent for determining the FMV for an item. This is usually the case for intangible or unusual items like unique experiences or exclusive access. Examples include dinner with the Mayor or the opportunity to be grand marshals at the next community parade.

In these cases, you have to make an educated guess as to what you think your audience is going to be willing to pay - not what you are willing to pay. Try to judge your donors based on their demographics, income and relative interest in similar items at previous events. If you are still struggling to come up with a number, give a few of your top donors a friendly call to ask for their input. They will appreciate you involving them and it's a good excuse to chat about the event and confirm their attendance.

2. Set the Starting Bid

According to Charity Fundraising, live auctions typically yield 75% of the item's actual value, while silent auctions yield just 50%. When setting your starting bid, you are setting a price that will hopefully allow you to yield the maximum possible profit. 

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Topics: event-production, charity auction bidding, charity auction items

Amplify Event Revenue by Selling Auction Packages Multiple Times

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jun 27, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Charity Auction Packages

One of the most advantageous parts of using consignment items in a charity auction is the ability to sell them to more than one bidder. This simple strategy, when utilized correctly, can quickly amplify the amount your organization makes on a single auction item.

 At Nonprofit auction events, friendly bidding wars among guests result in more money raised for charity. Plus, everyone likes to be part of an active auction. When bidders compete over a single item, however, that usually only means one winner per item. With certain consignment items, such as travel packages, it can be a different story completely. Instead of only selling to the highest bidder, you can sell a single item multiple times and double, triple or even quadruple the amount you raise from the auction.

Consider the following example:
A travel package has a Nonprofit cost of $2,000 with a target sale price of $2,400 (20% over cost)...


The top three bidders submit bids at $2,400, $2,500 and $2,600. If you sell the package to the top bidder, you net $600. Great! But if you (or ideally, your auctioneer) reduce the price to $2,400 and sell it to the top three bidders, you will net $1,200 - or double your money - since you are making $400 per package and selling it three times.

So how can your Nonprofit set the stage for successfully selling packages multiple times during a fundraising auction? Consider these tips:

1. Find the right consignment company
Work with a reputable consignment company that offers clients the ability to sell packages more than once. Every Winspire Experience, for example, can be sold to more than one bidder, often with no limit. 

2. Know and understand the reserve price
reserve price is a hidden minimum price—essentially, the lowest price you're willing to accept for an auction item. Big-ticket consignment packages come with a base price for Nonprofits. This is what it costs the charity to claim the prize. Understanding this cost and setting the appropriate reserve price at the auction will help ensure you price the package accordingly to encourage bidding and maximize your profit. We usually recommend setting a reserve of 20% or more over the Nonprofit cost.

3. Keep it a secret
Don’t tell your guests that more than one package is available, because you want bidders to drive the price up. Instead, wait until the end when the winner is determined and then ask the next top bidders if they would also be interested in the package at the last price bid.

Here's how it's done...

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Topics: fundraising, auction packages

Spark a Bidding War at Your Charity Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth

Jun 24, 2014 10:05:00 AM

Charity Auction Bidding Wars

Bidding wars are awesome. They are intense, competitive and exciting for everyone in the room. It can also help raise a lot of money on a single auction item. That being said, bidding wars are also elusive and almost impossible to anticipate or create. There's just no guarantee that any of the items you've selected will ignite enough interest to get your event patrons to compete with each other. Or is there...?

Doug Sorrell, one of the nation's top benefit auctioneers, has had years of experience working auction events, and sometimes even he is surprised at what sparks the audience's interest. “In May 2013 I had a 'consigned' signed celebrity item for $5,500. The cost was $650. No one had any idea this would happen, or that this item would be the ‘spark,’” he recalls. 

5 Questions to ask before hiring a benefit auctioneer

Read: 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an AuctioneerBefore you hire an auctioneer to emcee your fundraising event, use these questions to make sure they have the right knowledge and expertise to ensure a successful benefit auction and overall event. Read More →

Although you can't count on a bidding war, certain strategies may improve the likelihood that one will take place:

  • Hire a professional benefit auctioneer to host the live auction
  • Offer exciting, big-ticket items
  • Select items that tie in with the event's theme
  • Promote these items before and during the event

"At another event I had a commemorative rifle sell for over $5,000," Sorrell recalls, "No way should it have sold for over $2,500. Clearly having something like a Winchester at a Cattle Barons Ball made sense." And it does make sense. Donors attend events that are of interest to them, which can often tell you a lot about what items may be of interest to them. 

While the items you choose may or may not start a competition between donors, one thing is certain: your best chance at starting a bidding war is to hire an experienced professional benefit auctioneer.

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Topics: event-production, charity auction, bidding war


Secure Better Auction Items!

A successful charity auction relies on your ability to get exciting and appealing items for your donors to bid on.

Download this Free eBook with tips for making auction item procurement more efficient, more effective and easier for your entire team.



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

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Auction Item Procurement
Starter Kit

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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