Winspire News

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

Mobile and Online Bidding: A Comprehensive Guide to Silent Auction Technology

Posted by Summy Lau


Charity auctions are consistently among the most popular and lucrative events nonprofits can host.

While the basic rules of fundraising auctions have remained the same over the years, the format of these events is rapidly evolving, thanks to the advancement of auction technology.

On the one hand, auction technology has made planning and executing charity auctions much easier for nonprofits. On the other, because it’s so specialized, many organizations are at a loss as to what exactly auction software does and how they can use it in practice.

We regularly receive questions from fundraisers about auction technology, so we wanted to clear up some of the uncertainty. We teamed up with our friends at BidPal to create an expert comprehensive guide to auction technology. Today we'll cover:

  1. Online Auctions & Event Sites
  2. Online Auction Catalogs
  3. Online Ticketing
  4. Mobile Bidding: More Profitable Silent Auctions
  5. Mobile Bidding: Smoother Live Cash Appeals
  6. Auction Scoreboards and Fundraising Thermometers

Read on to learn the basic functionalities of auction software, plus practical ways these tools can raise more at your next auction.


1. Online Auctions & Event Sites

Online auctions are, simply put, digital silent auctions.

While most charity auctions are limited to a single night and venue, online auctions allow organizations to open up their auctions to more donors for longer periods of time. They're typically paired with silent and live auctions to make the most of your marketing efforts. Plus, since there are fewer costs with an online event, they can be done with minimal risk or investment.

Read More

Topics: event-production, silent auction bid sheets, online donors, mobile bidding, event-promotion, mobile fundraising

13 Ways Board Members Can Become Fundraising Event Superheroes

Posted by Summy Lau


The board is critical to a nonprofit's success and longevity. Board members voluntarily give their time, resources, professional insight and more to support a cause they believe in. They also serve as the public face of an organization, advocating for your work and impact.

Not only do board members participate in day-to-day operations, they're needed to pull off special fundraising events throughout the year. Are you making the most of their time and efforts?

Read on for 13 simple ways board members, with nonprofit support, can become the superheroes every fundraising event needs. (One example: Did you know donors who receive a thank-you call from board members within one day of their gift give 39% more the next time they're asked?)

1. Invite major donors and VIPs over the phone.

woman_on_phone.jpgEnsure your charity's biggest supporters know their presence would be missed at the upcoming golf tournament, gala or auction. They're a lot less likely to reject or ignore an invitation when it's personalized, from one of the leaders of your organization.

Make this as easy as possible for busy board members. Supply a sample script they can reference in the call, with all the important details on registration, ticket sales, the night's agenda and goals.

If you're holding an auction, the invitation call is also a great time to find out what items these major donors would be most interested in bidding on. 

Read More

Topics: donor-relations

This Live Auction Sequence Works Like Magic to Maximize Bids

Posted by Summy Lau


Picture this: Your procurement team has done an amazing job getting valuable items donated, reserved or underwritten for the live and silent auctions. You have 8 to 12 standout items ready for the live auction, including a catered dinner party at a donor's home, a flat-screen TV, sold-out concert tickets and a 5-night culinary excursion to Tuscany.

Now you need every item to bring in as much revenue as possible. Do you know how to order your live auction items to garner the highest bids?

Will you sequence your auction items in terms of increasing value? Alternate big-ticket and smaller items? Arrange by color, size, or alphabetical order? Does it even make a difference??

As fundraising auction experts, we know order matters. The simplest and most effective way to lay out your live auction: Draw a bell curve. Read on to discover how this smooth sequence keeps the audience engaged, entertained and, most importantly, eager to bid.


Start of the curve

On the left we have the "tangible zone": items that donors can typically see on the stage and take home that night. This includes household goods, electronics, food and wine and more. To get the crowd involved and comfortable bidding, start with lower-priced tangible items. One great way to use these items is in an icebreaker, as suggested by our friend and benefit auctioneer Danny Hooper in a recent webinar.

Read More

Topics: event-production, live auction

How Benefit Auctioneers Haul In 50% Higher Bids: INFOGRAPHIC

Posted by Summy Lau


It's a scene all too familiar to many nonprofits...

You've spent eight months preparing for your annual gala, live and silent auction. Dozens of volunteers and staff have put in countless hours marketing your event to the entire community, securing event sponsorships from local businesses, finalizing logistics and procuring exciting, buzzworthy items for the auction.

Finally, the big night arrives. The honorary "auctioneer," a local news anchor, has graciously agreed to lead your live auction pro bono. Everyone's excited to start the live auction...until it becomes clear your volunteer doesn't have enough experience in this area. He has trouble building momentum, leaves out important details on some items, lets your Fund-a-Need cash appeal fall flat and even misses a few raised bid paddles in the corners of the ballroom.

The energy deflates from the auction, and the night's total revenue is disappointing to say the least.

Event fundraising is expensive. It's understandable that nonprofits want to save wherever possible. But in our experience, the auctioneer is not the corner to cut.

In the live auction, the high point of the biggest fundraiser of the year, the stakes are too high to have the wrong person at the helm.

Professional certification in any field is a formal recognition one has the skills to perform a certain job and is committed to maintaining high standards. A certified Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) is an auctioneer with experience maximizing profits from benefit auctions in particular.

Our advice: Ask your local media personality or outgoing volunteer to serve as the night's emcee or host, and leave the live auction to the professionals. Read on to discover why hiring a BAS could be a game-changer for your next auction's bottom line!

Read More

Topics: event-production, benefit auctioneer

4 Scorching-Hot Summer Strategies to Supercharge Your Fall Fundraiser

Posted by Summy Lau

Summer Fundraising Strategies for Nonprofits

While nonprofit donor development is a year-round effort, summer often brings a well-deserved slowdown to the usual tempo. Sun, sand and a slew of holidays make it all the more tempting to save the tough planning for the next arrival of peak event season (fall and spring).

That said, the summer months are actually the best time to prepare for your event. You have time now to recruit and train the best volunteers, choose a theme and curate a better auction catalog than ever.

We often compare charity auctions to retailers that are only open for one night a year. With such a limited time frame to raise critical funds, you want to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Whether your next event is in a few days or a few months, read on for 4 practical tips you can do right now to generate more revenue later.

1. Consider an event theme.

If you've hosted the same gala for years, choosing a festive and unique theme can be a game-changer for your revenue. Themes keep events from growing stale by drawing in more donors, increasing ticket sales and ultimately creating anticipation for the big night.

Surveys show 93 percent of all attendees prioritize having fun at charity events. A unique theme is a great way to have fun while keeping the focus on fundraising.

Read More

Topics: procurement, auctions, event-production

July Donation Give-Away Winner Announced! Drumroll please...

Posted by Summy Lau

July 2016 Giveaway Winner AnnouncedWe are thrilled to announce the winner of our third Donation Give-Away drawing of 2016!

Congratulations goes to Doug Tiede, Special Events Manager for the Minnesota Zoo Foundation in Apple Valley, Minn. The Foundation secures gifts, hosts special events and advocates on behalf of the Minnesota Zoo. Its mission: to connect people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife. Since 1978, the Zoo has become a state, national, and international leader in wildlife conservation and environmental education.

It's our honor to be able to donate $1,000 in Hyatt stays for their use in an upcoming fundraiser. Read on to see how Doug plans to use the prize to generate more revenue at the 29th annual "Beastly Ball," plus learn more about their mission and biggest fundraising challenges.

Learn more about our Donation Give-Away!

How will your organization use the Hyatt gift certificates?

Our goal is to use the certificates to round out a unique auction package for use in either our premiere silent auction category or the live auction of our largest fundraiser of the year, the 29th annual Beastly Ball. This is the Zoo’s signature black-tie event, attracting more than 500 guests and raising over $500,000 each year.

Read More

Topics: Donation Give-Aways, donation-give-away, donation-give-away-winner, donation-give-aways-2

3 Must-try Techniques to Generate More Money from Your Charity Auction (hint: wine trees!)

Posted by Summy Lau

Entertain, Engage, and Extract - The 3 E's of successful fundraising

Nonprofits that host charity fundraising events have very different goals than those who attend. On one side of the fence, guests want to be entertained and have fun. On the other, nonprofits urgently need to raise money to support their mission.

To the rescue: the 3 E's of a successful fundraising event, as coined by fundraising auctioneer Danny Hooper—Entertain, Engage and Extract. These 3 simple principles allow your event to reach its full revenue potential. (For more, check out "The "3 E's" that Bridge the Gap Between Fun and Fundraising.")

Keep your guests entertained yet focused on the fundraising by providing donation opportunities they have never seen before. Read on for 3 fresh techniques to employ in your upcoming auction, whether it's in a few months or a few days. (Think your guests would be interested in bidding on a wine tree?) 

If you like what you see, there's a lot more where that came from! Get more details and ideas instantly by signing up for Winspire's latest resource, Checklist Builder.

Method 1: The Super Signature Technique

This technique works like magic when auctioning off subjective items like artwork that may not have an obvious market value. See how Danny employed this technique to generate 50 times more revenue from a single photograph...

Read More

Topics: event-production, live auction, charity auction ideas, auction item ideas

Why Travel Budgets Are Awesome For Your Fundraising Bottom Line

Posted by Summy Lau


Welcome back from the long Fourth of July weekend, Winspire News community! This past weekend was one for the books: Some 43 million Americans took cars, planes and trains to make this the busiest Independence Day travel weekend on record. Credit goes to the convenient 3-day weekend and the lowest summertime fuel prices in 11 years.

With more people packing their bags and looking for adventure, it's no surprise that travel is one of the most popular and best selling charity auction items. Most people who attend charity fundraising events have a substantial travel budget, or money they set aside specifically for leisure travel. In fact, we've surveyed more than 1,000 winning bidders and found that 83% budget at least $5,000 each year for vacation travel.


The vast majority of your charity event patrons already have money earmarked for travel. Are you giving them the chance to spend some of it at your event?

By offering travel, auction attendees can fill two needs with one deed: They can spend their travel budget on an incredible Experience while supporting a cause they believe in. And accessing those travel budgets could be the catalyst your event needs to reach new heights.

Read on for a few reasons travel budgets are a boon to your bottom line, plus check out 4 top summer travel destinations (and Winspire bestsellers!) to add to your upcoming auction.

Create Buzz

Some basic travel components, like hotel stays and airlines miles, can be donated. But it's difficult and time-consuming to coordinate the type of travel packages that "wow" donors and get high bids: trips with airfare, deluxe accomodations and Experiences worth talking about.

Read More

Topics: travel-experiences, travel budgets

The "3 E's" that Bridge the Gap Between Fun and Fundraising

Posted by Summy Lau


Between procuring donated items, tracking logistics, securing sponsorhips, promoting ticket sales and more, we all know charity auction events are a lot of work. So why do we still hold them? Nearly all nonprofits would likely say it's because their organization or cause needs the money.

However, research by the National Auctioneers' Association reveals the #1 reason 93% of attendees choose to buy a ticket is not to support your cause, but to HAVE FUN!

On one hand, nonprofits need to make money. On the other hand, guests want to have a good time.

How do we bridge that gap?

Enter the "3 E's" of hosting a fundraiser that's both fun and profitable, as coined by benefit auctioneer Danny Hooper:

1. Entertain
2. Engage
3. Extract

You may spend up to 12 months meticulously planning a lavish event that runs seamlessly... but without all 3 components working together, the night cannot meet its full revenue potential. 

Read on for more on the 3 E's and practical ways to incorporate these fundamentals in your next fundraiser.

Read More

Topics: fundraising, live auction

This Simple Tool Delivers the Know-how to Raise $100,000 in One Night

Posted by Summy Lau


Which type of fundraising event makes the most money in the shortest amount of time? Is it a golf tournament or gala, 5K run/walk or raffle? Our answer: events with auctions, and for one simple reason. They make it fun for guests to spend money quickly.

At a typical auction...

A nonprofit has set up a one-night-only storefront where everything must go. Donors arrive ready to compete for the best deals on unique items procured around the community.

First guests browse the silent auction tables. Throw in dinner, cocktails, socializing and a good cause, and the money starts to flow very quickly. The silent auction is then closed and items sold to the highest bidder.

Next comes the live auction. The energy of the evening is at its peak. A skilled benefit auctioneer taps into people’s competitive nature. She combines one-ups-manship and big egos with an eager audience to ignite bidding wars. Tens of thousands of dollars are generated in a matter of minutes.

These prestigious social events combine ticket sales, special cash appeals and winning bids to raise anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million in one night.

bidding_war_gala.jpgSo, how do they raise that kind of money?

Welcome to the less glamorous side of event fundraising: Successful auctions require a ton of work and expertise. Committee chairs and legions of volunteers spend the better part of a year procuring donated items, creating displays, promoting the event, and more...all hoping the event will be both fun and profitable.

Auction planning is extremely complex, and many steps can be mishandled or overlooked.

The secret to navigating the process and acheiving your event's full potential is professional guidance. Imagine having an auction expert by your side to advise best practices, track logistics and suggest hidden revenue opportunities.

Wouldn't it be great knowing you've handled everything that needs to get done?

That’s where Checklist Builder comes in.

For months we have been developing a brand-new resource for event fundraisers in the Winspire community. Today we are proud to unveil Checklist Builder for you to try absolutely free!

Sign up Free

Read on to learn more about this new tool and how your organization can benefit.

Read More

Topics: auctions, event-production, silent auctions, live auction, benefit auctioneer

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 →