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And the Winner is... Most Visited U.S. Destination in 2013

Posted by Sharon Ruback

Apr 24, 2014 9:53:00 AM


It’s the Big Apple vs. the Sunshine State. For the first time, Orlando sits at the top of the list for the “Most Visited U.S. City”, edging out New York City. Both cities welcomed record numbers of visitors in 2013, with Orlando at 59 million visitors and New York City at slightly over 54 million.

Harry-Potter-WorldWhy the change of heart? Has Disney World become more popular than Rockefeller Center? While New York City draws more international visitors, Orlando is a magnet for repeat visitors. Amusement parks strategically update their attractions (think Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando), giving visitors a reason to return every few years.

And don’t forget the weather: the sun shines almost year-round in Orlando. Especially at this time of year, when the spring bulbs can’t decide if it’s warm enough to bloom or if they should stay hidden until the danger of the last frost has passed, a dose of sunshine sounds mighty tempting. Spring break brings visions of bathing suits and swimming pools. Florida beckons.

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Topics: travel-experiences

Importance of Debriefing With Your Auction Committee

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 22, 2014 12:39:00 PM


When planning a fundraising event, your auction committee will meet many times throughout the year. While each of those meetings is valuable, one of the most important meetings will take place following the event: the debriefing.

Debriefing or "post-event analysis" meetings are critical because they set the stage for next year’s event and play a key role in defining future success. Although it might be tempting to skip the post-auction meeting, it’s essential that you meet one to two weeks after the event to analyze how it went.

Try to find a time when both this year’s and next year’s committee members can attend. During the debriefing meeting, there are several topics you will want to discuss. Here are some examples of what your agenda should cover: 

Show Gratitude

Before you start discussing the event, take some time to thank the committee members for their hard work. You can even call out certain people who went above and beyond to make the event a success. It’s important that your members feel appreciated, and of course you want them to remain committed to the cause.  

Identify What Worked

Start off with the positives by going around the room and asking each committee member to share their feedback. What went well? Was there anything new you tried this year? Try to pinpoint the strategies that resulted in the biggest payoff, in terms of both fundraising dollars and donor relations. If you received any positive feedback from donors, be sure to share that information as well.

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Topics: event-production

3 Crucial Post-Auction Steps to Ensure Future Fundraising Success

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 17, 2014 1:30:00 PM


After a year’s worth of planning, your fundraising auction is finally over – but the work doesn’t stop just yet! Now is the time to look back on your auction and evaluate your success by following these three steps.   

1. Analyze financial reports

The best way to determine if your fundraising event was successful is to look at your financial reports. Did you meet or surpass your fundraising goal? How did this year’s revenue compare to last year’s? Did you go over budget in any area?

Once you have an idea of how the event performed overall, take a look at how profitable your various auction items were. A quick and easy way to do this is to put all the items in a spreadsheet and include a column for Sale Price, Cost, Profit and Profit Margin.


Sale Price:  The amount the donor paid for the item
Cost:  How much it cost you to acquire the item
Profit:  (Sale Price) - (Cost)
Profit Margin:  (Profit)/(Sale Price)
Notes:  Who donated what and where you incurred costs

List all your items, fill in the columns with the appropriate amounts and calculate the profit margin for each item. The higher the profit margin, the more profitable the item. Items that are completely donated will always have a 100% profit margin.

Make sure to also list items that didn't sell, as well as any costs associated with them. This information will be useful when meeting with your team in step two. 

2. Meet with your auction team

Successful or not, it’s always important to analyze what went well and what didn’t go very well in order to improve next year’s fundraising event. Set up a post-auction meeting with your auction committee and ask for feedback, both positive and negative.

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Topics: fundraising

3 Profitable Tips for Closing Out Your Next Silent Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 15, 2014 11:43:00 AM


Knowing when and how to effectively close out your silent auction can help bring you closer to your fundraising goals. During the event, be sure to follow these three tips: 

1. Close out in sections

Competition is the key to getting more bids during a silent auction. If you close down the entire thing all at once you are missing an opportunity to spur any last minute bidding wars.

Instead, try closing out the silent auction in sections so bidders who aren't successful in one section can move on to anotherYou can group items into "sections" however you choose, but it's usually easiest to do this one table at a time. 

Consider the laws of supply and demand (remember ECON 101?), where demand increases as supply decreases. As soon as guests realize the number of items in the silent auction is shrinking, they are going to move quickly to place any last minute bids on other items they had their eye on. This will move more people to act on fewer items, increasing "buzz" on those items and ideally resulting in some bidding wars.

As an added bonus, closing out your auction in sections will also give you more time to process bid sheets during the event.

2. Close sections by value

The more sections you close, the fewer items there will be to bid on, resulting in higher demand and more competition. So why let bidders compete over low-value items?

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Topics: event-production

Procurement Timeline: 4 Crucial Steps for Acquiring Stellar Auction Items

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 9, 2014 11:38:00 AM


If you’re hosting a fundraising auction this year, it’s essential that you start the procurement process early. This timeline will help you stay on task so you aren’t scrambling for auction items at the last minute.

Seven to eight months before event

Seven to eight months before event:
Build Your Procurement Committee

The people who are on your procurement team can have a huge impact on whether you obtain auction items that are successful on the big night. You want to build a team that is capable and dedicated to acquiring quality goods, services and experiences from local businesses and community. When choosing candidates for your procurement team, consider their availability, connections, work ethic, leadership abilities and experience with your organization.

six months before event

Six months before event:
Start Procuring Auction Items

Once you've assembled a solid team, it’s time to begin the process of procuring auction items. A popular way to get the ball rolling is to host a wish list party to brainstorm ideas and establish mutual connections within the community.

Make it fun! Provide food and drink and host the "party" in a place where members will feel comfortable and relaxed to encourage participation. After finalizing a list of ideas, assign individuals from your committee to obtain specific items based on their community connections. Assign multiple people to items where your team doesn't have any connections.


Regardless of how much experience your committee members have (or think they have) approaching donors, it is always a good idea to review the components of an effective "Ask". Have an open discussion about what has or has not worked well for procurement in the past.

Make sure each person is armed with an auction item procurement packet containing a donation form and procurement letter they can customize for each donor they approach. Also include a copy of the complete wish list showing who is responsible for each item. 

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Topics: event-production

How Nonprofits Should Reach Millennials [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 8, 2014 9:47:00 AM


Click Here to view infographic →

Millennials are a tough bunch to appeal to. Born between the early 80's and late 90’s, this hyper-connected group spends most of their day consuming media and has a higher tendency to multitask – meaning they’re more easily distracted.

This group of 18-36 year-old young professionals, also known as Generation Y, have also expanded their spending power and social influence in recent years, becoming a crucial target for growing businesses and Nonprofits alike. This means that while this demographic cohort may be harder to reach, the payoff for actually getting through to them may be well worth the investment. 

In a 2012-13 survey report conducted by Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle & Associates (JGA) concluded that Millennials are eager to be taken seriously as future donors, volunteers and leaders for causes they care about. The problem is many Nonprofits have difficulty cutting through the constant onslaught of attention-grabbing media to connect with these individuals.

So how do you reach these multitasking, hyper-connected young professionals who want to help? It’s no surprise that the shift has moved online, where Millennials consume a vast majority of their content.

The following infographic outlines the findings of the JGA study investigating Millennial preferences for how they want to be reached: 

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Topics: nonprofits

The "Tiki Culture" of San Francisco’s Tonga Room

Posted by Ian Lauth

Apr 4, 2014 11:30:00 AM


Imagine yourself dining underneath a tiki hut near the water’s edge. Live music fills the air and you have a fruity drink in hand. More than likely, you’re picturing yourself on a tropical vacation. The good news is you don’t have to fly all the way to Hawaii or an island in the South Pacific for a night of relaxation and fun. Just head to San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel and spend an evening dining at the Tonga Room.

With an incredible atmosphere including an indoor lagoon, the Tonga Room experience is one you will never forget. In a city filled with tourist attractions, the tropical-themed tiki bar and restaurant has become a magnet for visitors and locals looking to take a break from the hectic pace of the city. 

So what sets the Tonga Room apart? According to Luke Skinner, Food and Beverage Marketing and Operations Manager at the Tonga Room, it’s the story behind the Tonga Room that really makes it unique. “There is so much history behind the Tonga Room,” says Skinner.

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Topics: travel-experiences

Top 5 Pitfalls of Live Auctions and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Jeff Cova

Apr 2, 2014 12:04:00 PM


Live benefit auctions can be an excellent fundraising opportunity for your Nonprofit. In order to maximize your fundraising efforts and raise the most money possible, try to avoid these five live auction pitfalls.

1. Not hiring a professional benefit auctioneer 

When it comes to Nonprofit fundraising, you have to spend money to make money. Professional benefit auctioneers specialize in fundraising auctions, which means they can help you throughout the planning process. An auctioneer with experience can advise you on everything from when it is best to make a special appeal to which items will work best in the live vs. silent auction.

Professional auctioneers are also going to be more effective at encouraging active bidding during the event. They have experience injecting commentary about your mission into the live auction chant, helping tug at the heartstrings of your audience. Good auctioneers will know when to be forceful with bidders and when to back down, as well as help drive more traffic to your silent auction tables. 

While it may be cheaper to run the event yourself or get the most outspoken person in your office to host, hiring a professional benefit auctioneer will almost always help you raise more money.

2. Boring your audience with a long auction

Live auctions with too many items can easily drag on, and bored guests do not bid nearly as much as those who are excited and engaged. Keep your audience’s attention by limiting the number of items in your live auction to a handful of your most sensational items, such as a signed piece of memorabilia or unique travel Experience. For most events, keeping it between 7-12 big-ticket live auction items should do the trick.
(For more info, see: How Many Auction Items Should I Put in my Fundraising Event?)

3. Poor presentation

It’s great that your organization put a lot of time and effort into decorating the event venue, but how much work did you put into presenting your auction items? An auction is like a shopping experience for bidders, which means the presentation of each item will largely impact how desirable it is. You might think this only applies to your silent auction, but it can certainly influence your live auction as well.

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Topics: event-production

Send Your Donors on a Trip Out of This World!

Posted by Jeff Cova

Apr 1, 2014 11:09:29 AM

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Topics: travel-experiences

Change Your Story About Money

Posted by Ian Lauth

Mar 26, 2014 2:21:00 PM


Sometimes fundraising is all about how you frame your mind around your day-to-day transactions. This sentiment really hit home today in a post by best selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, who reminds us about the ephemeral nature of money. It is a great and simple way to think about fundraising:

Your story about money

Is a story. About money.

Money isn't real. It's a method of exchange, a unit we exchange for something we actually need or value. It has worth because we agree it has worth, because we agree what it can be exchanged for.

But there's something far more powerful going on here.

We don't actually agree, because each person's valuation of money is based on the stories we tell ourselves about it.

Our bank balance is merely a number, bits represented on a screen, but it's also a signal and symptom. We tell ourselves a story about how we got that money, what it says about us, what we're going to do with it and how other people judge us. We tell ourselves a story about how that might grow, and more vividly, how that money might disappear or shrink or be taken away.

And those stories, those very powerful unstated stories, impact the narrative of just about everything else we do.

So yes, there's money. But before there's money, there's a story. It turns out that once you change the story, the money changes too.


This post is great because it makes you think twice about your relationship with your donors, their money and what it means to be a fundraising professional.

Fundraising is a tough job. In many ways it is about raising money. But why? What is the bigger story here? Are you chasing a cause, or is it something bigger?

The narrative you choose is entirely up to you.

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Topics: fundraising


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

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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


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