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Jeff Cova

Jeff Cova, President of Winspire, Inc., has over 17 years of experience in the Nonprofit and fundraising industry. Prior to Winspire, Jeff worked for 5 years as the Director of Development at Cal State Fullerton before co-founding a company specializing in producing charity auctions for Nonprofits where he successfully produced the auctions for 250 of Southern California’s most successful fundraising events. In 2008 Jeff founded Winspre with the goal of helping non-profits across the country increase their event fundraising revenue and identify new fundraising sources. Jeff and his team at Winspire have helped over 12,000 non-profits to date.
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Recent Posts

5 Ways to Develop Donors with a Culture of Gratitude

Posted by Jeff Cova on Dec 2, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Five Ways to Create a Culture of Gratitude

Donor development can be an overwhelming process. The job of cultivating donors, engaging target audiences, building personal relationships and determining the proper timing of "the ask" are all crucial to achieving fundraising success. With each multi-layered step, it’s easy to lose sight of the single-most important part of donor retention: expressing your gratitude. 

Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful or the "readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness". This is an important concept that takes a central role in fundraising, but can sometimes get glossed over when the focus falls too heavily on numbers and figures.

Being a grateful recipient shows your charity cares - not only about the mission at hand, but about the people who make it possible. Donors are people, not numbers. They want to feel appreciated for their contribution and reassured that their money matters. Whether they give $5 or $50,000, every gift is a reason to extend gratitude.

Following are five ways gratitude can help you develop and strengthen your donor relationships:

1. Make gratitude the priority

Whether or not someone is going to donate again shouldn't be the primary focus when expressing gratitude. While creating repeat donors is clearly an important part of developing your donors, don't give thanks just to get another gift; give thanks because it's the right thing to do. Donors deserve to enjoy their giving, and by showing your gratitude you let them feel good about their generosity. This is an important part of the philanthropic process and an absolute necessity in donor development.

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Topics: donor-relations, donor development

10 Golden Rules of Donor Development

Posted by Jeff Cova on Nov 4, 2014 9:53:00 AM

Ten Golden Rules of Donor Development

Donor cultivation is a critical part of achieving a charity's mission. Build a good relationship with donors and you set the stage for a lifetime of giving. Ignore the importance of donor relations, however, and your donors may become loyal givers elsewhere.

Donor relations isn't just for corporate sponsors and foundations, either. In fact, according to Giving USA, 81% of Nonprofit revenue comes from living individuals and bequests, which means a good donor-relation plan will always focus on the individual givers.

Consider these 10 golden rules to build donor-relation momentum and help your Nonprofit succeed long-term:

1. Be committed – Donor development should be a top priority every day. Think of it as a customer-service function. You want to provide a world-class experience that leaves donors happy, informed and engaged. If they have a stellar experience and feel valued, not only are they more likely to donate in the future, but they might suggest your organization to friends with similar interests who also have charitable dollars to give.

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Topics: donor-relations, donor development

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

Posted by Jeff Cova on Jul 1, 2014 11:18:00 AM

Charity Auction Items - 3 Step Guide setting minimum bids

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.  

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Topics: event-production, charity auction bidding, charity auction items, top3-event-fundraising, consignment

5 Surefire Ways to Ignite Bidding on Silent Auction Items

Posted by Jeff Cova on May 22, 2014 10:00:00 AM

5 Surefire Ways to Ignite Bidding on Silent Auction Items

The last thing you want is for your guests to ignore the exciting silent auction items you've worked so hard to secure. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies to help draw donors to the silent auction tables and encourage more bidding activity.

1. Arrange the Room Strategically

Popular retailers are very deliberate about the way they arrange stores and display merchandise to entice shoppers to spend money. The next time you walk through Nordstrom, take a look at the way items are presented in various departments. Observe everything from the amount of space separating displays to the little artistic knick-knacks that add to the "look & feel" of a collection.

The same concept applies to silent auction tables, where presentation is just as important for enticing donors to bid. Consider these tips when you set up your displays:

  • Arrange your silent auction tables with adequate space between them so guests can move freely.
  • Incorporate visual cues such as colorful balloons, lights or signage to mark pathways and other points of interest.
  • Set up drink stations on the opposite side of the auction-staging area so when guests want a fresh beverage they'll have to walk through the silent auction.
  • Spruce up your tables with decorations that compliment the theme of the event or the mission of your organization. 

2. Distribute a Silent Auction Item Catalog

A great tool for all of your guests is to create a simple and attractive catalog in Microsoft Word with pictures and brief descriptions of all the items up for auction. Strategically place the catalog throughout the event on dining tables, at the bar and even in the bathrooms.

For a link to download our professionally designed, 100%-customizable auction catalog template for Microsoft Word, click below:

Auction Catalog Templates

If you have a large selection of silent auction items, select only the top 20-30 to include in the catalog. You can also use this list of top items in the event program and to promote the event in email newsletters, on social media and on your website. The printed information will give all guests (even those who can't attend) a chance to browse the items, increasing the chances they will bid.

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Topics: event-production, silent auction items, silent auctions, charity auction

Top 5 Pitfalls of Live Auctions and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Jeff Cova on Apr 2, 2014 12:04:00 PM

Top Five Pitfalls of Live Auctions & How to Avoid Them

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 charity 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 no-risk 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 on Apr 1, 2014 11:09:29 AM
Send-Donors-to-Space-BLOG
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Topics: travel-experiences

The 6 Most Important Volunteer Duties for your Auction Day Team

Posted by Jeff Cova on Mar 14, 2014 12:40:00 PM

The-6-Most-Important-Volunteer-Duties-at-Your-Auction-Event

On the day of your fundraising auction, it’s important for you to mingle and network with your guests so you can establish and nurture relationships with donors. This means that you will need volunteers to act as your “auction day team” to help your event run smoothly.

Every auction event is different, but typical duties you will want help with include:

1. Registration: If you’re using a computer-based system for guest registration and auction check out, then be sure to find volunteers with good computer skills. Although you will be training volunteers, it’s better if they can learn and understand the software quickly. 

Don’t hesitate to be a little picky about who you put up front at the registration table. They are your guests’ first impression of the event as they walk through the door, so encourage your volunteers to be warm and welcoming and greet new arrivals with a smile! Event check-in can also get overwhelming at times with lots of people showing up at once, so make sure you select volunteers who can handle themselves and know how to interact with large groups.

2. Handling Money: Whoever is working as cashier and is handling the money for the night should be someone you know well and preferably a member of the organization.

3. Floaters: Select a few volunteers to act as table monitors who watch over the bidding process and help answer any questions donors might have. They can also keep an eye on smaller items that can easily be stolen as well as pick up the bid sheets once a section has been closed out.

Floaters are particularly important during auctions using mobile bidding. Donors who are new to mobile bidding technology often have questions or need direction using the software properly. Make sure these volunteers are tech-savvy, well trained and familiar with the technology so they can address any issues that arise and keep your donors bidding!

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Topics: event-production

How to Bundle Smaller Donations to Create Extraordinary Auction Items

Posted by Jeff Cova on Mar 4, 2014 11:17:00 AM

How to Create Extraordinary Auction Items

When you’re faced with too many items for your silent auction event, a smart way to slim down the number of items and maximize revenue is to incorporate bundling into your strategy.

Bundling is taking smaller items and grouping them together into larger packages. This can have a positive impact on your auction for 3 reasons:

  1. Increase the value of simple items
  2. Attract attention to smaller items
  3. Reduce clutter of too many items

Some no-risk auction items simply lack the appeal that others have. Examples include simple items like gift certificates, inexpensive wine, gas cards, apparel or toys. With bundling, you can take these seemingly “basic” items and make them more interesting to your guests by grouping them with others.

EXAMPLE: Ultmate Date Night Bundle

Ultimate Date NightFor example, a $125 dinner certificate on it's own won't fetch many bids - usually you'll be lucky to get more than $50 for it. Instead, try bundling it together with some other inexpensive items to create the "Ultimate Date Night" package:

  • $125 Dinner Certificate
  • 2 Bottles of wine with glasses
  • 3 Dominos Pizza certificates
  • Coupon for 4 hours of babysitting

As you can see, each of these items displayed individually wouldn't go for much. By presenting them together and marketing the bundle as a complete package, you are creating a higher perceived value for your bidders. This translates to more interest, more bids and more money for your cause.

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Topics: fundraising

3 Tips for Displaying Auction Items to Attract Fierce Bidding

Posted by Jeff Cova on Feb 19, 2014 12:59:00 PM

3 Tips to Attract Fierce Bidding at Your Next Charity Auction Fundraiser

If you are hosting a silent auction at your charity fundraising event, it’s important to strategize the best way to present items to your guests. Presentation can have a huge impact on how much donors bid and directly affects how much money you raise at your event.

Use these 3 helpful tips for displaying items in a manner that will encourage fierce bidding from your audience.

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Topics: event-production, auction displays

4 Surprisingly Simple Cures for Donor Fatigue

Posted by Jeff Cova on Jan 14, 2014 9:49:00 AM

4-Surprisingly-Simple-Cures-for-Donor-Fatigue2

Have donations to your Nonprofit hit a plateau? Have previously active donors suddenly disappeared? Are you having trouble engaging high-level donors? If so, your Nonprofit may be suffering from donor fatigue:

Do·nor Fa·tigue   noun
1. a lessening of public willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals, resulting in part from the frequency of such appeals.

In other words, bombarding your supporters with bland and monotonous appeals for donations may diminish donor interest and weaken your base. We all know a solid donor base is critical to the success of your Nonprofit, which means keeping donors active, engaged and excited.

Following are four simple ways to treat donor fatigue and replenish the passion your donors have for your Nonprofit and its mission:

1. Be Choosy About Communication Channels

It’s been said before, but it's worth saying again: Communication is key to keeping donors informed and open to giving. Approach each donor – particularly those who donate larger amounts – with an individualized communication plan. Some prefer email over phone calls, others rarely sit down at a computer but love to chat on the phone.

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Topics: donor-relations, donor retention, nonprofit survey

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Meet 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 fundraising advice, industry news and insight into charity fundraising with travel.