Summy Lau

As Fundraising Editor, Summy brings hands-on experience in nonprofit development, event fundraising, publishing, copywriting and design to Winspire News. She creates blog content, infographics, templates, eBooks and other resources to help fundraising professionals and volunteers exceed their fundraising goals. Her two favorite perks of working at Winspire: hearing nonprofit success stories and dreaming of new bucket list destinations.
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Recent Posts

19 Tips to Capture Event Sponsorships, Higher Bids with Mobile Bidding

Posted by Summy Lau on Mar 7, 2017 9:43:40 AM

19 Tips to Capture Event Sponsorships, Higher Bids and More with Mobile Bidding

Did you know? Experts estimate 30 percent of auction events today utilize some form of mobile bidding.

As donors get more comfortable using smartphones or tablets to text bids in a silent auction, mobile bidding is a more viable option for nonprofits than ever.

To help you navigate a changing auction landscape, we sat down with Debby Roth-Bush, certified benefit auctioneer and Relationship Manager at mobile auction software provider Greater Giving.

She shares the top benefits of using mobile bidding, plus 19 concrete tips to get the most out mobile bidding in your event. In part 1 of a 2-part series, we'll cover:

  1. Top 3 benefits of mobile bidding
  2. Find the right mobile bidding provider.
  3. Consider cell reception before signing off on a venue.
  4. Get more event sponsorships (branded charging stations, anyone?)
  5. Tell donors ahead of time
  6. Bundle items
  7. What items sell best

1. Is mobile bidding right for your event? 3 Benefits

"Mobile bidding aims to help nonprofits raise more money every day through products like event software management, mobile bidding, fast payment collection and online donations," explains Roth-Bush.

Indeed, auction software is a way for groups to solve a number of problems at their events. Here are the top 3 indicators that mobile and online bidding may be right for your event.

Solves space constraints

Mobile bidding solves space constraint issues at your charity fundraiser"A few years ago, I was at my son's school auction, bidding on the front row seat of the play in which he was scheduled to perform," recalls Roth-Bush. "I remember being excited for the item - but when I went to check on the bid sheet, I literally couldn't get through the crowd of people holding their drinks.

"I didn't want to spill something or make a scene. In the end, I knew the organization lost a little bit of money because I couldn't physically get back to the auction."

Silent auctions can get too crowded if the space isn't carefully optimized - and you want to remove any obstacles in the way of the donor's inclination to spend.

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Topics: event-production, mobile bidding, mobile fundraising

4 Things We Learned about Silent Auctions from a Hit ABC Sitcom

Posted by Summy Lau on Mar 2, 2017 9:06:09 AM

4 things we learned about silent auctions from a hit ABC sitcom

With spring fundraising season upon us, many nonprofits are hustling to procure quality items for their charity auctions. How can you generate higher bids on every item and make the silent auction worthwhile?

In popular ABC sitcom Last Man Standing, funny guy Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter, a marketing director for sporting goods retailer Outdoor Man. His wife, Vanessa, is a revered geologist doubling as leader of the PTA.

See below as Vanessa and Mike attend a fundraiser for the school that includes a silent auction - and one hilarious pen-and-paper bidding war. Then see if you can spot the 4 best practices we found in the clip, plus get free downloads for your next auction (like customizable bid sheet templates).

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Topics: Silent Auction Ideas, event-production, silent auction bid sheets, silent auction items, silent auctions

3 Ways Benefit Auctioneer Scott Robertson Runs Charity Auctions like Seamless Productions

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 28, 2017 6:45:00 AM

3 Ways Benefit Auctioneer Scott Robertson runs charity auctions like seamless productions

Whether it's your first gala or your tenth - whether you've prepared for one year or one month - on the night of your fundraising event, you never know quite what's going to happen.

There's a lot of shifting dynamics from the moment the doors open until the last guest leaves.

So it's imperative to have someone experienced with a birds' eye view leading the way - and the most important person in the room that night will be the fundraising auctioneer.

Unlike amateur emcees or other types of auctioneers, benefit auctioneers are highly trained and have special expertise to extract the most money from the room possible.

"A good benefit auctioneer eats, sleeps and breathes fundraising auctions," explains Scott Robertson, certified benefit auctioneer specialist from Naples, FL. "We make it our practice to study events, timelines, human psychology, all the things necessary to make one particular event a success."

With an estimated 90 percent of benefit auctioneers providing pre-event consultation, more and more nonprofits have discovered event fundraising knowledge is power - power that puts more money into your charity’s pocket.

Read on for Robertson's tried-and-true techniques for maximizing live and silent auction revenue, then listen to the entire 40-minute Events with Benefits podcast episode embedded at the end of this post.

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Topics: event-production, benefit auctioneer, auction timeline

5 Tips to Share with Your Auction Committee Today (like the downside of sponsored tables)

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 23, 2017 10:01:42 AM

5 Tips to Share with Your Auction Committee Today

When you think of putting on the annual charity auction, 5K Fun Run, golf tournament and more, do you get excited?

Or are you more like one organizer who described it like this: "I feel like someone emptied a jigsaw puzzle on top of my desk and now expects me to put it together - without the box."

Fact is, the number one reason events don't reach their full potential is that most event organizers simply don't know what they don't know. We tend to do events the same way they've been done - and make the same mistakes - for years, until the event is difficult to justify having at all.

That's why at Winspire we're passionate about providing resources, tips and ideas from event fundraising leaders across North America to help you reach and exceed your fundraising goals.

In today's post we sat down with Noah McMahon, founder and CEO of a company that specializes in putting together multi-million dollar fundraising events and philanthropic consulting. Drawing from decades of event production experience, McMahon shares 5 useful event planning tips, including how to:

  1. Surprise the audience.
  2. Focus on face-to-face invitations.
  3. Combat the "table sale" bystander effect by setting expectations in advance.
  4. Set (and write down) BIG goals.
  5. Commit to measuring impact.

Best of all, each tip can be applied to fundraisers big and small. Let's get started!

1. Surprise the audience.

"I have rarely been involved in events where you can send out invitations, sit back and all the seats get sold. So I like to focus on 'event architecture' when designing an event," McMahon says.

The first step to selling tickets and generating buzz for your event, is to create someting that's different and better than what people expect.

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Topics: fundraising

Turn Guests into Givers: The 3 Building Blocks of Lasting Donor Relationships

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 21, 2017 8:49:29 AM

Tips to build lasting donor relationships for your nonprofitBuilding relationships is not only a cornerstone of continual donor development - it's key to hosting successful fundraising events, too.

Why? With high event chair turnover and staff spread thin, many organizations end up trying to reinvent the annual gala, auction or tournament from from the ground up, year after year.

Investing more time in developing relationships now lightens the burden considerably for next year, asserts Noah McMahon, philanthropist, founder and CEO of Anonymous LLC (specializing in event production and philanthropic consulting). 

"Relationships are like a web," McMahon says. "If you treat everybody with respect and don't expect anything in return, you end up getting so much in return."

In today's post, learn McMahon's 3 building blocks to lasting relationships with donors, event sponsors and more to multiply the impact of every dollar raised. Then listen to the latest episode of our event fundraising podcast Events with Benefits (audio player embedded at the bottom of the post).

Building Block 1: Start with the end in mind.

"I've been involved in thousands of events over the past years, from events that raise over $10 million to events that simply raise awareness. But I probably spend more time talking people out of events than into them," explains McMahon.

The first indicator of a potentially successful event is whether or not you have a goal.

Events with no goals have no rudder. When planning your event, is everyone on the same page about what it is you're trying to achieve?

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Topics: donor-relations, donor development

3 Ways a Sloppy Auction Timeline Could Cost Your Organization $100,000

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 16, 2017 9:57:29 AM

3 Ways a Sloppy Auction Timeline Could Cost Your Organization $100,000

We hope you enjoyed our recent three-part webinar series all about auction timelines.

Three parts? you might be asking. Is planning the night's agenda really as important as event must-do's like procuring donations, handling logistics and promoting the event?

Read on as benefit auctioneer Scott Robertson shares his firsthand experience of what can go wrong if you don't create (and adhere to!) a streamlined agenda:

"I recently did an auction at a school event. These typically draw younger crowds that start the cocktail hour earlier and have so much fun talking to each other, it's hard to get them seated. Since no one was in charge of the timeline, they fell behind 15 minutes. Then the organization refused to start the event until everybody was seated, which cost another 10 minutes. Fires continued having to be put out here and there, until we were a full 40 minutes behind schedule.

Finally, we got the ball rolling on the live auction. Their plan was to only do a few items, and to do it before dinner. Now that's all well and good. The only problem? They forgot to tell the dining room manager and chef we were lagging 40 minutes behind.

A donor was bidding on a gorgeous $25,000 diamond necklace, and just as she was about to place another bid, suddenly here come the entrees. In the middle of a live auction, she was presented with a huge piece of beef rib! There was commotion at the table, the waiter was standing in front of her, she was looking back and forth between me and the waiter...

It was awkward and overwhelming. She stopped bidding.

I bet this particular event missed out on $100,000 because of the auction timeline mishaps. That’s real money, and it's painful to watch."

A sloppy agenda or mistimed auction can end up being your event's greatest cost.

In today's post, learn 3 reasons a sloppy auction timeline can hurt your bottom line, plus concrete strategies to plan and get an off-kilter timeline back on track.

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Topics: event-production, auction timeline

How to Persevere Through Common Fundraising Challenges (+ 4 Event Planning Tips)

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 14, 2017 8:28:11 AM

How to Persevere Through Common Fundraising Challenges for Your Nonprofit

So many nonprofits are scared to ask for what they want.

"I'm being an imposition."

"Asking for the organization sounds like I'm asking for myself."

"They'll probably say no."

Sound familiar?

Fact is, if you don't ask, you can't further your programs and multiply your impact.

In today's post, nonprofit coach Lynda West draws from years of mentoring charities to discuss how peer-to-peer mentoring groups, called "masterminds", can help you get to the next level of fundraising success. Get 3 concrete tips to gain confidence and ask for what's needed to achieve your goals.

Then head over to our weekly podcast, Events with Benefits, for the full 30-minute episode all about persevering through many common challenges nonprofits face.

Join a group of like-minded fundraising professionals

Joining a Nonprofit "Mastermind"

First, what is a "mastermind"?

Forbes defines a mastermind as "a group of smart people [that meets] weekly, monthly, daily even if it makes sense, to tackle challenges and problems together. They lean on each other, give advice, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate."

Peer-to-peer mentoring can be very powerful. That's why joining - or creating - a group of like-minded fundraising professionals is the #1 thing you can do to get to your fundraising efforts to the next level. Here's why.

1. Provides accountability

"I mentor people both remotely (via Zoom web conferencing) and locally," West says, "and I've found that what matters most is not their location, but how much time they're willing to devote to the program."

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Topics: fundraising, raise-money, charity auction event

How Nonprofits Are Promoting Fundraising Events in 2017 [infographic + resources]

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 9, 2017 8:54:30 AM

Nonprofit Event Planning Trends 2017 - Infographic

When it comes to planning an event, what is your biggest challenge?

Reducing overhead? Recruiting volunteers? Handling logistics like the venue, catering, entertainment and more?

In a study of 500 event planners conducted by, promoting the event was the #1 challenge listed by 44% of respondents.

Indeed, even the most engaging program, incredible auction items and moving fund-a-need fall flat with few in attendance. Your promotional strategy directly affects how many show up to give, spend and support.

Read on for a quick infographic detailing the most popular and effective ways to promote events in 2017, then get free Winspire resources to assist with every area of your promotion strategy (like a free eBook for strategic email promotion and auction catalog templates).

Read More

Topics: event-production, event-promotion, infographic

How to Get Your Sponsorship Proposal to the Top of the Pile

Posted by Summy Lau on Feb 7, 2017 8:51:15 AM

Make your nonprofit attractive to corporate sponsorsFor many nonprofits, sponsorship is considered a dirty word.

Soliciting sponsorships from local businesses and individuals is a vital part of many organizations' development strategy. Unfortunately, you're stuck competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other nonprofits making the very same proposals every year. It's little wonder the vast majority of sponsorship solicitations are rejected or, more commonly, ignored.

How can you fast-track your proposal to the top of the pile?

In today's post, nonprofit board member and business owner Parker Pike shares his expertise from both sides of the table. He provides 3 steps you can take to amplify your cause with local businesses, plus real-life examples of success and missed opportunities.

Then, head over to our weekly podcast, Events with Benefits, for the full 40-minute episode all about strategic partnerships. (You'll also get a link to download a free worksheet that helps you accurately monetize partnership with your organization.)

Step 1. Decide if your organization should seek long-term partners and/or short-term sponsors.

The terms "sponsorship" and "partnership" are often used interchangeably to refer to a donation from a local business or corporation. However, the one you use can influence how the donor perceives your proposal.

  • Long-term "partnerships" are more valued and respected from the donors' perspective. Using the term "partnership" shows you've done your homework and understand the business's long-term needs. Partnership implies a strategic, win-win situation in which you're adding value to their company with media impressions and a positive boost to their reputation, while they're adding value to you through financial support.
  • Short-term "sponsorships" refer to one-time donations or strict "checkbook philanthropy." Fact is, not every organization has the capacity or need to develop long-term partnerships.
Read More

Topics: donor-relations, sponsorships

Announcing New Podcast, "Events With Benefits" - First 3 episodes out now

Posted by Summy Lau on Jan 31, 2017 1:44:59 PM

Events with Benefits Podcast CoverToday we are very proud to announce the launch of the podcast Events with Benefits, Winspire's first foray into the world of podcasting!

Together with co-hosts Renee Zau from and benefit auctioneer Danny Hooper, each week we aim to bring nonprofit staff, volunteers, event planners, PTOs and more a wide variety of cutting-edge insights into the world of event fundraising. The first 3 episodes are available free on iTunes and

Check out the sample topics and special guests we have on deck for the first 10 episodes...

  • Fundraising Auctions with Jim Nye the Auction Guy, professional fundraising auctioneer
  • Golf Tournaments with Holly Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Kennedy Golf Tournament
  • Legal Considerations with Mary Tovella Dowling, attorney at For Purpose Law Group
  • Partnerships with Parker Pike, member of Board of Directors of San Diego Nonprofit Association
  • Perseverance with Lynda West, nonprofit coach and mentor
  • Thinking BIG with Noah McMahon, founder and CEO of Anonymous
  • Auction Timeline Tips with Scott Robertson, professional fundraising auctioneer
  • Mobile Bidding with Debby Roth-Bush, Relationship Marketing Manager at GreaterGiving
  • Donor Development with Carlos Leija, Chief Development Officer at Orangewood Children’s Foundation
  • Are Charity Auctions Dying? with Nelson Jay, professional fundraising auctioneer

Each episode is 30 to 40 minutes long, making it the perfect way to brighten your daily commute, pass a lunch hour and gain a treasure trove of new ideas for your next event.

To learn more, listen to the first few episodes and subscribe, click below:

Click to visit

For more on how to listen to a podcast, the complete list of our first 10 special guests and topics, and...what exactly is a podcast? on.

What is a "podcast"?

A podcast is simply an audio file published on the Internet. There are countless podcasts spanning hundreds of categories from business to entertainment to true crime (ever heard of NPR's runaway hit Serial?) and more. In our case, Events with Benefits is all about nonprofits and fundraising.

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Topics: Fundraising Tips, Industry News, non-profit-news, nonprofits, event fundraising

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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.