Winspire News

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

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

Posted by Summy Lau

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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.

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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


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).

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Topics: event-production, event-promotion, infographic

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

Posted by Summy Lau

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.
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Topics: donor-relations, sponsorships

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

Posted by Summy Lau

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

Send Your Donors to Bermuda for Free: Beginner's Guide to Underwriting

Posted by Summy Lau

Holding fundraising events has many fringe benefits for nonprofits: a chance to engage donors, promote awareness for your cause and have fun. But the #1 reason we have events? To raise money!

The key to raising money is focusing on profits.

Securing underwriters for big-ticket auction items

As demonstrated above, that means netting as much revenue as you can while trimming expenses.

On the blog we tend to focus on revenue generation, but today we'll look at one practical way to do both: securing underwriters for big-ticket auction items.

Imagine being able to offer a trip to Bermuda in your auction and net 100% of the winning bid.

Win a trip to Bermuda - Securing underwriters for auction itemsThink your donors would be interested in Caribbean sand & sun right now?

Check out today's post for an explanation of the process of underwriting, plus a quick video from benefit auctioneer Danny Hooper explaining how underwriters can help you offer incredible travel packages for free!

So...what’s an underwriter?

An underwriter is somebody, either a business or an individual, that agrees to pay the cost of a specific item in your event. This might be the catering, auctioneer, centerpieces, auction catalogs and more. The underwriter then becomes the official donor of that expense and receives recognition as such at your event.

Any covered cost is a win for your organization, but underwriting a no-risk travel package offers a special opportunity for underwriters to see their investment grow and multiply in minutes, before their eyes. Here's what we mean.

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Topics: travel-experiences, sponsorships, underwriting

6 Easy Ways Nonprofits Can Get Stellar Online Reviews [shareable graphic]

Posted by Summy Lau

Online Review Guide for Nonprofits - InfographicWhen it's noon, your tummy's growing and you're looking to try something you turn to Yelp, Google, Foursquare or more?

If so, you're in good company: Some 90 percent of people make decisions based on online reviews, while 74 percent of people say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. While brands have always had to manage their reputation, the first impression many customers have with a product these days is their reviews on Amazon, Facebook and more.

How to get positive reviews for your nonprofitAs consumer dollars increasingly hinge upon online reviews, the same is true for philanthropic dollars.

People want to know about your cause, mission and impact before donating. As a result, testimonials and ratings from an objective third party can be more influential than the impressive stats you might post on your own site.

Positive reviews can change visitors into lifelong donors.

Negative reviews can turn them into missed opportunities.

Have you looked at your online reviews lately? If so, do those reviews improve your credibility...or raise red flags?

In today's post we'll look at 6 strategies for nonprofits to attract online reviews that leave a great first impression. We'll also provide a handy "Guide to Online Reviews" graphic to share with supporters that makes reviewing a breeze.

Step 1. Do work that merits positive reviews.

Don't worry: This is the easy part!

The rest of this post is based on the assumption your organization is already doing work worthy of outstanding reviews. Here at Winspire, we have the pleasure of working with thousands of nonprofit clients, auctioneers, vendors and more to help raise more money for good causes.

As a Winspire News reader, I'm confident your impact deserves to be shared on social media.

Step 2: Create and claim profiles on multiple review sites

Reviews are a numbers game. The more positive reviews you get, the less weight a negative review holds.

It used to be that nonprofit rating sites like Charity Navigator led the way for these objective reviews. Organizations were evaluated based on criteria like financial health, transparency and overhead. While the process wasn't necessarily comprehensive, it gave donors some reassurance before deciding to give.

Today the first search results that pop up for your organization are social media pages (like Facebook and Google) and directory sites (like Yelp, Glassdoor, Yellow Pages, and

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Topics: facebook, nonprofits, nonprofit survey

January Donation Give-away Winner Announced! Congrats goes to...

Posted by Summy Lau

January 2017 Winspire Donation Giveaway Winner Michael Stopka

We are thrilled to announce the winner of our first Donation Give-Away drawing of 2017!

Congratulations goes to Michael Stopka, Executive Director at Mattoon Area P.A.D.S. in Mattoon, Ill., an emergency shelter and community resource open to all individuals and families in need.

It's our honor to be able to donate a 3-night stay at the spectacular Kinzie Hotel in Chicago, a Preferred Hotels property, for their use in an upcoming raffle.

After the drawing, we reached out to Michael to find out how he plans to use the prize to generate revenue for their lifesaving services in central Illinois. Read on to learn more about their cause, plus get a sneak peek at our next giveaway prize.

Comprehensive care for those at risk

Since 2003, Mattoon Area P.A.D.S. (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) has served as a safe haven for hundreds of homeless or at-risk individuals and families every year.

"We are an emergency shelter open for men, women and children," Michael explains. "On average we provide over 4,500 shelter nights per year to those most in need."

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Topics: Donation Give-Aways, donation-give-away, donation-give-away-winner, nonprofits

4 Practical Cures for a Stagnating Spring Auction 🏥

Posted by Summy Lau

4 Cures for a stagnating Spring Charity Auction Fundraiser

If your organization hosts a spring or summer fundraising event, we hope you're getting more and more excited as the day approaches, donations roll in and plans begin falling into place.

But we know for many, the planning period is very stressful.

As we prepare for next week's webinar all about crafting strategic live auction timelines, we want to address the webinar attendees who have asked, "How do I refresh my 14 year event?"..."Our auction used to pull in five times what we got last year. What can we do?"..."Is it time to give up and move on to another type of event?"

Our quick response: Never give up. Fundraising auctions are still a fun, fast, and efficient way to generate a lot of money for your cause. But they must be done properly.

In today’s post, we'll focus on the quickest way to cure a stagnating event: revitalizing the auction catalog. Many factors can influence bidding and revenue, but the quality and fit of items offered is priority number one.

Read on for 4 practical cures to restore your auction to good health, including:

  1. Evaluate sales history
  2. Apply a hefty dose of "WOW" factor
  3. Start from the ground up
  4. Consider bestselling items

Best of all, these tips are perfect for getting a first-time auction off to a roaring start. Let's begin!

🏥 Auction Rx 1: Evaluate sales history.

Whether your auction is live, silent or online, it’s critical to put out the right items for your audience.

The best auction items appeal to many people in your audience, complement the event theme, and have high potential for significant bids.

How can you determine what's right for your audience?

First, look carefully at past revenue. What items have sold like hotcakes in the past? Which ones were duds? Focus your procurement efforts on items with a history of good sales.

(Important note: Anything that didn’t get a bid last year, should not be put out again this year.)

Read More

Topics: procurement, event-production, auction item ideas

What to Do When Hiring an Auctioneer Costs Too Much

Posted by Summy Lau

Hiring a Certified Charity Auctioneer

In honor of our upcoming webinar all about maximizing the timeline of your live auction, let's talk for a minute about the most important person in the room: your auctioneer.

Your auctioneer is the quarterback of the night!

Think of your fundraising event as a championship football game. The game kicks off as the doors swing open. The clock has started ticking. Your team has only so much time to score as many points as possible until the opportunity has passed, and you have to wait until next year.

At a fundraising auction, once the game is underway, you truly don't know what exactly is going to happen. You don't know what opportunities are going to present themselves throughout the evening that you can capitalize on to generate unexpected revenue.

With the stakes this high, you need a quarterback that's trained to deliver under pressure.

By investing in a benefit auctioneer, you've got someone at the helm calling plays, generating momentum and dodging common live auction pitfalls—think delayed start times, awkward transitions, out-of-order items and more.

Of course, it can be hard for auction organizers to justify the expense. So in today's post we'll answer a few common questions asked by real-life nonprofit pros and volunteers, including...

  • How can I sell our event committee on using a professional fundraiser auctioneer?
  • Why do we need an auctioneer if we have an emcee?
  • What should you look for in an auctioneer?
  • How do I find a qualified auctioneer?
  • How much does hiring an auctioneer typically cost?
  • ...and more!

Read on for 4 common reasons nonprofits skip using benefit auctioneers - and how doing so could stunt their revenue potential in 2017.

Reason 1: We have an auctioneer donating their services for free.

It's quite common for nonprofits to try to leverage generous offers from auctioneers in other fields - say art, cattle, automobile, heavy machinery and more. This is predicated on the assumption that they're using the same skills to sell items.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

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Topics: event-production, benefit auctioneer

How No-risk Auction Items Take the Bite Out of Procurement

Posted by Summy Lau

As we kick off 2017, spring fundraising season inches closer and closer. For many event organizers, this can be a stressful time. Check out this recent graphic from USA Today:

How No-risk Auction Items Take the Bite Out of Procurement - - Winspire Mail 2017-01-05 11-07-19.png

Indeed, for the fifth year in a row, "Event Coordinators" made the list of the 10 most stressful jobs of 2016 - a trend not likely to change in 2017.

For fundraising events, a huge part of the problem is procuring quality auction items.

The Scenario: You and your auction planning committee hold a successful wish list party and your procurement team leaves pumped, with a long list of ideas for unique auction items to retrieve. Fast forward a couple months. There's just a few weeks before your event. Your committee meets up one last time...and you realize the list of 'wins' from your wish list is a lot shorter than you thought.

Our latest Winspire News survey confirms this is a common struggle, with 1 in 3 readers ranking item procurement as their biggest fundraising challenge.

Thankfully, there's a better way.

If your auction catalog has gaps or lacks the "wow" factor that garners high bids, reserving consignment items for your auction can be a winning solution.

"Consignment" literally translates to the act of placing an item in the hand of another, but retaining ownership until the goods are sold. In the auction world, this means a company will lend you an item to include in your auction with no upfront cost. Then, if the item is actually sold, you buy the item from that company using a portion of the proceeds, and the remaining difference is your profit.

Why offer no-risk items if you don’t get to keep all of the money?

Read on for a few ways consignment items can make your life a whole lot easier and still generate a lot of money for your cause.

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Topics: procurement, no-risk-auction-items, event-production

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

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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

Download Starter Kit →