A critical - but often overlooked - time to reach out to donors is after your fundraiser auction items event. Post-event communication gives you the opportunity to personally thank donors for their involvement, gather feedback and, if the opportunity presents itself, raise even more money.
One of the main benefits of no-risk auction items is they can can be sold multiple times, giving you the power to continue offering a package at the winning bid price even after an event is over. Offering donors a second chance to purchase an incredible trip doesn't require much extra work and has the potential to raise a few thousand additional dollars for your cause.
Create a Target List
Before you start reaching out to donors, consider the best approach. Not every guest needs – or wants – to hear about travel packages that are still available. Narrow down your donor list and target those you think would be most interested and financially capable of purchasing a travel package. Are there donors who have contributed a large sum in the past but gave less this year or couldn’t attend? These are perfect names for your list!
Oftentimes there are event patrons who expressed interest in a particular live or silent auction item but missed out because they:
- Bid competitively but lost - There are always going to be bidders who don't win an item at your event. Maybe they stopped bidding because they were waiting to bid big on a later item, only to lose that bidding war as well. It's not uncommon for a donor with good intentions to go home empty-handed, still wishing they would have bid higher on certain items.
- Missed their chance to bid - Most charity auctions are large social affairs so it's not uncommon for guests to get distracted and miss their chance to bid on an item they were interested in. There are also going to be guests who left the room for a few minutes to take a call or visit the restroom during the live auction.
- Couldn't attend the event - This is one of the most important groups of donors to follow up with regarding post-event donation or purchase opportunities, especially if you suspect they would have been an active bidder at the event.
If there were a number of attendees bidding on an item, this is a good sign that more donors may be interested in making a post-event purchase. Make sure you record who is interested in what. During the live auction, have a volunteer jot down paddle numbers or set up a video camera and film the audience so you can see who bid on the travel packages.
After your event, the way you present your offer to donors can have a big impact on the effectiveness of the campaign. Start with a phone call to each donors and then follow up with an email campaign.
Over the Phone
Every donor on your target list should receive a follow-up call within a week of attending your event thanking them, gathering feedback for future events and sharing information about the impact of their donation. Make sure you ask questions and LISTEN to make sure your donors feel heard and appreciated.
Wait until the end of your conversation to casually bring up the offer to gauge their interest.
For donors who bid on the item at the event: "Before I let you go, I noticed your interest in the trip to [Insert Package Destination] during the live auction. Well, it turns out the trip was so popular that we decided to secure a few more which we will be selling at the winning bidder price of $X,XXX for the next week. Would you like me to refresh you on the details of the package?"
For donors who missed bidding or couldn't attend: "Before I let you go, did you hear about the trip to [Insert Package Destination] we offered during the live auction? [Yes/No] It was a very popular item at the event and was eventually won [by Winning Bidder Name (optional)] for $X,XXX. It turns out the trip was so popular that we secured..."
If they are interested, they will ask for more information. If they aren’t interested, don’t press them. You simply want to put the offer out there. If you encounter a donor who is on the fence, a few words of encouragement could be all the donor needs to say yes:
- Share past accomplishments and future goals. This “ask” is no different than others you’ve made in the past. Although donors are interested in the experience, they also want to know how their money is being used to ensure it’s making a difference. If the donors that you’re calling have made past contributions, provide detailed examples to show how their money has helped your mission. Once donors hear that their contributions have made an impact, they may be more willing to donate toward your current and/or future goals.
- Cover the highlights of the experience. Maybe donors just skimmed over the email you sent. If that’s the case, describe the experience - whether it’s a trip to Italy or a skiing getaway in Colorado - to help you persuade donors. Give the highlights and describe what makes the travel experience unique.
- Show appreciation – no matter what the final answer is. If the donor says “no” in the end, say thank you anyway. Donors who don’t make large contributions this year might in the future, but only if they still feel appreciated by your organization. Positive donor relationships start with good communication!
Simple Email Campaign
Email is a more passive form of communication so you can have a much wider distribution than your targeted call list. A post-event email campaign is especially appropriate for guests who couldn’t attend your event. In some cases, it might even make sense to send the offer to your entire database.
Select one or two of the most popular Experiences from your event and then create a simple email campaign announcing that you have access to a few more packages that you will be offering at the winning bid price. In your email, include pictures and details from the Experience along with directions for who to contact to make a purchase.
Get supporters excited about the opportunity – a boring message won’t cut it. An email exclaiming, “Missed the [Organization/Event Name] auction? Good news! We’re still offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience in [Destination]. Claim it now at the Winning Bidder Price!”
Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when building your campaign:
- Write a catchy, powerful subject line. Mention the Experiential Travel item and create a sense of urgency. For example, “Last chance to get a European getaway for two!” The phrase “last chance” tells the recipient that there won’t be more emails about this opportunity.
- Create urgency. Keep the time limit to purchase the item relatively short so they feel the need to click on the email now, before the experience is no longer available. One day to buy the Experiential Travel item is not enough time – they might not have even checked their emails yet! Give donors one to two weeks to consider the offer and purchase the item.
- Say thank you. Once again, donors want to be recognized for their contributions and treated as a person, not an ATM machine. Whether you’re emailing a supporter who has donated in the past or something who couldn’t make it to this year’s event, it's critical to thank them. Share that you’ve appreciated their dedication to your mission and want to return the favor by providing an opportunity to buy an incredible experience while supporting their favorite cause.
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With an extensive background in marketing and design, Ian’s role at Winspire is to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue.
Ian serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Winspire News, creating and managing blog content, newsletters, eBooks and other resources for Nonprofit fundraising professionals. You can also find Ian on Google+.