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Skip the Nonprofit Silent Auction. Put your Focus on Fund a Need

By January 13, 2016February 2nd, 2016Fundraising, Guest Post

This week I’m honored to share a guest post by benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, who is our guest speaker for the January 21st Ignited Fundraising Community webinar, Fund-A-Need Secrets to Thousands of Dollars.
Sherry Truhlar headshot JPG
As a benefit auctioneer, I oversaw 54 nonprofit fundraising events last year. Six of them had no auction.

Go figure. I was an auctioneer working at events with no auctions.

Here’s what I was doing: I oversaw a process called a Fund a Need. The Fund a Need, or FAN for short, is called by many names — Special Appeal, Paddle Raisers, Mission Moments, to mention a few. It’s a process for soliciting spontaneous donations at your event.

It typically raises thousands of dollars, even at the smallest of my events. That’s a hunk of change.

What I’d like to propose today is that small nonprofits consider the possibility of eliminating their silent auctions and instead getting really, really good at running Fund a Needs.

Here are four reasons you might want to skip the silent auction and focus on the FAN.

1. Less manpower needed.
Running a silent auction takes a team of volunteers and/or staff. They are tasked with soliciting items, packaging items, displaying packages, staffing the tables, closing the tables, delivering the items, and … whew! The work starts months in advance.

Contrast that with a Fund a Need. For many groups, in less than 8 hours of pre-event work, they run a strong Fund a Need whose revenues will rival or surpass many small silent auctions.
Fund-a-Need can help you raise thousands of dollars for your nonprofit

2. Showcase your mission.
I’ve seen a few silent auctions which had such well-curated items that they represented the mission of the nonprofit. But that’s rare. Silent auctions usually are a mishmash of items designed (rightfully so) to appeal to a broad range of guests.

But Fund a Needs are focused on the mission. They are about telling inspiring stories, sharing mission-centric causes, and inviting participation to supporting shared beliefs. That’s good stuff to communicate to a crowd of fans and could-be supporters.

3. Raise funds more easily.
On average, silent auction returns are in the 50% to 65% range. That means for every dollar of value donated, the nonprofit keeps $0.50 to $0.65. Not. Cool.

On more than one occasion, my clients have told me that the FAN was ‘free money.’ Whatever came in, they were thrilled to have, especially given that it was so little effort expended on their part. In all but the rarest of circumstance, the donations were significantly more than what they thought they’d raise.

(I’ll share case studies on January 21 in the Ignited Fundraising  webinar.)

4. Flexibility.
There are certain logistical requirements for a silent auction. You need a lot of tables, display items, and props. You need space. You need to think about flow. If outside, you need to account for wind.

You need none of that with a Fund a Need. You can run a FAN in big spaces or little ones. I’ve run them in venues as varied as furniture stores to barns. They are easily inserted into more fundraising events than a silent auction is.

And I could go on.

Are you intrigued? Here are a few more resources.

And of course, you’re invited to join me on the January 21 webinar where I’ll share more great tips!

Sherry Truhlar is the founder of Red Apple Auctions, an auction firm niched in improving benefit auctions. But beyond all the onstage fast talking, she offers rich educational tools. Her benefit auction recommendations have been covered by Town & Country, Northern Virginia Magazine, AUCTIONEER, The Washington Post Magazine, and other publications. An avid self-educator, she has a BA and BS from Emporia State University (Kansas), an MA from the University of Wollongong (Australia), and three industry-specific certifications (CMP, BAS, and CAI). Originally from rural Kansas, she now pays a mortgage in the Washington, D.C. area.


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