Three great non-profit campaign videos

Last week I attended a Net Tuesday event with Steve Rosenberg of Pull Focus Film School about campaign videos and what works and doesn’t work.

I thought I’d share a few videos for non-profits that I love and that use humour, surprise, and quirkiness to great effect.

The first is the now-famous “Follow the Frog” campaign for the Rainforest Alliance which features great writing and the “hero’s journey” in a new and fun way.

The second is the very catchy “Dumb Ways to Die” video from Australia which, at the time of this posting, had over 61 MILLION hits. This is astounding for any video, let along a safety video. Kudos to its creators. Warning: the song gets stuck in your head!

And finally, “Meathead” which was made by two of my classmates at Pull Focus Film School, Ali Rashti and Russell Bennett. It was great fun to watch part of the film being made and to see Ali’s creative genius. That’s Steve’s foot on Russell’s head! (Click on the link to view it on Vimeo because the embed code doesn’t work.)

7 steps to start your charity’s peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

This is the second article in a series on peer-to-peer fundraising for charities and non-profits. In this post, I’ll explain 7 action steps you can take to launch your year-round peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.


Research the best possible online tool for creating personal giving pages.

There are lot of free, low-cost and fee-based options on offer and more are being created every time. Research and compare pricing, functionality, geographic reach (e.g. is it available to your supporters in their country), performance reviews, design, tone, the level to which the donor can personalize their page, and ease of use for both your supporters and you. There lots of reviews online about different tools. See for one example.


The details of how to do this and how to brand your page will depend on which provider you choose. It shouldn’t take long to set up your charity’s site – just about an hour or two. Make sure that the text and images you use to brand your site are compelling and inspiring.


For year-round fundraising, your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign should be a permanent fixture on your website and should fit within your overall design. It should:

  • be on your homepage – perhaps with a click-through button;
  • be explained on a great landing page that is simple to figure out and with FAQs. For an excellent example of a landing page see charity:water’s page
  • use graphics to support your text;
  • include prominent calls to action;
  • come with tools to share via email and social media;
  • have well-written and compelling templates for emails so that all your supporters have to do is hit send;
  • highlight events for fundraising – birthdays, holidays etc.


Have a comprehensive marketing and communication strategy to introduce people to the idea of peer-to-peer fundraising and to coach them along the way. This would include:

  • a social media strategy;
  • a donor stewardship strategy to thank donors, such as immediate phone calls to thank people whenever they create a page (see more details about stewardship below);
  • a calendar and strategy for key dates for your organizations and holidays that your supporters might want to tap into for their fundraising pages – e.g. Mother’s Day, Earth Day, International Women’s Day;
  • regular news about your peer-to-peer campaign in your newsletter, and blog so that your supporters know these tools are available and so that they can be inspired by stories of how people are using them. Using blog posts or newsletter articles to highlight a donor’s story is also a great way to thank that person, if they’re willing to have their story shared;
  • consider rotating in different projects. Depending upon your organization’s greatest needs, you can change where the funds are going every so often. For example, you could establish quarterly projects that will be funded, in whole or in part, by the proceeds from your supporter fundraising program.


Test your campaign in house and iron out any kinks. See if board members, volunteers, staff and your closest supporters will start the ball rolling with their own campaigns and share their feedback with you on how the process can be streamlined and improved.


Pick a date for your public launch for the campaign and start spreading the word, following your communication and marketing plan.


As in everything else in fundraising, you can’t overestimate the power of good donor stewardship – thanking people for their gifts or efforts on behalf of your charity and showing them the impact that their generosity has made. With peer-to-peer fundraising you need to have a clear strategy to keep your fundraisers in the fold. Be proactive.

  • When someone creates a giving page, pick up the phone and call them right away to thank them, to see if they had any problems with the platform, to ask if they need any help or information, to provide them with any materials that will make their page more interesting – like photos.
  • Stay in touch with your fundraisers, especially with your most active ones, and send them personal notes (a good board task);
  • Share their success stories to both recognize their efforts and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. This can be done through your newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter, blog etc.
  • Close the loop. Make sure that you let your fundraisers know what type of impact they are helping your organization make. Try to give them concrete information and share pictures, stories and even video, so that they can also share this with their friends who have given. This is the easiest way to cement a positive relationship between your organization and your supporters and keep them inspired and engaged;
  • Show them the love. Make them feel like a part of the family – invite them to special events, call them, send them birthday cards, share your success stories — and they will continue to raise money for you year after year.

Peer-to-peer fundraising – how to add it your charity’s fundraising strategy

What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is friends asking friends, usually using an online platform on your own website or another fundraising website, that allows individuals to create fundraising pages to collect donations for your charity. Your supporters can personalize their fundraising page with text, pictures and videos and share their page with their friends easily through email and social media.

The benefits are huge. First, by getting your network the tools to fundraise on your behalf, you expand your reach exponentially. Every charity has power fundraisers in their midst – people that love what you do and are happy to spread the word for you. More and more donors are not content with sitting on the sidelines and writing a check; often people want to get more involved in the causes they love and this is a great way to do that. Some of your charity’s greatest fans may not be major donors; in fact, they may have a very limited capacity to give in terms of money, but they may have great, untapped potential and enthusiasm to spread your mission to others and to fundraise on your behalf.

All your organization needs to do is to give your supporters the tools they need to become fundraising all-stars. You also need to thank them and recognize their efforts, large and small, and share their stories to inspire others to follow their lead.

10 reasons why your charity should add peer-to-peer fundraising to your mix:

  1. By getting your network to fundraise on your behalf, you expand your reach exponentially, growing your charity. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to find new donors and prospects;
  2. It gets results: Peer-to-peer fundraising gives high fundraising yields and increased donor acquisition. According to one study, each “active” fundraiser (where active = raises $1 or more) brings in $568 through his or her fundraising page and brings in an average of 7 donors, of whom 4, on average, will be new to your charity;
  3. You get great response rates: friends asking friends to donate results in something like 10 times higher response rates and 52% higher donations than cold calls and emails;
  4. Peer-to-peer fundraising adds diversity to your fundraising mix and helps to make your organization’s funding more stable. it makes good sense to add another string to your fundraising bow, provided that it has good return on investment in terms of time and money. Peer-to-peer fundraising can have a much better ROI than events;
  5. It’s a simple way to transform every birthday, holiday and other milestone into an opportunity to give to your charity. charity:water’s birthday campaign using peer-to-peer giving has raised over $9 million in a few years and over 40,000 people have pledged their birthdays to the cause, giving a steady revenue stream throughout the year. The average amount raised by a person’s birthday campaign at charity:water is $770. (See more about the peer-to-peer birthday campaigns below);
  6. It brings your greatest fans closer to the organization. Peer-to-peer fundraising allows your supporters to get more involved with your organization and its mission. It also allows helps you forge a deeper connection with supporters by linking fundraising to the special events in their lives;
  7. It provides an opportunity for those who love your organization to do more than just give money, especially if they are already giving to their maximum capacity. Many of your supporters may be cash poor but enthusiasm rich and you can tap into their enthusiasm and creativity. At an organization I used to work at, we had one donor who wanted to do more but was uncertain about how. One thing she knew she was good at was baking bread, so she wondered if she could teach others how to bake. After discussing her wish with me, I helped her create a personal giving page called “Dough for Dough” where her friends could make a donation as a thank you for her baking lessons. Her initial fundraising goal was about $350; to date, she’s raised over $5800 and brought about 127 donors to the charity. She now feels closer than ever to the organization and its mission;
  8. The example of one person’s act of generosity will inspire other people so that more and more people will create giving pages, if you communicate the story well. In the example given above, the donor was initially inspired to do more after reading a newsletter article I wrote about an 8-year-old who collected bottles for our cause;
  9. It’s low-cost, and easy to manage and administer once you’ve got the pieces in place such as your online platform. There’s a wealth of online tools such as Razoo, Crowdrise, Canada Helps and more that are free or low-cost and that can be set up very easily and quickly for your organization;
  10. Other charities are using it so your organization risks getting left behind.

OK, you want to start peer-to-peer fundraising…

Read this blog lost on the 7 action steps to launch your year-round peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Getting started with online videos for your charity or nonprofit

The following article was written by Heather Wardle, CFRE at the request of the editor of Gift Planning in Canada, July 2013.

Nearly all nonprofits recognize the significance of the video revolution and the powerful storytelling potential that it offers. Creating and sharing videos has never been easier or cheaper, yet studies show that online video is underused by charities.

In June, YouTube published the results of the first-ever survey on nonprofits using online video. Of those surveyed,

  • 80% said that video is important to their organization today
  • 91% said they want to make more video
  • 62% said they designate very little or no staff time for video production and distribution

Is your organization using video to tell its story? If not, what’s holding you back?

Many charities are intimidated by video, thinking that they need a lot of money, staff time, expertise and specialized equipment to create video content.

Here are some tips on how you can start today using the tools and resources you likely already have at your fingertips.

  1. Think about your video strategy — who you want to interact with, what you want to say and what your call to actions will be.
  2. Find a video-maker in your midst. You likely have a staff member, volunteer or intern who would love to create videos as part of his or her role. Find someone who already has some video experience or train someone who has the interest. There are plenty of online classes and local workshops.
  3. Start with the equipment you’ve already got. Smart phones, digital cameras, tablets and laptops with web cams can all be used to shoot your video. In addition, most computers come with free editing software, such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker.
  4. Get your field staff to film and photograph your charity at work. Donors love being able to see their gifts in action.
  5. Create a photo and video archive and a back-up system to store your materials. The cost of a back-up hard drive is less than $200. If you have a system for filing and tagging your visual resources from the start, you’ll save a lot of time later on.
  6. Get your feet wet with small, simple projects. Use your iPhone or digital camera to film little clips of your organization’s work and share them via your charity’s Facebook page, blog and website. Or use your photos, add music and create a video slideshow.
  7. Sign up for YouTube Nonprofits at This is available free to registered charities in Canada and the US, and allows you to create your own branded YouTube page, to have call-to-action overlays on your videos, and live streaming of your events.
  8. Make sure that your videos get viewed by making them sharable, embeddable and searchable. YouTube’s Playbook for Good gives advice on writing descriptions and tags.

Nonprofits yield more than 4 billion views on YouTube – one view for every 2 people on the planet! So far only 22,000 charities and nonprofits have signed up to YouTube’s nonprofit program. If your charity isn’t one of them, I hope this article will inspire you to build your video program today.

A revolution in legacy giving: case studies

The following article was co-authored by Heather Wardle, CFRE and Simon Trevelyan. It was published in the April 2013 issue of Gift Planning in Canada.

There’s a revolution brewing in the field of legacy giving and it’s gaining pace. It will have a profound impact on charities and will determine which survive and prosper in the future.

Building on the work of earlier pioneers, the authors have developed and implemented legacy systems that are making charities re-think the way they approach legacy giving and engage their donors. It started on the West Coast, but it’s spreading to the east and south.

We think that planned givers will want to take note, because in a few years a large number of charities will be adopting this system. Those early adopters will have a distinct advantage over others.

What are the bases for this extraordinary claim?

  1. The latest research on the brain and legacy giving
  2. The results we have seen in a very short time with charities.

The Research: Legacy Giving and the Brain 

The latest research on the brain and legacy giving by Dr. Russell James1 shows that the decision to leave a legacy gift is connected to our internal visualization system, specifically the part of the brain that people use when they think back on their lives and recall autobiographical events. To conduct his research, Dr. James hooked people up to an MRI machine to see what areas of the brain they were using when they thought about legacy gifts and other types of charitable donations, such as annual gifts.

He found that the decision to make annual gifts and legacy gifts used very different parts of the brain. The decision to leave a legacy gift was connected to the same part of the brain we use to think about our own life story.

The implications of this research are profound for all fundraisers. This research clearly demonstrates that to motivate donors to leave legacy gifts, we must connect their life stories with our charity’s mission, vision and values.

This brain research correlates perfectly with the success we’ve seen in implementing what we call our “motivational” approach to legacy giving. This is a very revolutionary method compared to the traditional “planned giving” model still used by most charities in North America. Rather than sitting face-to-face with a select few donors to talk about the various planned gift vehicles and the tax savings, this new method engages all charity supporters and encourages them to reflect on the work and values of the charity and how those converge with their own values and desires to make a difference.

This research has even wider implications for our sector; it indicates that the skills you will need for future success in legacy giving are very different from the ones that our planned giving sector has been promulgating for decades. To have a successful legacy program, we need to tell donors WHY to make a gift, not HOW to make a gift.

The Proof: A 20-Fold Increase in Legacy Commitments and Leads

First let’s confirm some terms. Legacy “commitments” are those people who have confirmed to a charity that they have included a legacy gift in their estates. The vast majority are bequests. Legacy “leads” are those supporters who have expressed interest in leaving a legacy gift to a charity through actively asking for information about leaving a gift or saying that they are interested.

Simon Trevelyan, one of the authors of this article, has been developing his motivational-based engagement system for the last 10 years. At the BC SPCA, the multi-channel marketing and solicitation approach increased legacy leads and commitments 20-fold, generating $150 million in legacy pledges.

More recently, this approach is starting to be adopted by charities both large and small. It gives organizations the tools, systems, training and coaching to generate legacy leads and commitments for themselves, indefinitely.

Inspired by the method and its success, the other co-author has now implemented this revolutionary legacy engagement system at two charities with the following results:

Charity A is a small, established international development charity in BC with an active donor base of about 2,200 and one full-time fundraiser able to devote only 5% of her time to planned giving.

Steps to success:

  • Creation of a strategic plan with a goal to increase legacy commitments from 0.5% to 5% of the donor base within 5 years;
  • Creation of a case for support for legacy giving that was mission based and which appealed to the values, backgrounds and aspiration of individuals;
  • Development of a legacy brand for the charity and key messages;
  • Creation of a donor survey system, marketing collateral, an inspirational legacy video, donor stewardship systems and follow-up and cultivation strategy;
  • A multi-channel marketing and communications plan so the legacy message could be used throughout the organization’s touch points with donors, from the website, to the newsletter to the annual report.


  • 117 leads generated – a 22-fold increase
  • 81 legacy commitments confirmed – 3.7% of the donor base (so well on track to reach the 5% goal in the strategic plan)
  • almost 50% response rate to donor survey

Charity B, based in Seattle, USA, has less than 2 full-time staff in North America. Prior to launching the legacy campaign, the charity knew of only 3 legacy commitments and had 0 legacy leads. As with Charity A, the following steps were put in place to launch the legacy campaign:

  • a strategic plan to convert 5% of all donors to a legacy gift within 4 years
  • a case for support in the form of a legacy booklet
  • an online and print legacy survey
  • database tracking systems to measure performance
  • donor stewardship systems and correspondence templates


In the FIRST MONTH of the legacy campaign, 249 surveys were completed and:

  • 82 leads generated (33% of survey respondents)
  • 24 legacy commitments were confirmed (10% of respondents)
  • 56% response rate to legacy donor survey

planned giving campaign results

The above chart shows the potential increase in legacy revenue to Charity A and Charity B before and after the implementation of the motivational legacy campaigns. It assumes an average legacy gift size of $60,000 for the Canadian charity A and $32,000 average legacy gift size for Charity B in the US. It combines both expectants and leads before and after the campaign, an assumption the authors feel comfortable in making knowing that only a small portion of each charity’s donor base has been so far been reached with the legacy campaigns.


The motivational legacy campaigns and supporting marketing materials clearly engaged donors and struck an emotional chord with them, as is shown from the results.

Using donor survey as a soft, gentle ask allows the donors to answer questions about legacy gifts in their own time and to reflect back on the connection between their life stories and the charity’s mission and vision. Sending out the surveys in small batches allows for personalization, rapid replies to donors, great donor stewardship and a manageable workload for the charity’s staff.

It appears, from the authors’ experience, that small organizations may be more nimble and willing to take on a new approach. Based on these results, maybe the little guys will lead the way in this legacy revolution and can teach the big charities something.

Many charities, large and small, still practice a very dry, tax-incentive-based approach to legacy giving that tends to be much more demanding of staff time and charity resources. The authors suggest they might want to examine a new approach or risk missing out of a large number of potential legacy gifts that could bring about a massive change in their ability to achieve their vision.

1 Charitable Estate Planning as Visualized Autobiography: An fMRI Study of its Neural Correlates (February 6, 2012). James, Russell N. and O’Boyle, Michael W. Available at SSRN: or

Simon Trevelyan is President of S.T. Legacy Group, an innovator in legacy development and marketing, helping charities to maximize their planned giving potential. Contact him at or visit

Heather Wardle, CFRE is a Vancouver-based fundraising and communications consultant. Contact her at or visit

How to perform a SWOT analysis

Doing a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis for a charity or non-profit is an essential first step to effective strategic planning and fundraising. It gives a quick scan of the environment.

Here’s a quick summary of the steps and also a downloadable form that you can share with your board of directors.

STEP 1: Get input from multiple perspectives including multiple levels of the organization and even clients and users of your services.

STEP 2: Consider these external factors that will affect your organization:

  • Social trends – such as the birth rate or numbers of older people in the population.
  • Technology – what implications do new technologies have for your organisation and your area of work?
  • Economic trends – what are the local, regional, national and even international trends and situations that can affect your organization? For example, interest rate changes may affect your organisation’s investment income.
  • Political and legal matters  – politics, both local and national, influence the environment in which charities and voluntary organisations of all sizes operate.
  • People’s views – what do the users of your services and products think of your organization?

STEP 3: List all your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

STEP 4: Review the opportunities and threats and rank them and rank them to determine greatest impact. The highest priority opportunities would be those that advance your mission and goals. Those could be growth, profit, sustainability, reputation, awareness or countless other metrics. Threats should be prioritized in terms of the size of the threat and the likelihood of the threat becoming a reality.

STEP 5: Identify strengths that can be leverages to create opportunities and/or combat threats, and weaknesses that must be addressed to avoid disaster.

Take into account your organization’s:

  • Services/activities
  • Buildings
  • Clients/users
  • Staff and volunteers
  • Management (board, CEO etc)
  • Organization and structure
  • Communications
  • Revenue
  • Costs

Here’s a downloadable SWOT analysis process and form that you can use for your organization’s SWOT analysis.

Finding the best allies for your charitable cause

As fundraisers and marketing people for non-profits and charities, we need to continually reach out to find new supporters for our causes, while at the same time practicing the best possible stewardship for the donors and volunteers we currently have.

Recognizing that it takes a lot more money and energy to find a new donor than to take care of an existing one, there is always donor attrition and we need to grow our donor base even just to stand still.

One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to find new supporters is to reach out to strategic allies or partners who will help spread the word for you.

Let’s face it — we don’t have the time or energy to reach out to all the potential partners who are on our list and who might be helpful in our mission. We need to be strategic about who we choose to invest our time and energy in.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talked about “The Law of the Few” and said, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” According to Gladwell, economists call this the “80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants.” These people are described in the following 3 ways: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They often know people across a wide array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and they make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”. Gladwell characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to the fact that “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”

Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. One person wrote, “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own.” Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.”

Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.

As you think about how you’re going to find new supporters for your cause, it’s useful to remember Gladwell’s Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Think hard about who you can approach and what their roles in your organization can be. Should they be a board member, an honourary spokesperson, an event host or your capital campaign chair? There are lots of possibilities for getting the right people involved in your mission and harnessing the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Managing your to-do list

At a recent Net Tuesday event, I learned about a simple, free online tool to manage your to-do list called “TeuxDeux”. It’s pronounced, of course, like “to do”.

Experts say that the average worker gets almost 50 to 60 interruptions each day and that these interruptions can consume almost 50 per cent of the average workday. It’s little wonder that our to-do lists are getting longer and more vital. Without a good to-do list, how can we hope to keep track of all those goals and tasks coming at us from all directions?

TeuxDeux may be a solution for your to-do list woes and you might like to take it for a test drive. It’s a simple, clean online program that works very much like a paper to-do list but with some nice little functions. For instance, it automatically moves over any of today’s unfinished tasks to the next day’s list, thus obviating the tedious chore of creating a brand-new to-do list each day.

For tasks in the future, you can use TeuxDeux to scroll forward and add appointments and jobs, so it can do double-duty as an appointment calendar. Each time you complete a task you have two options – delete it or cross it out. By crossing it out, you maintain a record of your past lists.

But how do you handle those pesky “some day but not today” tasks that you don’t want to lose sight of, but that just cause stress by sitting and glaring at you from your daily to-do list?

TeuxDeux has a “Someday” section at the bottom that allows you to easily keep track of projects that you plan to get around to… someday. One way I use this section is as a convenient storage place for ideas for future blog posts.

I’m not saying that TeuxDeux is the magic solution for your ever-increasing list of responsibilities, but you may want to give it a try to see if it works for you. It’s free (for now at least) and takes just moments to start using. Take a minute to watch their little video so you know how to navigate around.

So now I have an online to-do list. However, nothing will ever replace the tactile and visual pleasure that I get from my beautiful Paperblanks dayplanner which I use for appointments and which always lives in my purse. Knowing what a philanthropic company Paperblanks is just gives me added pleasure.

14 tips and tricks for a successful silent and live auction

My friend Gareth Duncan, Director of Development at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival knows a thing or two about how to run a great silent and live auction event. Each year, the Fringe holds a fun opening night event on Vancouver’s Granville Island to showcase some of the performers and to raise funds for the festival.

Gareth kindly shared his expertise with me and I’ve added some tips of my own that I’ve gleaned over the years.

Here are 14 tips and tricks for succeeding with your charity’s silent and live auction:

  1. Register your guests. This gives you a chance to report back to them on the success of the event and how it helped your mission. It also allows you to enter this information in your donor database and to segment your mailing list. They will also be the first people you can contact for your next auction event.
  2. At the registration table, give each person a bid paddle and number.
    One side of the paddle can have an image that will reinforce your brand or mission (at the Fringe they use their mascot Jimmy) and the other side, in very large type so it can be read across a dark room, is the bidders number. Having a paddle in your hand also has an interesting psychological effect encouraging people to take part in the live auction.
  3. Make sure you have some inexpensive items in your live auction. Having some accessible items gets the energy going in the room and encourages people to take part.
  4. Have a great MC and auctioneer. Your auctioneer or MC can really make the event exciting, circling back to the mission, recognizing those people who have bid and reinforcing how by upping the bids they are helping accomplish whatever the goal of the event is. Silent auctions might be places where people are looking for bargains, but in a live auction you can really educate about philanthropy.
  5. Use your live auction to ask for straight donations. After you’ve auctioned off all the physical items, the auctioneer can “auction off” donations to the cause. Make this process fast and start high and work down to the lowest donations, say $50 or $25.
  6. Put some of your charity’s items in the silent auction. Another way to get straight donations for specific projects for your charity is to include them in your silent auction. For instance, at the eye care charity I worked for, we had a bid sheet for specialized lenses for cataract surgeries for children in Africa. Each lens cost $100, so we created a bid sheet and photo display for that item and people signed up to provide 1 or more lenses for children’s eye surgeries. If your silent auction is aimed at, let’s say, providing a school bus, you could auction off seats on the bus and take names and bid numbers of people who pledge to donate a specific amount per seat.
  7. Have multiple volunteers record the bids. Volunteers should be placed around the room and each one should be equipped with a clipboard with a spreadsheet listing auction items and item numbers so they can easily record final bid value and the bidder’s number. Recognize that people make mistakes, so have multiple volunteers recording the bid values and numbers and then compare their lists immediately after the live auction to make sure that there is agreement on who bid what. Make sure your item lists have lines for the donation amounts too, as #5 above.
  8. Market each item well. Print bidding sheets with the item number, the name of the item, how much it is worth, a short compelling description and a minimum bid. You can dress up your bid sheets with photos, logos, etc., (or even get a business to sponsor them) too. Other ways of marketing the items are to provide a printed catalogue with the above information and a visual slide show of all the items. Make sure that your bid sheets have a large enough font and are easy to read. Dress up the item with props, e.g., a plate with cutlery, napkin, and the menu of the restaurant whose gift certificate you are auctioning.
  9. Set a minimum bid. While there’s debate on whether or not to have bid increments, it’s definitely good to have minimum bids. I’ve seen recommendations of anything from 20% to 40% of the value of items for the minimum bid. Buy out bid amounts are good, too, e.g., bidding 110% of the item’s value secures it.
  10. Have plenty of pens that work. If they can’t write, they can’t bid. Make sure you have plenty of good pens available, caps off and ready to go at each bid sheet, since some pens will disappear.
  11. Station informed volunteers behind the silent auction tables. These volunteers aren’t just there to smile sweetly; they need to know about your organization’s mission and they need to know about the items on their table so that they can promote and sell them. They should be coached in advance about their roles and be told how they can help move the auction along. For instance, if an item is not getting bids, they can say, “This is a really great bargain and nobody’s bidding—you should get in on this.” For fast-moving items, they can say, “This is a really hot prize. Make sure you put a bid down now so you don’t miss out.” – They can even create some commotion when there’s a hot battle for an item. There’s nothing like a bit of chaos to create excitement and a bidding frenzy! (This principle works well in the live auction, too.)
  12. More items does not equal a better auction. Too many auction items, whether live or silent, just paralyzes decision making and can reduce yields. As a general rule, for a silent auction, have no more than one item for every two guests. Combine items into packages or attractive baskets. Fewer items (live or silent) can mean more competition (i.e., bidding).
  13. Traffic flow is important. Plan your table layout for good traffic flow and be mindful of where you place your food and drinks tables. Make it easy for people to see what is there and circle back to bid again.
  14. Have clear closing times and encourage last-minute bids. It’s a good idea to close your silent auction in sections, with the highest-value items grouped and closed last. Make sure that you announce your countdown times clearly (10 minutes, 5 minutes etc.) and encourage last-minute bidding and some friendly competition. Close your silent auction in plenty of time to be able to gather prizes and process payments efficiently and not have your guests feeling frustrated as they hang around to check out. Many delayed bidding winners will leave early, causing you the headache of days or weeks of follow-up and auction item storage.

The case for support: your charity’s key document

Your organization’s case for support is arguably the most important document your organization will ever write. It gives the raison d’être of your charity and it is the cornerstone of all your fundraising campaigns.

From your general case for support, you can begin to construct individual “case statements” for specific projects and for major donors and grant applications.

The case for support must be a well-written, compelling statement appealing to both people’s reason and emotion and which serves to answer questions and inspire donors to give to your organization.

The case for support should answer the following questions:

  • Who is the organization and what does it do?
  • What is the problem it seeks to solve?
  • What is distinctive about the organization? (the “unique reason to give”)
  • What impact are you making? Are you being successful?
  • What are your priorities at this time and your urgent needs?
  • How will your programs/campaigns enable your mission to be accomplished?
  • How can the donor become involved?
  • What’s in it for the donor — why should someone give to this effort?
  • How do you raise funds?
  • How will the funds raised be used?
  • How will the funds specifically benefit those you serve?

Whether you are a brand new charity or an established one, your case for support materials should be organized in a way that is:

  • Easily accessible for those who need them such as fundraisers, your marketing department, board members etc.
  • Well-organized so that you can see what materials are there and access them efficiently
  • Backed up so that you don’t lose these essential resources.

Don’t ignore this last point. You can back up your case materials for free online in the cloud either through DropBox or Google Drive, so that they are safe and also so that you can access them wherever you are.

It makes sense to have all the material you need to raise funds and awareness in one place. From this bank of information, you can assemble anything you need — from press releases, to grant proposals, to website content, to major donor proposals etc.

Here’s what your case for support info bank should include:

  • Your mission, vision, and guiding principles
  • Your organization’s history and your organization’s record of success and impact
  • A clear statement of the problem/situation
  • The solution to the problem
  • How you are going to address the problem (your goals and objectives)
  • A sense of urgency or time limit
  • Timeline
  • Staff and governance including bios and photos of staff, board members, and overseas staff if any
  • Who is responsible and what their qualifications are
  • Budget(s)
  • Stories and photos to support the need (by putting a face to the problem)
  • Testimonials about your organization and about your programs
  • Why your organization is equipped to address the problem
  • Compelling photographs
  • Video PSAs or other video you might have
  • Maps showing where you work
  • Stats