A paddle raise, also known as a fund-a-need, fund a cure, or special appeal, is a popular technique used to inspire donors to raise their paddle and make an immediate donation during your fundraising event. Executing a successful paddle raise requires careful planning and thought.
In this blog post, we'll cover three key strategies to help you master the paddle raise at your next fundraising event. From your donation amounts to who should be conducting your paddle raise, these tips will help you engage donors and raise more money for your charity.
1: Hire a benefit auctioneer
It may be tempting to have your board member with the most boisterous personality or your uncle who used to perform as a magician to host your paddle raise and your live auction, but having done as many fundraising events as we have, you can tell the difference between a certified benefit auctioneer and someone who’s just good with a microphone. When you invest in a Benefit Auction Specialist (“BAS”) here’s what’s likely to happen, right off the bat:
- They will help you be prepared for your paddle raise. A true benefit auctioneer will work with you well in advance of your event to maximize the strategy for your paddle raise.
- They know how to engage your guests. A professional auctioneer will work the room to extract as much money from your guests as possible. They will make it a point to know the key people at your event, and how to communicate your message in a way that compels people to donate.
Benefit Auctioneers are located all over the country, and most are willing to travel. Listen to our conversation with Dean Crownover, Benefit Auctioneer, to learn how an auctioneer can help you dramatically increase the donations at your fundraising event.
2: Strategically plan your paddle raise
Mastering a paddle raise is an art form, and there are several key factors to consider when setting the scene at your event:
- Run-of-Show Placement. Be intentional about where you put your paddle raise in your program order so you can maximize your fundraising potential. Here are a few tips when considering when and how to do your paddle raise during your run-of-show:
- Timing is everything! If your paddle raise is too early in the evening, guests may still be distracted and may not be fully invested in what’s happening on stage. Consider placing your paddle raise after a moving speech or video that highlights your organization’s impact.
- Consider logistics. If you’re serving a meal, push your paddle raise until after your guests have eaten and plates are cleared. You’ll also want to instruct your servers to pause service until after the paddle raise is complete. If you have a bar, consider closing it until the paddle raise is over, to minimize guest movement during the presentation.
- Invoke an emotional response. Carefully plan who will speak or what video you might show that will prepare the donor to give. You want to elicit a powerful, emotional reaction that compels your guests to donate. Remember, they chose your event and your organization for a reason! Remind them of why they are there by using the power of storytelling and communicating the difference they can make.
- Create diverse donor levels. Creating diverse donor levels can help you engage a wider level of participation from the people in the room. Consider levels as low as $25 or $50, ranging up to $5,000 or $10,000. A word of caution, however: Secure at least a verbal commitment from donors for the higher levels in advance of your fundraising event. Nothing takes the energy out of a paddle raise more than an awkward silence when an amount is called out and no one raises their paddle.
- Do a “paddle sweep.” Once your auctioneer has called out all the major amounts, consider calling out a small amount that almost anyone in the room can donate. We suggest an amount of about $50. This will encourage anyone who hasn’t made a donation during the paddle raise to do so easily. You will likely also get repeat donations at this level. Even if donors have already raised their paddle at the $1,000 level, what’s another $50? Then, have your volunteers pick up the paddles as they are raised so you can easily record the donations.
- Secure a matching gift. Matching gifts are a powerful way to encourage donations, as it gives donors a sense that they are making an even bigger impact. Donors may give more if they feel that their donation will be doubled, and people who were possibly not planning to give at all may raise their paddle to max out the matching gift. Work with a business, a foundation, or individual to secure a matching gift sponsorship, and then communicate the amount to your auctioneer so they can maximize the match to its highest potential.
Strategically planning your paddle raise can help you engage donors more effectively, increase donations, and build stronger relationships with your supporters. When you create a memorable experience, elicit a powerful reaction from your audience, and make it easy for people to donate at any level, you are on your way to a successful paddle raise.
3: Leverage the power of auction software
The paddle raise portion of your fundraising event can go at a fast pace. There’s a lot happening in the room, and you certainly don’t want to miss a single hand raised or donation amount. It’s crucial to have the right auction software to help you streamline your process and track your donations. Here are some key features to consider when selecting an auction software provider that can help you execute an effective paddle raise.
- Assign bidder numbers. Auction software can help you to get organized before your event program even begins. Look for software that has a robust and streamlined registration system that will help you to track guests, check them in, keep a credit card on file, and assign them a paddle number when they arrive at your event.
- Collect donations remotely. You may be considering a hybrid event, where people can bid on auction items and make donations remotely, without having to be in the room. Auction software can make that happen with ease!
- Streamline the payment process. With event technology like Handbid, you can record donations from your paddle raise into the software and immediately collect payment with the credit card you have on file for each guest. You can even text or email an invoice to each guest so they can review all of their donations for the evening and pay in one easy step.
When you master the paddle raise, you have the potential to gain thousands of dollars for your organization with little to no overhead cost. Remember to engage your audience, create a memorable experience, and hire a professional, and you will be on your way to achieving your fundraising goals and making an impact in your community.
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