This post was contributed by GivingMail.
Auctions are one of the most effective ways to raise money for your nonprofit because of the appeal to new and existing donors alike. While the focus of the evening should be on the items up for bid and the mission behind the event, planning and executing a successful event is not as simple as it sounds. Effective marketing efforts leading up to your auction may very well be the difference between exceeding expectations and falling short.
Therefore, although the world has fallen on challenging times, it is imperative that you continue to market your fundraising and engagement opportunities regardless.
Keeping your current donors involved in the upcoming auction plan prior to the public announcement is a great way to collect suggestions and to make your donors feel like a part of the team. Their involvement early on also helps promote this to other donors alike. With that said, nothing is more important than the unbelievable turnout that early engagement can help create.
Luckily, direct mail can be a great way to get the word out about your upcoming event and get donors excited about participating. Specifically, here are four ways direct mail strategies can help support your charity auction:
- Reach out to potential sponsors
- Personally invite supporters
- Send out programs and auction catalogs
- Drive readers to your donation page
Getting people in the door and interested in the items you are auctioning is the first step to hosting a successful charity auction. Ready to learn more about effective event promotion strategies? Let's get started!
How to use direct mail for your silent auction
1. Reach out to potential sponsors
Because hosting a charity auction can be a big undertaking, you'll likely want to seek out support in the form of event sponsorships. There are a few main ways this can happen:
- Request in-kind donations of items and experiences that can be auctioned off. This way, when you get your auction items donated, the entire amount from the winning bid can go toward your mission rather than event overhead and item procurement efforts.
- Sell advertising space on your programs and auction catalogs. In addition to the key fundraising benefits we'll discuss in detail below, these resources can also function as valuable advertising space that you can sell to local businesses looking to get their name out as well.
- Seek out a gift-matching sponsor. Finding a business or major donor that would be willing to match donations on the night of the auction can be a huge factor in increasing revenue by literally doubling your donations. It also provides a sense of urgency and is an extra inclination for people to donate on the spot.
Using a direct mail marketing platform like GivingMail can be a great resource for spreading the word about your upcoming event. You can also use direct mail to contact businesses, major donors, and other potential sponsors to support your fundraiser and help offset some of the significant fees associated with hosting an upscale event.
Just remember, you'll want to send these direct mailings early into the planning stage, so you have time to follow up with potential sponsors and collect the funding you'll need for a successful event.
2. Personally invite supporters
Marketing your charity auction is an incredibly important step for generating the maximum amount of revenue for your cause. One of the first and most critical tasks is getting people in the door (or on your event site for virtual auctions). After all, people won't spend money if they don't see your items up for bid.
The first people you should reach out to are your existing contacts. These people are the best to reach out to because they already know who you are and what you stand for. Plus, not only are they more likely to attend your event, but they'll also contribute significantly once they arrive onsite.
To inform these individuals of your upcoming event and get them excited to attend, you should send out personal event invitations beforehand. This is especially important for top supporters, who you can locate within your nonprofit database.
When doing so, be sure to address recipients by name to get that extra personal touch. After all, personalizing your invitations makes the recipient feel as if they are an important part of what you are trying to accomplish. If the user feels more connected and appreciated by your charity or nonprofit, they are more likely to be a continued contributor and dedicated supporter.
Unlike typical nonprofit direct mail campaigns, where high volumes of small to midsize donations have the largest impact on net revenue, your high-level donors are most likely to make the largest impact in an auction setting. Reaching out personally to your largest donors by direct mail ahead of the event can boost your chances of them attending and spending money at the auction.
One helpful way to reach out to, connect with, and manage these supporters is through an effective CRM or donor relationship software. These systems help organizations manage large amounts of donors and contacts without shelling out a ton of your limited staff time and resources.
3. Send out programs and auction catalogs
Another way to raise awareness and get supporters excited for your event is by sending out programs and auction catalogs showcasing items up for bidding. Generating a nice catalog that describes and shows off your items is an impactful way to build excitement for those who plan to attend the auction.
Additionally, sending this catalog to a large group of people may even inspire those who have not heard of your cause to attend your auction for the simple reason of wanting to bid on one of the items you are selling.
Although your auction catalog will be tailored to your own organization and its supporter base, some basics you may want to include in the catalog are:
- A good, clear photo of each item or experience
- Estimated retail value
- Starting price
- A well-written description of the item
Finally, it's a good idea to incorporate a description of your cause and where the proceeds will be going. People may be more inclined to spend more on items if they feel that their hard-earned money is going to a good cause. Then, the more people that are in on the auction, the better chances you have of raising more money at your event.
4. Drive readers to your donation page
Although the majority of your auction revenue will likely come from your winning bids, that doesn't mean it should be your only source of income. In fact, you can diversify your revenue by requesting donations from supporters who want to go above and beyond their bids, as well as those who can't attend your event but still want to contribute.
After all, just because a potential donor cannot make it to your event, this does not mean they do not want to show their support. Directing readers to your donation page pushes them in the right direction in terms of contributing to your cause.
Once they get there, having an effective donation page is essential. This is where you convert prospects into donors, and wasting this opportunity will present itself when calculating your net donations. A few ways to optimize your donation page are:
- Emphasizing a mobile-responsive design
- Making your donation form visually appealing
- Setting suggested donation amounts
- Ensuring the donation process is easy
- Showing matching donation offers
Creating a sense of urgency will help drive donations by urging donors to make a contribution now rather than later, and eliminating the possibility that they forget to do it after all. This simple tactic, if done right, will help your cause get more donors in shorter periods of time, therefore elevating your net revenue and donations.
To the outside observer, an auction may seem like the simplest way to make money and fundraise for a nonprofit. However, without the right preparation, marketing, and build-up, your auction may not meet its fullest potential. Therefore, it is important to properly promote your auction, and direct mail may be the channel of outreach to make your goals a reality. Good luck!
Guest Author: Grant Cobb
Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.