I am a benefit auctioneer helping people navigate the world of fundraising auctions so my Blog Off II posts cover aspects of the event.
Here's a photo of my first Pink Martini CD, which I bought during the band's Kennedy Center performance on Millennium Stage around 1997.
How can you improve the odds of getting a donation?
If you’re not afraid to reach out and you’re committed to spending some time on the computer, use your location to turn a cold lead into a warmer one.
Sometimes knowing about a possible donation is simply about being in the right place at the right time.
Here’s an example.
I love the band Pink Martini and make every effort to attend the group’s almost annual performance in the Washington, D.C. area. Oddly enough, I only learned of them nine years ago when they were performing a free concert on Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.
(I interrupt this blog post to give the following free public service announcement to tourists: The Kennedy Center has free concerts at 6 PM every day on Millennium Stage. Shows range from good high school groups to globally recognized talent.)
In the last two years during their concerts at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Thomas Lauderdale (the band’s founder) always introduces Pansy Chang (the cello player) by saying (to paraphrase), “And straight from Wolftrap Elementary, we have the talented Pansy Chang!”
Based on his comment, I’m guessing that Pansy attended school at Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna, VA.
If anyone in the packed crowd that night was on a benefit auction committee in the Vienna area (and I bet there were at least eight people), they should have taken that comment to heart. They now share a connection with Pansy via their location.
If I was looking for auction donations, I would have reached out to Pansy or the band immediately after that performance by sending a note backstage through security.
“I’m here with eight people, and we’re all fans,” I’d write, “Like Pansy, my kids go to schools in Vienna. Our school has a fundraising auction in March, and I’m asking Pansy if she’d make a donation to support her old stomping grounds. I’d love to have a collection of Pink Martini CDs and an I.O.U. that would enable the winner of the auction item to meet the band for photos backstage during your next D.C. performance, whenever that is. I can assure you, all eight of us here tonight will be bidding on that item!”
Key point: When I get a good idea, I act immediately! When you get a good idea, I suggest acting right then. Do not wait until the next day, or until the next auction committee meeting. Do it then. And if you get a rejection, no big deal. On the flip side, you might get a really nice donation!
Let’s look at some pointers as to where you might find a “location connection” with a person of note.
1. Remember cities when they are mentioned in television interviews.
If you watch television, it’s not unusual to hear a celebrity or other person of interest telling their personal story on a talk show interview. If they mention they are from an area near you, make a mental note of that and follow up later to ask for a donation.
2. Note locations listed in written publications.
Keep your ears and eyes open when reading articles in magazines.
For example, by virtue of listening to people talk at an organizational event and then reading a random article in a magazine, I came to know of three people living in Annapolis, MD who serve as television hosts for nationally-produced TV shows currently being aired. Yet, many Annapolis charities with whom I talk do not even know these recognizable faces live in their backyard.
How easy might it be to ask for a lunch meeting with one of these TV hosts, if only the charity knew these guys existed! Two of the hosts have lived in Annapolis for many years, so they surely have connections to a church, a school, or some social group which a charity volunteer might also have a tie.
3. Poke around on IMDB to research your favorite actors.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists substantial information about celebrities and where they were born and raised. Spend some time researching your favorite celebrities and getting to know those who share a connection with your location. They are likely targets to whom you could reach out and share your non-profit story. At the time of this writing, IMDB offers a 14-day free subscription to its “Pro” version which enables you to see the celebrity’s manager and agent so you can send them a message.
4. Get out, meet others, and be chatty. It’s that easy!
For kicks, last year I signed up to participate in a social bike ride along Miami Beach. Along the course of the ride, I struck up a conversation with a 30-something man biking near me. I learned he was the son of the local Mayor. Had I been looking for a donated auction item for my school auction or non-profit, I would have tested the waters for a donation right then.
Connections can be made in unusual ways. Work the ones which appeal to you, and trust that some will turn into benefit auction donations.
(c) 2009 Red Apple Auctions LLC
Award-winning benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, CMP, BAS teaches auction chairpersons how to craft more financially successful fundraising auctions for their charities. Her FREE Auction Item Guide lists 100+ of the top-selling items you can sell in your benefit auction and is available at her Website. She also regularly dishes tips in "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly ezine for volunteer and professional event managers who plan benefit auctions for non-profits and schools.
Her company conducted 50 benefit auctions last year. Two of her clients -- the Larry King Cardiac Foundation and Washington Performing Arts Society -- were ranked in the top 100 events of Washington, D.C., as determined by BizBash magazine.