Fund A Need - Paddle Raise - The Big Ask

"Dollars for Scholars” / "Fund-A-Need" / "Paddle Raise" /"Make it Happen" / "Stop the Auction"

Whatever you call it, it is a great way to pick up that unspent donor money in the room the night of your auction.

Ideally, when we have everyone’s attention and they are caught up in the excitement of the auction.  If your Live auction has fewer than 6 items, or scheduling dictates, you can do it at the very end, otherwise consider inserting the FAN in the last 1/3 of the auction.  NOTE:  If you wait until the end of the auction, you sometimes risk losing some folks heading to the door or getting a jump on an often chaotic checkout.  Don't ignore the fact that the majority of your attendees are not bidding in your live auction, so they might feel it's easy to leave and not feel they are missing anything.  Is your crowd one that goes to bed early?  Has a long commute home? Is your auction on a weeknight?  If we know our crowd tends to leave early, talk about how to slow down the process, or schedule things appropriately.

I recommend taking 2-3 minutes to explain what the ask is going to support and explain the process of how they crowd can help.  A short video or even a guest speaker can be a great element to help make the case for the need.  Whatever your approach, keep it short!  Be especially careful of a guest speaker who may tend to ramble.

The auctioneer will then go though a series of “levels” at descending dollar amounts. These are pre-set and generally follow a pattern like $10,000, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50.   These increments should be adjusted to accommodate your unique donor base.  It's really important to have that first donor in place and ready to raise their paddle.  Your Pace Setter is really important to show the crowd "this is working".

Some key things to remember:

1.  It’s important to present an empathetic "face" for your ask.  It works best when it is very specific and not going toward an otherwise general fund.  It should be something that when announced, every person in the room nods in agreement.  That this is something they will support.   Scholarships, Kids Going to Camp, Technology Funds are a few ideas that have worked well.  "Big Picture" asks, "We want to build a new campus", generally do not do well. 

2. Set a realistic, achievable goal.  The right "need” will focus on something that can be crossed off the "To Do" list in the next 10 minutes.  Something that can and will be completed in days/weeks, rather than the typical long range horizons we are accustomed to hearing.  The amount is relative to your room.  It can be $5000 or $100,000.  Just make sure you we are confident we will achieve the goal that night.  That's an often overlooked driver of this type of ask. We are solving a problem RIGHT NOW.

3. The most successful Fund A Needs' create a situation where the room has a feeling that, together, we can solve(Fund) this need tonight.  Right now.  It’s specifically designed to be unlike traditional fundraising campaigns that often include red tape, future approvals, endless meetings and can take months or years to be achieved.

4. The opening increment should be a sure thing.  We do not want to hear crickets when we ask for that opening bid.  Once we give a big pitch for the need,  it is IMPERATIVE to get the ball rolling right away with a known pace-setter.  This is something the auction committee, Board Members or Principals will need to work on securing in advance.  This is not a place for a shill!  A real bidder needs to be willing to step up.

4.  If we have the opportunity, utilize Matching Funds during your ask.  It can be used as a Full Match, dollar for dollar start to finish,  if the dollars are significant, or a smaller Match can effectively be inserted at a certain level of the "Ask".

There are obviously other factors to consider, but these are the highlights. It is a great opportunity for each person in the room, many of whom didn't win anything in the silent or live, to contribute to your worthy cause. 

Once in place, this can be a significant revenue source for your event year after year.  We generally find, when the right “need” is in place, that we add 25-30% to your events bottom line.

SPECIAL NOTE:  Don’t allow a Board of Directors or Principal with a pet project or a budget shortfall to insert what THEY want for your F.A.N.  This needs to be something your crowd wants to support.  If you are asking for something the room feels should already be handled via better planning, paid tuition, previous campaigns, etc...It will fail.

Your guests will leave your event knowing they helped solve an immediate funding issue and get a nice "warm fuzzy"  well beyond checkout.