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How Virtual Auctions Can be Pretty Great

Now that we’ve had some time to get settled into this new reality that precludes in-person events in most cases, we realize we’re starting to see the light seeping through cracks. Bottomline? We, and many of the organizations we support, are having a lot of fun. People are raising money, gathering supporters, telling mission-forward stories and thinking outside the box on how, when, why and who. Do we love a system-wide reset of all our best practices? Maybe not. But we’ve found it has yielded spectacular results and best practices we can all be proud of. Here are some of our favorites.

Since we can’t gather, we can open the virtual doors for many other people to join in! As long as you communicate the impact with your audience, they can even help you grow your base of supporters, inviting – maybe for the first time – friends and family who could not have realistically attended your event before.

And friends share great content with each other! The fact that your event becomes a permanent, sharable record– not only of your programs and promises, but also in terms of the generous support of your community – is pretty close to priceless. Plus, you can dissect this content out and share it with different audiences at different times to show different aspects of the shared value and commitment your work inspires.

We’re also seeing incredible stories of resilience in these times. As nonprofit leaders, you are charging every day into the abyss! Audiences care about and respond to authentic stories of these times with great enthusiasm. So please (please please) keep the stories coming.

But let’s be a little real here, too. These programs look deceptively simple! Oh boy. Just like an in-person event, you’ll need to work every part of the equation to get the results you’re looking for. Most events we’re working on now are built on a minimum timeline of eight - twelve weeks so plan accordingly. No matter what your timeline, everything needs to be done, prepared, finalized and to your AV company one-week prior so that they can build the show. The more time you give them, the prettier your show will be. We also recommend you pre-record all aspect of your program and preference a host with fundraising chops. In these times, strategic decisions like this are paying off in spades.

And let’s make sure we get people there by communicating early and often! Your supporters want to know how they can help. But just because you have high attendance doesn’t mean your event will succeed. We’ve seen events make their goal with a small, dedicated audience and others enjoy great turnout but fall short on fundraising expectations because the work hasn’t been done on early pre-commitments, data and strategy. So be sure to spend plenty of time with your best strategy hat on…and/or invest in great partners to take you over not just the audience but the fundraising finish line.

With these things in mind, we hope you feel more confident than ever that WE. CAN. DO. THIS.


We’re also pleased to report that each of our auctioneers has had shining moments in 2020! Here’s a recap of our very favorites:

Bolivia Carmichaels at William Temple House

Andy Lindberg at Guardian Partners

Alix Zimmermann at Oregon Tradeswomen

Kelly Russell at Raphael House



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