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Based out of Portland, Oregon, Artisan Auctions was founded by Certified Benefit Auction Specialist, Kelly Russell.

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Special Appeals: Smart Appeal Structure With Swaim Strategies

Home > Blog > Special Appeals > Smart Appeal Structure With Swaim Strategies

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Hello my Fabulous Fundraisers! And welcome to Artisan Auctions! I’m your host Kelly Russell, and today I have invited one of my favorite event planners and fundraising strategists, Samantha Swaim to join me! Welcome, Sam!


Hi Kelly, thanks for having me!


Sam, would you share with our viewers a little bit about yourself and your company Swaim Strategies?


Sure! At Swaim Strategies, we think that even though fundraising events are a lot of hard work, they serve very important missions. And with the right strategy you can stay out of the weeds, raise more money, and work smarter not harder.


Well, what shall we chat about today?


Let’s talk about that big magical bucket at the end of the rainbow. It’s the highest revenue generator at any event: the pitch, the paddle raise… in other words, The Special Appeal. Ready?


Let’s go raise some Money!



There are lots of factors that make a Special Appeal effective, so let’s dive in.


Every appeal has three key elements. The Story, The Ask, and The Collection.

I like to think about it like this: *People give to people.

They give most when it comes from a place of emotion, and the quickest way to create connection is through story. That’s why every good Special Appeal starts with someone sharing a story of how an organization impacted their lives.

I love to share this story in a video which demonstrates how the organization was the CHANGE AGENT for this one person. And you DO want to make sure your story features one person.


So we tell our story and the wallets fly open, right? (wink, wink)


Well after the story, you need an Ask, a call to action that tells your audience to raise those paddles high and give generously.

It’s most compelling when The Ask comes live onstage, directly from the individual featured in the story.


Here’s my favorite part. The collection. That’s when I step on stage and start with the big numbers first.


Yes! And there’s some important strategy that goes into the collection as well.


Absolutely! We want to keep the momentum going in the room, so it’s important to have pre-committed gifts from top donors so we can be sure that at least a few paddles will go up at the top levels.

Any drop in momentum can tank the Special Appeal.


And anytime you can challenge the audience with a match or offer them a chance to double their gift.... You are giving your donors the chance to be a superhero.


The Story, The Ask, and The Collection.

I love it! Sam, THANK YOU so much for joining us and sharing your expertise on how to structure an effective Special Appeal. We hope you’ll join us again soon!


My pleasure, Kelly. This was super fun!

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