Fund-A-Need Part One – The History

Fund-A-Need Part One – The History

Fund-A-Need, Raise the Paddle, Cash Call, Adopt a Family are all names for the same process of simply asking the attendees for cash during a fund-raising auction.

Recently one of our clients credited us here at Reynolds & Buckley with inventing this process.  I wish I could take the credit!  Rather I absconded with the idea.

The first Fund-A-Need I saw was at a PONCHO auction in Seattle approximately 20 years ago.  The auctioneer was the late, great Dick Friel.

At some point during that auction Dick asked the audience members to make a donation of $1,000.  Paddles were raised throughout the room.  It did not take a genius to realize that this would revolutionize fundraising.

From this point in time, where nearly every auction has a fund-a-need component, it is hard to believe just how much resistance there was to this concept.  Many  organizations argued that “their audience” was different and would be insulted by this brazen fundraising attempt.  Fortunately Bill Shea, the chair of the Make A Wish auction held at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery, had already planned something very similar.

The event was part of the World Championship of Croquet weekend.  The actual auction followed the matches and I auctioned from the middle of the croquet pitch with audience around the sidelines.  Bill’s idea was to give every couple a Frisbee with their bidder number on it.  At the appropriate time, they would be asked to throw it at the auctioneer.  Each Frisbee would represent $1,000.  It worked beautifully.  In memory it is still one of my favorite and most fun Fund-A-Needs.

The next year the honoree chair was one of the most generous people I knew.  Just as I was starting the fund-a-need I looked up, saw Saralee, and just knew that she wanted to donate more than the $1,000 for the Frisbee toss. I took a deep breath and asked the audience “Before I invite you to throw in your Frisbees thereby donating $1,000, would anyone make a gift of $5,000”.  Saralee’s paddle went up immediatly, and so, to my surprise did at least a couple of others. I knew I was onto something.

That’s the Reynolds & Buckley contribution to Fund-A-Needs, we introduced the multiple ask levels.  Others may have done the same, but before that weekend so many years ago I had never seen or heard of it.  I am proud to have participated in creating a process that has raised literally billions of dollars for causes around the country.

So much for history.  Part Two of this blog will be a discussion of how to build the best possible Fund-A-Need.

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