Moving the Needle

Moving the Needle

Attendees of your fundraising event need to know the difference their participation will help you make in people’s lives. There needs to be no question about the need, and how they can help you fulfill it; down to the level of the lowest fund a need pledge.

Bidders need to know that they can help, that their money is going to effect meaningful change. It is all about laser-beaming message, and in this case it is about quantifying needs at appropriate levels. Large, national charities face the perceptual challenge of massive national budgets. The reality may be that the Silicon Valley American Heart Association or Bay Area Red Cross serve the local community and are responsible for their own annual budgets, but it doesn’t always appear that way.

One Silicon Valley executive who was debating a $10,000 pledge at an event summed it up best, “I want to know how much my money is going to move the needle.” $10,000 is no paltry sum. I’m betting anyone reading this could change a lot of lives with $10,000. But measured against the multi-million dollar annual budget of heart research nationwide, it barely makes the needle shiver.

The challenge is to define the goals for your audience clearly, and communicate them effectively:

  • State what your fundraising auction helps your organization accomplish.
  • Equally importantly, state what won’t happen if people don’t show up and spend.
  • Quantify your needs, and map them to pledge levels of your fund a need. For example: $5,000 will provide one bed for a hospice; or $250 will give four women free breast cancer screenings.
  • Publish those needs, preferably in your auction catalog, and preferably in a way that people will actually read them. Just remember that a laundry list is bad, but pull quotes at the bottom of each page, Reader’s Digest-style, catch people’s eyes.
  • Pick up the phone and start having conversations with your biggest supporters. Now. Be honest with them, and respect their honesty in return. It is better to know where you stand going into an event, than merely hope that people are going to give you money.

The most successful events right now are being carried by individuals. It is always a minority of people who carry the day for fundraising auctions, and in this economy even more weight is falling on their shoulders. Let them know how much their support means to the people you serve, let them know how many lives will be changed with their bids at your auction. Let them know how they can move the needle, and they’ll find a way to make it jump.

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