Special events (galas, -thon’s, etc.) and auctions have always been key components to a nonprofit’s mission promotion, donor acquisition, and fundraising strategy. Approximately 95% of Network for Good customers host 1-3 events each year, and 60% run at least 1 auction. And while events and auctions are priorities for nonprofits, they aren’t typically priorities for fundraising software companies—very few have full integrations. As a result, the organization has to budget for and learn multiple systems (their fundraising software, events, and auction software), not to mention manage data uploads and tracking. It’s clunky and more complicated than it should be, especially for time- and resource-strapped small nonprofits.
Network for Good has been watching and listening to our customers’ frustration over needing these multiple fundraising, events and auctions tools. We knew we could build a better, all-in-one solution for our customers and then…the pandemic hit. The pandemic shook events and auctions to their core, driving organizations to rethink the value of their events and how to deliver engaging virtual and hybrid events that still hit fundraising goals. So, we got to work—interviewing customers and event experts, testing software platforms, and searching for simple, smart auction tools. Early this year, we piloted our new events platform and acquired Cause4Auctions software. The future of fundraising and events is here and ready for you—livestreaming, attendee chat, on-page donation links (with a goal thermometer), text to give, online and mobile auctions. And that’s just the beginning of our events and auctions capabilities.
What is the Next Normal for Your Events and Auctions?
As the US becomes vaccinated and mask restrictions lift, nonprofits are considering what their “next normal” will look like for their events and auctions. This can be tricky for some—do you use your muscle memory to return to in-person only events, or do you incorporate virtual components? What does a hybrid event look like and how much more effort (and budget) is needed? I recently sat in a board meeting where everyone raved about the return to their in-person gala next year. I piped up to ask if they would consider hybrid features to broaden attendance since we had so many new attendees this past year. There was a pause and I could tell that board members were thinking, “Going virtual the last two galas was hard enough, do we really need to further complicate our labor-intensive in-person gala? Doesn’t our overworked staff need a break?”
The answer is yes—hybrid is a smart solution, which is what the Executive Director affirmed. We heard a lot in 2020 about resilience, but the definition of resilience suggests a return to the original state. I encourage you to think differently about your events and auctions and become “anti-fragile.” Anti-fragility implies that you will experience stressors, failures, shocks and will evolve and thrive as a result. Our world is now primed for anti-fragility and your organization can leverage technology to create a new, broader vision for your fundraising events and auctions. The time has come and there is much to gain. Here are some questions to consider:
- What about your virtual or hybrid events drove attendees and donations? If it didn’t raise as much as you planned, what would you do differently?
- What features with virtual or hybrid events can you easily embed into your in-person events?
- Virtual livestream from your in-person event and/or special locations—so you can share and celebrate the festivities
- A livestream platform that offers live chat so in-person attendees can chat from their phones with virtual attendees, text to give, on-page donation buttons with thermometers so everyone can give when motivated
- Online auctions so all attendees can bid on and win items
- How can you leverage your hybrid events to show your board and supporters that you are inclusive and futuristic?
Getting Everyone Comfortable with Your Events and Auctions Technology
Events and auctions can be expensive and labor-intensive when you compare the cost to raise a dollar against other forms of fundraising (appeals, etc.). So, your effort needs a high return to be successful (we used to say that you needed to raise 4x the cost). The idea of hybrid events can be daunting because of the added tech needs. However, one way to get everyone comfortable with your virtual technology is to use it for smaller events and meetings during the year. For example, Network for Good’s new events and auction software has options for unlimited use and tech support throughout the year. You could use the events platform for your volunteer appreciation party, community impact updates as well as your higher profile events. Doing so allows your supporters and your staff to become acclimated with the events platform so there aren’t tech hurdles to overcome for your major events. Plus, having the donation button in the corner of your smaller events invites giving throughout the year in a non-intrusive way.
Let’s face it, donors love events and auctions and nonprofits love the exposure and fundraising opportunities that they bring. As you think of what’s next for your organization, let “next” capitalize on what you learned these past few years and your organization’s growth as an anti-fragile, inclusive fundraising machine. With the right technology and the right attitude, your organization has the potential to make your fundraising events and auctions broader and better than before.
Learn more about our events and auctions software here