Technology

Improve Event Attendee Engagement with Technology

There are a lot of factors to consider when planning a fundraising event. Devising the theme, finding the perfect venue, soliciting the right array of auction items – it’s a lot of work. You will, however, be hard pressed to find any event planner or development director that doesn’t agree on one key event element: a positive and engaging guest experience.

A lot of things can impact an attendee’s experience during your event—long lines during registration or check-out, a crowded silent auction area, not enough time to mingle or enjoy the whole event—but all can be easily eliminated with the right use of event technology. If your organization is on the fence about whether or not to include technology for your upcoming event, here are some perks to consider:

Effective Registration and Check-Out

 A positive attendee experience starts at registration and ends at check-out. When you use an event database during planning to organize all of your guest data, the registration and check-out processes become quick and effective.

With an event database, a record containing the ticketing history, contact information, and event day data of each guest is available at the click of a button. Instantaneously you are able to simply update missing guest data, capture credit card information, and add walk-in guests at registration.

Check-out becomes equally fast with event technology. All purchases and donations are captured in the database in real-time without sorting through paper bid sheets or donation envelopes. It is quick and easy to see all guest bids, purchases and donations, print guest receipts, gather a signature, and send them home with their winning items.

Effective guest registration and a swift check-out enhances attendees’ positive feelings about the event, your organization, and their individual impact.

Improved Silent Auction Engagement and Experience

Similarly, event technology increases attendee engagement during the silent auction in a myriad of ways. Auction Harmony believes that a truly engaging event involves multiple types of bidding technology.

Bidsheet Tablets remove the hassle of paper bid sheets and provide a fun, visually stimulating way for guests to bid on silent auction items. Guests can easily see a description of the item they are bidding on, who holds the winning bid, and the cost of the next bid. Our technology intuitively guides guests through the bidding process, places their name on the screen as the current winning bidder, and allows them to register their smartphone so they can stay updated on the status of their bids.

Our smartphone bidding software allows guests with smartphones to access the entire auction from the palm of their hand. Guests can browse open auction items, receive a text message when they’ve been outbid, and place a new bid without having to spend the entire event circling the silent auction table. Guests without smart phones can also use event kiosks to check the status of their bids, view items, and place new bids.

Kiosks, smartphone bidding, and Bidsheet Tablets improve guest flow through the silent auction which reduces overcrowding which can dissuade people from returning to update their bids.

By allowing event attendees to participate in the silent auction through technology, you ensure that guests socialize more, heighten their sense of competition through immediate mobile updates, and allow them to be more involved in other aspects of the event.

Increase Attendees’ Sense of Impact

Congratulations! You’ve made it through a quick and easy registration, the silent auction has people bidding and socializing, and your guests are fired up about the event. These elements usually give way to the most important part of any fundraising event: The Ask, which we call the Fund-A-Need.

Crafting a successful and emotional program is integral when imploring your guests to donate to your cause, and implementing technology into your Fund-A-Need encourages guest participation and engagement.

Placing a Donation Tablet at each table with pre-determined donation amounts keeps the Fund-A-Need lively, makes donating effortless, and eliminates the need for envelopes and guesswork.

Often, keeping your Fund-A-Need visually engaging enlivens guests to donate more, and more often. With a Donation Tracker, guests can see in real time how much money has been raised, how much others have donated, and their individual gift towards the event goal. There are many ways to tailor a Donation Tracker to give guests a direct, visual representation of their personal impact to your cause, enriching their sense of connection to your organization's work and mission.

 

While there are many crucial elements that make any event a memorable one, guaranteeing that guests feel engaged and involved during your event is essential to it's overall success. Incorporating event technology takes the stress out of planning for a positive and impactful attendee experience, assuring your organization hosts a meaningful and profitable event.

Helping a Local Nonprofit Move Beyond Pen and Paper Bidding: A Fairy Tale Beginning

This is a story about a happy ending. Like all good happy endings, it begins with a fairy tale. It doesn’t include a castle, witch, or mythical creature, but it does have magic, imagination, and a rescue. Like all good fairy tales it begins with, Once upon a time...

It started a long time ago in a basement far far away. Okay, it wasn’t that long ago…and it really wasn’t very far away.

Caribe Schreiber - Engineer and Owner of Auction Harmony
Caribe Schreiber - Engineer and Owner of Auction Harmony

Dan and I were in college together. We met in an electrical engineering class. I was working for a couple of fortune 500 companies doing consulting work to help pay for books and tuition and trying to keep down a double major in electrical engineering and computer engineering. Somewhat successfully I might add.

Anyway, one day I got a call from one of the development staff at the high school I attended and they were in a real jam. They had an event coming up in one week and the IT guy that had been helping them run their auction had quit. He left mumbling something about stress and never wanting to be near a fundraiser ever again.

They asked if I could come give them some advice and maybe help them out of this unfortunate predicament they were in, of course, I told them that I would help.

So, given the closeness of their event, I setup a meeting with the development person for later that day. When I sat down with her, I had to have her explain what a fundraiser was, and how it all worked. I had never been to one, let alone seen the workings from behind the curtain.

She told me about her main problems:

People couldn't get checked in fast enough

Nobody knew where to sit

Making name badges was an impossible task

Trying to transcribe bid data correctly for 450 auction lots was a monumental task and always had mistakes and hurt feelings

Collecting payment from guests’ onsite was challenging and led to lots of follow-up work that dragged on for months

But mostly, she was just terrified about having to do this all without any system or IT help to get through the night. She was used to the other warts in the event process, she just needed to make it through this one event, and then she wouldn’t need me anymore.

So, I put on my thinking beanie, the one with the little propeller, and came up with some interesting ideas to try to solve all these problems. I locked myself away in my bedroom for about 5 days trying different things and writing more and more code to try to stave off the complete meltdown of this event. And after 5 days, I had something brand new that I thought had a pretty good chance of keeping us alive at this event.

I went in and met with the development person and she nearly cried when I showed her what I’d built. We didn’t have time for tears, so we started planning and getting training programs in place. We started pulling guest and auction data together and I started cramming it into this new system. I put together the network of computers and printers from stuff we scavenged from the school library.

Guests started showing up. We pre-registered their credit cards to keep the wrap-up from turning into a headache. We handed guests a set of barcoded stickers to use for bidding instead of forcing a volunteer to try to transcribe the potent combination of philanthropy, alcohol, and doctor’s handwriting and we sent people in to the event, and did a little praying.

It all turned out swimmingly. The barcode bidding method was a hit. Registration was super fastand eliminated lines completely, which was a huge win from the 30-minute registration lines the previous year.

Guests bid more often and higher using their barcodes than they had the previous year. We managed to close and audit the auction data using barcode scanners in under 20 minutes instead of the 60+ minutes the previous year.

And, when checkout came, we had everything all tidied up for the guests and we had everyone out the door and back in their cars before they knew it, instead of the 2 ½ + hours people had to wait in line for the check-out in the previous year.

So, I sat back at the end of the night, thankful that I had survived and that my scant 5 days of development and testing had yielded a system that didn’t explode and leave me looking like Wile E Coyote opening an explosive laced parcel. The development person was so thankful; the event committee thanked me and headed home.

I thought ‘not too shabby…I guess I gave back to my community and I can go back to studying and consulting my way through engineering school’.

After coming-to on Monday morning I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to walk away from this thing I had just done. I checked my voicemail; there were messages from 6 other organizations that had similar events. They had tracked me down through the development person at the school and were pleading with me to come talk to them and tell me how we accomplished such a remarkable turnaround with this year’s event.

Dan Kelly - Engineer and Owner of Auction Harmony
Dan Kelly - Engineer and Owner of Auction Harmony

Dan and I were working on another product targeted at data center management and security at the time and when I told him what I’d done, we both decided that we should drop the current product and focus on this event system.

And so we did and Auction Harmony was born.

We still use many of these ideas that were born in those first 5 days and we’ve had a lot of other great ideas that we’ve added in the intervening 10 years, along with great staff and great clients.

Today Auction Harmony serves hundreds of nonprofits annually, across the nation from a variety of sectors and ranging in all sizes. We offer 7 different types of bidding technology and 5 types of event management technology.

So here we stand, on the shoulders of one person, offering a helping hand to a development staffer on short notice in her time of need.

Innovations that Can Aid Nonprofits with Donor Retention and Fundraising

Charitable giving has undergone numerous necessitated changes over the past few years. Innovation is becoming increasingly more important for their success as the climate for fundraising has become more competitive for nonprofits as they face an over-saturated market and an economy with less disposable income.

If you have experience supporting a nonprofit, you’ve probably attended a gala fundraiser or two. Galas are a great way for nonprofits to showcase their cause and renew inspiration in the mission of the organization. Galas provide an opportunity to bring in new donors, and they allow current donors to enjoy the fun, social side of philanthropy. The key is guest experience, which ultimately turns those guests into reliable supporters.

Call it a trend or a growing awareness but many nonprofits’ are incorporating auction technology into their charitable events to outshine their competition and retain their donors. Here’s how it works:

No More Lines

Guest experience begins and ends at the door. The last thing you want after working tirelessly for months on end is to have frustrating lines at registration and check out, leaving a less than stellar impression on your guests. By using technology at your event, guest name badges are preprinted with their bidder number, table information, and a barcode. Check in and check out is as easy as scanning a barcode, swiping a credit card and you’re on your way.

Enhanced Silent Auctions and Engaged Donors

Venues aren’t always the most accommodating spaces for silent auctions. A small room filled with a hundred or more auction items, bids handwritten on a sheet of paper located near the item that you and every other guest are trying to get to.  Guests will typically cruise the silent auction displays upon arrival, but once they’ve seen it, they don’t go back. This means money is left on the table.  The most common feedback we hear is “we wish we would have known we were outbid” or “it was too much trouble to get back to the table.”

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By far, the biggest advantage with auction technology is how easy it is to bid.  Wireless bidsheet tablets are placed in front of all of the auction items, so the current high bid is visible and the touch screen makes it easy to place or raise bids. Just enter your bidder number and touch the amount you would like to bid, confirm and you’re done.  Guests can also register their smartphones, bid on handheld devices, or at kiosk stations placed throughout the event space so they can browse, bid, and monitor bids while grabbing a cocktail and mingling with friends. Guests using smartphones will also get alerts when they have been outbid.

Increased Participation and Revenue

It’s common sense. A greater number of bids on an item drives the price higher, which means more money for your charity. Because auction technology is so accessible, it allows guests to be more active participants as well as fostering a sense of friendly competition.

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The Fund-A-Need or Special Appeal portion of the program is very effective for generating significant revenue within minutes. The energy created in the room is vital for the success of the Fund-A-Need. Traditionally, the auctioneer creates this energy, but we’ve seen increased success by incorporating a Donation Tracker and Donation Tablets.

The Donation Tracker is used on stage providing guests with real-time tracking of donations and recognizes guests for their contributions. Donation Tablets are used at the tables and are passed around by guests who can donate electronically through the device. This encourages participation from people who wouldn't normally hold up their bidder number, as well as competitive patrons trying to outdo one another.

Instant Feedback and Eliminates Inaccuracies

With digitally recorded bids, you can instantly get a sense for how well your silent auction is doing, and make adjustments to items that aren’t getting bids. This process also eliminates human error and the recording of incorrect bid amounts or bidder identities.

Because you look like a Boss

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Plain and simple: technology is fun, sleek, and sexy. It’s impressive to your guests, and provides an environment that mirrors the instant gratification most people have become accustomed to in their everyday lives. However, bringing technology to your event can be an investment, especially when you’re running on a tight budget and every penny counts. If you don’t think your nonprofit can afford technology at your fundraising event, we have ideas to make it happen. Our technology has many screen displays to feature sponsors or advertisers; soliciting corporate underwriting prior to the event is a great way to cut down on your costs.

The bottom line is that fundraising galas take enormous effort to plan and prepare for. Bringing technology to an event helps to make all that effort worth it by providing guests with a flawless, high-quality experience. A mission that is effectively communicated and a clear set of goals will drive donors to give, and the technology will allow them to do so with ease and satisfaction.

Taking Care of Business: Tips for Staying on Top of Your Workload while Planning an Event

By default, being employed at a non-profit means you wear many hats. The tidy job title posted outside your cube doesn’t mean the duties you take on are limited to “Database Administrator” or “Director of Corporate Sponsorships.”

While it’s true that these varied roles and responsibilities provide an opportunity to build an expanded skill set, when an organization decides to take on a tremendous feat like planning a fundraising event, staff can start to feel the pinch.

Organizations that plan and execute fundraising events on an annual basis often develop a rhythm during the planning season; one or two staff manages the initial stages, then the workload begins to trickle over onto other teams, until finally it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort and everyone is contributing their sweat and (sometimes) tears.

This process can be manageable when all parties involved simply duck their heads and get to work, but it can also result in overwhelmed and exhausted employees who aren’t able to stay on top of their “usual” responsibilities. The event needs to be planned and executed, but grants still need to be written, donors still need to be thanked, and the general operations of the development department still needs to continue.

We understand these feelings of defeat and and exhaustion because we see it with so many of our clients. In fact, most of our Event Managers have come to Auction Harmony from a career in non-profit fundraising; we really do get it! But truthfully, planning your event doesn’t need to be this way. Here are a handful of ways we have seen our clients eliminate inefficiencies to create space in their schedules to keep up with their usual work while planning their event using our services.

 

Remain Open to New Methods

We know there are people who love their Excel spreadsheets, but sometimes there are easier ways to compile and manage all of your pre-event data. Working with Auction Harmony allows you to utilize our unique Event Organizer, which houses all of your guest, donor, and silent auction data. This tool also allows you to generate reports of various segments of your data with the click of a button, and provides the opportunity to easily disperse the management of data to more than one person.

Designate Specific Tasks to Specific People

This may sound obvious, but when tasks are assigned to specific staff members, the result is an organized and systematic approach to completing the work.  Too many people working on the same tasks can create errors, inconsistency, and miscommunication. Allowing a handful of staff to manage a set scope of work provides ownership, mastery, and accountability.

Utilize Your Resources

It can be challenging to learn how to use new tools, let go of old habits, and allow others to be involved in the planning process. We understand completely. This is why each client is assigned to an Event Manager who is responsible for conducting trainings on the Event Organizer, answering questions, easing frustrations, and serves as your advocate the whole way through the planning process right up until event night. Our event-day technology is just one aspect of our services; the assistance and expertise we provide in the months leading up to the event can often be the quiet hero of the work we do.  Let us help along the way, and you’ll be surprised how seamlessly the work can come together.

Continue to Do Your Work

You’ve invested in our services, you’ve learned how to use our tools, you’ve delegated tasks to other staff members, and you reach out for help when you need it. Guess what? You might just find yourself with a little more time on your hands to continue writing your grants, steward your donors, and manage your other workload. We consider it a tremendous success when your event exceeds your fund-a-need goal, or your silent auction generates three times more with the help of our technology. But we also consider it a success when you have the time in the months leading up to the event to meet with your donors and secure major gifts, research new funding opportunities, and continue to stay on track with other fiscal goals of the organization. We specialize in events, but we recognize that the dollars raised during an event are just one part of our clients’ overall financial goals. We support all aspects of your organization, not just your event. By using our services, we hope to help you stay on track and on top of every area of your work.

Now we would love to hear from you! What areas of your work get pushed to the sidelines during the months before the event? What tools would be the most helpful to you in streamlining your processes? How do you think our tools could benefit you and your organization?

 

We learn from each other, so feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below.