Event Tips & Trends

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.

Don’t Let Your Fundraising Event be a Horror Story

You have the cause, the idea, and the enthusiasm to run an event to raise money for your nonprofit. What now? At Auction Harmony we understand that running a successful fundraising event is easier said than done. Fundraising galas take enormous effort to plan and prepare for.  Here are a handful of tips to help you with your planning process.

Establish Your Objectives

Knowing your objectives is a critical part of the planning process, as they are used to measure your success. Your objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant.

Set a Fundraising Goal

It may sound obvious but many organizations don’t have clear, defined fundraising goals. Once you have a goal in mind everything in the event plan should be geared around raising that specific amount and you can budget accordingly.

Data Organization

Have an organized and systematic approach for your event data. We know there are people who love their Excel spreadsheets and those endless cells of guest data. But Excel spreadsheets are neither effective nor efficient to manage your event data. Auction Harmony offers a simple, comprehensive way to organize massive amounts of data with our web based Event Organizer.  With the Event Organizer, organizations can collect and streamline guest and auction data, ticketing and seating, run reports and sanity checks, and analyze data.

Venue Walkthrough

Schedule a venue walkthrough with your vendors and venue coordinator to verify all the details have been covered and everyone is on the same page. Where will the registration and checkout take place, silent auction, dinner, and program?

Volunteers

Gather your friends, family, and advocates to volunteer for the evening, so you can focus your efforts where it’s needed. Identify your volunteer’s talents and skills and assign them jobs that can help your fundraising efforts.

 

Whether you are using Auction Harmony software or your own methods for organizing data, make sure you stay on top of your event. If your data is current, you have time to make contingency plans should a problem arise.

 

Happy Fundraising!

 

Score a Homerun with Volunteers

Planning a fundraising event takes a lot of work and executing the event details takes a team. Volunteers are great team players because they truly want to help. They provide a friendly and familiar face for guests and support for those running the event. They’re your team to depend on, from the opening pitch to the bottom of the 9th.

There are many things to consider when recruiting and coaching your event day team.

The Lineup Some volunteers are really outgoing and some are more detail oriented. Consider your volunteers strengths when assigning them to specific tasks. If you’re not sure where to place a volunteer, ask them what they would like to do. Auction Harmony provides a list of volunteer tasks and descriptions that can be passed along to volunteers. It’s comforting for volunteers to know what they’re getting into.

While some volunteers may be better suited for certain tasks, the best volunteers are people who are eager and happy to help with anything.

Everyone’s an MVP Remember that your volunteers are donating something very valuable to your event, their time. Thank them for their time through words and actions. One way to show volunteers your appreciation is by providing a good dinner and snacks. Volunteers who are hungry and/or dehydrated will not be able to give 100%. Also, make sure the volunteers are comfortable. This could mean, having enough chairs at registration or providing a safe place for them to keep their things.

Provide a Playbook Give your volunteers a schedule. It’s important that they know when to arrive, when to eat, and when training is scheduled. In addition, guest will likely ask volunteers many questions, give the volunteers an event overview so that they can offer helpful answers.

 

Auction Harmony provides volunteer training and management for: registration, silent auction, retail sales, donations, live auction, auction packing, and checkout. Just get your well-informed, happy, appreciated volunteers to us and we’ll take care of the rest. Consider us you assistant coach.

Who’s ready to play ball?

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.

Raffles Done Right

When you’re planning a fundraising gala, one of the top goals is to create an enjoyable experience for your guests. Your donors are the lifeblood of your organization, and providing them with a memorable evening is paramount. While flashy décor, top-notch entertainment, and hot silent auction items all contribute to excellent guest experience, one of the best ways to get your guests engaged in the evening is by holding a raffle.

 

From wine walls to mystery bags to a drawing for a shiny new BMW, we’ve seen it all. There are countless ways to engage those guests who may not have found something that’s just right for them at the silent auction tables. Walking away from the raffle table an instant winner, or even a possible winner, can help your guests feel more connected to your event. This in turn can make them more likely to commit to a donation during your asking moment later in the evening.

 

There several things to consider when settling on what types of games you’d like to offer at your event. Most boil down to different iterations of the same basic principle: you know your guests best. Offer what they’ll be interested in! Here are some tips to help you make sure that your raffles & games go off without a hitch and provide that unique flair that keeps your guests returning year after year.

 

Know the Rules

 

Did you know that many states consider games such as a wine pull to be gambling? Auction Harmony’s home state of Minnesota regulates raffles and forbids organizations from extending a line of credit for a “game of chance.” This is one often overlooked factor that, when not handled properly, could leave you mired in paperwork, unnecessary fines, and serious long-term penalties following your event.

 

So what does this mean for you? First, the organization offering the game must consult with their local Gambling Control Board representative to apply for the proper permits. States impose many restrictions upon such games, like how many per year can be offered with alcohol as prizes, age restrictions for guests, and others. Second, any purchase made by a guest for a chance to win an item, or even for an item of unknown value, may not be processed on a credit card. Therefore, transactions for such games must be made on either a debit card, or by cash/check.

 

To avoid headaches, begin by contacting your local Gambling Control Board specialist to find out if your organization qualifies to legally offer games of chance. If so, file for the permits and let us take care of the rest! Our touch screen tablets automatically detect what type of card the guest registered with when we checked them in at registration. If they only have a credit card on file, we’ll prompt them to either register a debit card on the fly or collect a different form of payment from them, thereby making the transaction perfectly legal. It’s as simple as that, and now you don’t have to worry about recording raffle transactions separately!

 

Choose Prizes Wisely

 

Choosing the right kind of games to fit your event is just as important as making sure you’re operating within legal bounds. Is your donor base made up of Millennials who order Manhattans at the bar to be cool like Don Draper? Maybe a wine wall wouldn’t be best for that group. Consider a mystery bottle of whiskey instead. Options abound for local and regional distilleries! Looking to wow your guests as they walk through the door? Maybe you have connections at a dealership to raffle off a brand new car.

 

If there are big ticket items like this that you’d like to promote in the weeks and months leading up to the event, our Auction Preview service could be just right for you. If you choose to offer multiple games, it’s a good idea to vary the price points your guests can purchase at. Remember, you want the largest possible number of guests to find a price they feel comfortable donating at, whether it’s the high-rolling $20,000 cash donor or the $20 wine pull participant. If you’re having trouble deciding on what to offer, remember that your Auction Harmony Event Manager would be happy to help! We’ve seen lots of raffles and can help you narrow down what would be a good fit.

 

Above all, we want you to meet your goals when we partner with you for your event. If offering raffles & games will help you towards that end, we’re proud to offer services to help you do so legally and without headaches. We also want your guests to remember how easy it was to purchase a cork in the wine pull, not how much of a pain it was to run downstairs to the ATM. So get your permits, number the corks, and let us handle the rest!

 

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Silent Auction

Coordinating all the moving parts that come with planning a silent auction can feel like a juggling act of donations, solicitations, follow-ups, and tiny details. Planning your event’s silent auction can be stressful to say the least, but it doesn’t have to be the nightmare some have come to expect.

Clients of Auction Harmony use our services for much more than event technology. Our Event Managers are experts at auctions and have extensive understanding of industry trends. We work with you throughout the event planning process to keep you feeling confident and excited about your fundraising efforts. Planners often ask us to review their silent auction items in the months leading up to their event.

Here are some tips for a successful silent auction:

Sell experiences – Aim to create packages that generate an “Oh, that would be fun!” response.  When you combine a restaurant gift certificate, a night at a hotel, and two tickets to a theater performance, you have instantly created a Night on the Town package. When the details are taken care of, guests are purchasing much more than the experience; they are purchasing the convenience of having a weekend “staycation” planned just for them. This added convenience drives up the value, resulting in more competition and higher bids.

Experience
Experience

Know your bidders – It may seem simple, but catering your items and packages to your audience will have a significant impact on how many attendees bid during your event. A casual women’s luncheon should have a silent auction that looks very different from a black tie gala for a hospital foundation. Tailoring your items to align with the demographics and lifestyles of your guests provides a good foundation for active bidding.

Avoid personal items such as art and clothing – Style and personal tastes vary greatly from one person to the next. Artwork such as paintings and sculptures has a tendency to sell for much lower than their value, often due to lack of interest. In order for an auction item to produce a lot of bids, several people must be interested in purchasing it. The task of finding universally appealing artwork and clothing can be challenging, and may not pay off in the end.

Diversify your price points – The best parties are ones where everyone is having a good time. Placing bids and initiating “bidding wars” is fun and exciting. Make sure you have items for everyone in attendance: high rollers and bargain shoppers.

Location, location, location – While considering your event space, it’s important to consider the overall flow of the room. Silent Auctions typically do well when guests have enough space to leisurely browse the items without feeling cramped or crowded. Allow for a lot of movement in the auction space; an auction item that no one sees is an auction item that no one bids on.  Another tip: guests get thirsty and the bars are popular. Having a bar tucked neatly within your silent auction space means guests don’t have to leave to get another glass of wine or a cocktail.

Even with all of this information, be sure to trust that your fundraising event is much more than just a silent auction. It’s a celebration for your organization and its’ supporters. Try to enjoy it. Follow these tips and sleep well. You’ll need your energy for the after party!

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.