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Learn What it Takes to Be an Auctioneer

Recently Christine Alexander and Zan Auferheide were on The Suncoast View.



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Educate your board on how to do their work!

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 was everything you hoped for and more!


Zan Auctions ended with a bang, making 300 times more for our last client than they made the year before. How do we achieve such chart topping success? It’s all about the pre-game. My client took all of my consultation for pre-gaming The Paddle Raise, the Live, and more and hustled to make the notes become a reality, and touchdown! Now, I’ve got some information for you on pre-gaming with your Board.


We know that we rely on Board involvement for about 50% of our fundraising. That’s a huge responsibility of theirs, but have we been responsible and educated them as to how to do their work?


Cindi Phallen, an expert in Board Development recently gave a talk at the Association of Fundraising Professionals and shed some light on the matter. I’ll share some of it here with you, but to learn more from her, please visit her website at


Remind your Board:

1. Fundraising takes work, but the work can be fun! It’s all about relationship building.
2. If you believe in your organization, it should be a pleasure, not a chore to share your passion.
3. Have a personal story ready, why this is their passion. Not what we do, but why we do it.


Let’s talk about language and your Board:

4. Erase the words Ask, Give, Campaigner, and Fundraising from your vocabulary.
5. Instead let’s use Invite, Invest, Ambassador, and Outreach (aka telling stories about the org.)
6. After they have their story, then they can invite their friends to invest in the cause.


Board Success is Preparation:

7. Ask them to have their story ready, equip them with a few facts about the organization, then they “invite” their friends to join them and to “invest” in the community. See, no one is “asking” for anything.
8. Engage with potential donors ahead of time! Invite them for a tour, to volunteer, to see a program, and share success stories of the organization. Bring them in the fold, and let them be inspired as you were.


The good news, is that humans are social creatures and we want to be invited to the party! Did you know that 20% of donors would do something more if they were asked specifically to do more than invest dollars? That’s 20% who want a stronger relationship. Being a Board member is being an Ambassador of the organization, with a personal story of why their heart is in it, and Inviting their friends to Invest in the cause. Invite them to the party figuratively, and then literally! See you at the gala!



Zan Aufderheide


For a free e-book “Turn Your Board Into a Fundraising Machine” go to

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367 Hits

Think of your donor base as your field of vegetables.

Joan Garry Podcast ImageYou have to touch base, and take care of them during the year, to be able to ask them to show up once a year and fill your basket.


“Cultivating the relationship, helps the ask become a natural progression of the relationship, rather than this thorny objective we need to accomplish. Our donors will want to come forward because they are enthusiastic about the organization, and because they are enjoying the relationship with you.”


Brian Saber in Joan Garry’s Podcast “Nonprofits are Messy” Episode 22: The Art and Science of The Ask


The following are also from Joan Garry’s Podcast. I suggest you listen to her work, but in case you don’t have time to download them right now, here are some choice words of wisdom.


Role Playing The Ask.

“You’ve been so wonderful to us. Thank you for supporting the work we’ve been able to do. You’ve helped build this (foundation, organization, school, etc.). As you know (insert problem here. Funding dropped out, growing into new building, serving more people, etc.). And I’m really hoping, I know this is more than you have done, but I’m hoping you will consider a gift of (whatever you think they can raise up to) because what that would do is allow us to do is (fill in the blank). “ Ask them to be a part of the legacy.


If you think it’s too much.

“We could split it up throughout a number of years. Or if you could consider making a gift of 10K now, and I realize that’s a lot. We could use that as a gift to encourage others to step up and make a larger gift as well.”


To bring them back to your organization:

“Ask them if they’d like to re-engage and touch the work a little by coming to and event, or stop by the store (or whatever works for you) and see how the gift will impact us.”


Role Playing If The Ask Fails:

YOU: “Hi ________,” this is ____________ I’m on the Board at _________________. How are you? I was calling because you had attended our gala last April. I imagine you go to a lot of these, so I don’t know if you remember, but we had __________________.

It was a really nice night wasn’t it? And we were really pleased, and did really well.

And you made an extraordinary gift from the floor. It’s unusual for people to give that kind of a gift, and you have been really generous. And we were wondering if you’d be willing to consider making that pledge now and consider making an additional pledge of (whatever the next level up is) to our annual fundraiser. It would help us reach a pretty aggressive goal that we have this year to make sure that we have all the resources we need to make sure _____________.”


RESPONSE: “Well, I’m not thrilled with the idea. I haven’t heard anything from you, like, I mean, do you have a newsletter? I was thanked for being there, but not for my money. And I’m irritated at your dropping the ball on cultivating a relationship.”


YOU: Ask them out for coffee and ask if you can bring someone from development with you because it could have happened to others. Congratulations, you just kept that donor as a member of your organizations family!


Donors are often upset because they care about the organization. We can’t slight them on thank yous. This is how the Board and staff members are turning lemons into lemonade and not worrying about being perfect, because caring matters more than being perfect.


As Jim Bennet Chief Development Officer at Lambda Legal says, don't get into analysis paralysis and find reasons not to make the ask. A) My client data is old or incomplete. B) I don’t know this person. C) There’s no institutional relationship. Just start the conversation and start the relationship.


Zan Auctions can’t recommend Joan Garry’s Podcast “Nonprofits Are Messy” highly enough. Benefit Auctions, Fundraisers, Organizations, Schools with Live Auctions, Fund A Need, Paddle Raise, Board Members, Volunteers, Development Teams, and more will get a wealth of information from Joan and her guests.
Consider listening to an episode on your ride home today.

Find her at iTunes:


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361 Hits

10 Steps to Silent Auction Success!

Zan Upselling Silent Auction Items


Often times we don’t expect Silent Auction items to sell for full price, or go over the market value.


As a Benefit Auction Specialist I here are 10 tricks and tools of the trade to increase the bidding action and get those bids up and over the value. Let’s break some records!

1. Placement. Place your items so that they are literally in the way of the bid-ders. A mistake I see often is putting the silent auction items along the perime-ter of a room. What often ends up happening is that people get their drinks and congregate in the center of the room. When the room fills up, people can’t even see the carefully arranged items on the silent auction tables. I suggest putting the tables in the center of the room.

2. Create attractive displays for the items. Have the item there beside the bid sheet if possible. Use varying heights. Put jewelry and smaller items on top of a box with a pretty cloth over it. If you can’t have the item at the event, have a color photo of the item along side the sign up sheet. Use clear plastic frames to stand next to the sheet, showing a nice photo display of the item. People often browse from a few feet back, so use height to your advantage to draw people’s attention to your items.

3. Use large font. Don’t make the bidders have to find their reading glasses in order to bid.

4. Where to start the bidding? Industry standard is to start at about 40% of the value, and increase it in 10% increments.

5. Sheets: Make sure you have the name of the item as the title, and a descrip-tion. Three columns below that will have a space for the bidder number, a space for the name, and then a space for the bid price. Please make sure to fill out all of the bid prices. You do not want people making up their own bid prices. The bid should go up in 10% increments. For a $500 item, they will be going up by $50 per line. Even if you write on the top of the page, “please in-crease bids at $50 each,” you must write the dollar amounts in for them ahead of time, because people are drinking and having a good time, and no one is reading the entire information. We want large increases, vs letting someone out bid the former bid by writing in their own dollar amount which could be as lit-tle as $1 if you let them. Fill in all the price boxes for them.

6. Spread the items out. You need room for two couples (or at the very least two people) to look at an item. If people need to jam themselves into a space to write down their name, they may just easily move on to something else, and that something else might be a conversation or cocktail, vs increasing a bid.

7. Create bidding wars, by staggering the closing of the silent auction tables. Have your auctioneer talk up the items during the silent auction, and then close the tables down in increments, making sure you announce the closings. I like to get people amped up about who is bidding on what and have everyone focus on the tables for their closing. This will make bids increase, people will get ex-cited about the closing, and have fun! It’s both entertaining, and a great way to increase donations. Close them down about 10 minutes apart from each other, depending on how many tables you have.

8. Close down your Silent Auction before the Live Auction starts. This helps people focus on the fundraising at hand, and doesn’t leave them to have their minds on their silent auction item of choice, while the Live (or Fund A Need for that matter) is going on in the other room.

9. Timing. 90 minutes is usually plenty of time for guests to arrive, get regis-tered, get their bid card, get their first drink, and peruse the items. Less than 90 min and late comers can feel in a bit of a rush, over 90 min and the evening will begin to lag.

10. Lastly make sure that you have working pens with each clip board, and have extra pens on the tables.

A tool to encourage people to start bidding at the full market value of the item, is to play a game called “Lucky 7.” If this interests you, and you are ready to get into the details of it, let me know and I’ll be happy to fill you in!

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1189 Hits