They are missing the secret, invisible ingredients in the Fund-A-Need souffle.
I’ve written a bit about the things that make a Fund-A-Need successful. Today, we’re going to talk about the invisible ingredients in the Fund-A-Need recipe. The things you don’t see that must be working for your Fund-A-Need to be a success.
Before we jump in, if you haven’t already, click on over and grab a copy of my free Fund-A-Need worksheet to help you plan your best Fund-A-Need ever.
Now, back to why we’re here.
The invisible ingredients of a successful Fund-A-Need are:
- Moments of Reflection
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Newton’s first law of motion states that, “Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”
Your Fund-A-Need is the object, persisting at a uniform pace. Your auctioneer is the force, impressing herself upon the object to slowly build momentum as she works down the giving levels.
The momentum at the top of the Fund-A-Need drives the momentum at the bottom. This makes those first few giving levels so important, even though there are very few hands being raised. Acknowledging these donors and getting the room excited about these massive donations, carries you into the lower giving levels. The momentum that your auctioneer builds at the top will only grow as the levels decrease and more hands start shooting into the air.
Building and sustaining momentum means it’s best if your auctioneer doesn’t stop to announce prizes or sell things at each level. These interruptions disturb the flow and can bring the momentum to a grinding halt. Pausing to show a video, look at slides, or have a presentation are all bad ideas in terms of momentum.
Energy is the feeling in the room that gets people excited and ready to donate.
Energy is also what makes other people want to join in.
Each auctioneer has her own energy. Mine is what drives my Fund-A-Needs to feel more like a pep rally than a sales presentation, even though that is what I am doing. I am selling the idea of helping the nonprofit make a difference in the community. The energy in the room is how you communicate to the audience that giving and participating in giving feels good, and that taking action is what everyone else is doing.
The action we want people to take is putting their hand in the air during one of the giving levels, and we want them to feel good while they do it.
Energy also sustains the Fund-A-Need which, let’s face it, can run a little long. A Fund-A-Need with excellent participation can easily last fifteen minutes. If your event has 500 people in the room, that time increases to 25 minutes, easy. That’s a lot of time to ask people to sit quietly and pay attention. Good energy is what makes it possible. Energy feeds the momentum and gets more and more people feeling good about giving and participating as we move through the giving levels, keeping everyone’s attention until the lowest giving level, which is designed so that everyone can give.
Pressure is an invisible force exerted on the room by the auctioneer and members of the audience. This is an invisible social pressure that happens when all the people around you are doing a thing. In this case the thing is donating to a worthy cause.
Oftentimes just being in the room at a charity event creates this pressure because attendees know donations are expected. People will naturally start to feel left out if they are not participating in something that everyone else is doing. Those who already planned to give will feel pressured to dig just a little bit deeper than they planned.
Pressure also builds as the auctioneer moves around the room, should she choose to do so. For me, the closer I get to one side of the room, the more hands shoot up on that side.
Pressure is healthy in this context, but it can still make some people uncomfortable. I never call people out for not giving during a Fund-A-Need. That creates a negative pressure that is not conducive to fostering generosity.
Moments of Reflection
Moments of reflection should exist throughout every fundraising event. Every time the audience is listening to a speaker, watching a video, or looking a pictures, you are creating a moment for them to reflect on their life with gratitude. What follows naturally is a desire to help improve the lives of others.
These four invisible ingredients all work together to make people feel gratitude for their own lives and good about giving to your cause.
Getting These Invisible Ingredients Working For You
The charity auctioneer running the Fund-A-Need must be able to command the attention of the audience. Carrying a room like this gives the auctioneer control over what happens to the energy in that room. They either feed the room to build that energy and raise excitement levels, or they take energy from the room and bring everyone to a more somber place. The energy feeds the momentum and builds the pressure.
This sounds like hocus pocus to a lot of people, but I’m telling you it’s real. Next time you watch someone on stage, pay close attention to what they’re doing. You can see this phenomena everywhere, not just at charity auctions. Someone who is standing still on stage is commanding the room in a way that creates a serious energy. Someone who moves about the stage with enthusiasm, like at a pop concert, is doing so to create an energy of happiness and excitement. They are inviting the audience to take this energy into themselves and to feed off it.
The charity auctioneer is the person who controls these forces during the Fund-A-Need.
Before interviewing potential charity auctioneers, watch some of their work online. Look for someone with good, positive energy who knows how to control a crowd without shushing them.
Make sure the person you decide to work with knows the emotional journey you want to take your guests on.
Make sure they acknowledge the first gift of the Fund-A-Need appropriately.
When running a Fund-A-Need your auctioneer has to keep track of a lot of things at once.
- Are you nearing the goal amount?
- How many people haven’t made a gift yet?
- If people aren’t giving, what happened earlier in the program to cause this response?
- Did the speaker speak for too long?
- Did we fail to touch on the one aspect of the nonprofit that this person was invested in?
It’s a lot to pay attention to, but it’s key to gauging when to interfere with the natural progression of the Fund-A-Need and what to do differently the next time.
A Last Chance Intervention
I can tell from that very first gift how the Fund-A-Need is going to go and how hard I’m going to have to work. Occasionally, I will make the choice to pause between giving levels for a purposeful moment of reflection, giving people a chance to consider digging deeper or donating for the first time.
I only do this if I’m sensing that the Fund-A-Need isn’t going well and I’m not having any luck manipulating the momentum, energy, and pressure in the room. It’s risky, and I don’t recommend it unless the Fund-A-Need is really not working. Not just a little bit not working, I’m talking has no chance of coming anywhere close to the goal without a major intervention.
Each time I stop like this, I am taking a huge risk of destroying the momentum, which is why I only do it if the Fund-A-Need is already in trouble. I can’t explain how I do this without messing the Fund-A-Need further, it just happens. I think it’s an instinct about people or an ability to read the room. No one taught me how to do it. You need to be a great auctioneer and a savvy crowd-reader to make this choice and not mess it up.
Even when you’ve set your fundraising event up perfectly, with all the right people in the room and a mission-focused program, your Fund-A-Need souffle can still fall flat if these invisible ingredients aren’t working for you. That’s why it’s imperative to have someone who really knows what they’re doing running the Fund-A-Need. This person can call on their skills and experience to manipulate these invisible forces and give your Fund-A-Need the best chance at success.