New Ideas for Using the Board to Raise More Money at Your Next Fundraising Event with Abra Annes : Successful Nonprofits

Episode 56

New Ideas for Using the Board to Raise More Money at Your Next Fundraising Event with Abra Annes

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Episode 56

New Ideas for Using the Board to Raise More Money at Your Next Fundraising Event with Abra Annes

Listen on  iTunes    Android     Stitcher   Libsyn

by GoldenburgGroup

Board members are not just socializing during your event’s cocktail hour. They are identifying prospective major donors and conducting prospect research.

Nonprofits all over the country are in the middle of a very busy special event season. In fact, many fundraisers and event planners are putting those final touches on their October and November events, and this is the perfect time to prepare your board to be enthusiastic ambassadors and fundraisers at the event.

To help make your board members effective ambassadors and fundraisers at your next event, we invited special event guru and auctioneer Abra Annes back on the podcast. She shared several fresh and innovative ideas for board involvement that will be fun for your board members, while also generating significantly more revenue for your organization.

*****Timestamped Highlights*****

(8:20) How to find out more about your donors

At special events, board members need to make their own guests feel special; For example, board members can bring a token gift to everyone at their table and follow up with a note thanking them for participating.

(13:35) Encouraging your board members to meet new donors during the event
(19:00) Strategically filling tables with the right guests
(23:30) Reminding board members how they are in charge of their table
(25:54) How to get 100% participation in your event’s fund-a-need solicitation
(31:00) Importance of following up with your guests after the event
(35:00) Raising more money using proxy bids
(40:00) Using outgoing board members to increase social media exposure
(42:00) Why both Abra and Dolph would ban golf tournaments as fundraising events


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Read the Transcript for Episode 56 Below or Click Here!

Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits™ Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg bringing you a second conversation with Abra Annes about getting your board engaged at all your fall fundraising events. Now, our loyal listeners may recall that she was on episode 35 of the podcast, and at the time, she shared some incredible information about the auction portion of your next event. So, if your event this fall also has an auction, I would encourage you to go back and listen to episode 35 as soon as you are done with this episode. Now having said that, I also need to own that the sound quality of that is very poor and that’s on me. And it was that interview with Abra that made me walk away and say we had to come up with a better system for recording this podcast because I just really felt that her message was at some level kind of blurred, and it was an incredible dynamic message, and it was blurred because the audio was not that great.

So, the audio on this one will be fantastic. You will be able to hear all of the words of wisdom that Abra has to share with us today as it pertains to engaging our board and fundraising. I’ve done an intro like this before for Abra, but she is an incredible auctioneer. She is a dynamic special event guru, and she does it really with the heart and soul of a cruise ship director. We are so fortunate to have her with us. I’m sure at some point we’ll also talk about her YouTube channel, which is worth checking out. But let’s play our intro music and welcome Abra Annes.

Hey Abra, welcome to the podcast.

Abra Annes: Thank you so much. It’s so great to be back.

Dolph Goldenburg: We are thrilled to have you back. I think this is going to be episode 56 or 57 of the podcast. It’s been about 20 episodes or about half a year since you’ve been on the podcast. What have you been up to over the last six months?

Abra Annes: Well, I’ve been up to a lot. Business is going crazy. We finished up this spring season really strong. I brought on two new spectacular auctioneers, one from the cruise ship world, surprise, surprise, and I moved to a new home, and the fall season is up and running, and you are catching me in the middle of a seven-auction-in-eight-days streak. I’m really excited to have a little bit of downtime today and chat with you.

Dolph Goldenburg: Wow. Well, I am excited that you’re able to talk with us but also feel incredibly lucky that in an eight-day period when you’re doing seven auctions, you find the time to talk with us. So thank you so much.

Abra Annes: Well, you’re so welcome. I get so much from your podcast all the time, and I’m in my car a lot, and I drive many different places, and I live in the bay area. I am often driving through our fabulous bay area traffic, which is sometimes an hour or more. And it is the perfect amount of time to catch up on my podcast and, Dolph, I just love yours. I get a lot out of your podcast. I’m happy to give back to your listeners.

Dolph Goldenburg: Well thank you. The podcast is a labor of love, and you and I are going to become a part of the mutual admiration society because I am a loyal follower of your blog and your youtube channel. I actually read a blog post of yours in the last couple months, and I thought, I got to have Abra on to talk about this because it was a blog post about how to engage board members in your fall fundraising events. What I anticipate from this conversation as much like our last one that you are going to share just some incredible wisdom that a lot of us who have been doing this for years maybe have not fully understood.

Abra Annes: You know, the board is always such an active part of the planning and the post-event roundup debrief, and there’s this big chunk in the middle that is so easy to forget because we’re so focused on the thousands of million details of the event that night. But your board can be a really, really fabulous tool for fundraising that night and also for friend-raising and for learning more information about your wonderful donors.

Dolph Goldenburg: What are some of the ways to engage your board before the event and at the event?

Abra Annes: Let’s start with the basics. Before every event, I love to have my clients get their board together, and it’s kind of like marching orders. They have duties assigned to them for each event. Now, the easiest thing that they can do, even for your brand new board members or people who are very shy and very nervous, is during the cocktail hour, during dinner, during the post-event chatting, always try to bring up the organization in conversation because essentially as a nonprofit, you do not want to host just a networking hour where people can talk about their business or the stock market or the political going-ons of that week. What you want to do and have your board members do is bring up your nonprofit as part of the conversation. Why are you here? What do you know about us? Are you interested in learning more? How long have you been involved? How long have you been coming? Tell me what you’re interested in.

It’s the perfect way to really drive the conversation towards your mission and away from all that social stuff, which is really nice and fine, but you’re being kind of a detective. You’re trying to figure out who is interested and who really cares. Let’s pretend like last night I did a private school event. Who’s there because they’re really passionate about the school? Maybe they were a third-generation student, whatever it may be, bring up your organization during cocktail hour. That’s the simplest thing you can ask your board to do.

Dolph Goldenburg: I love that. And you know, and one of the questions, and it’s similar to the ones that you’ve asked, but one of the questions that I’ve always found really useful is just to ask, what’s your connection to the organization? And that’s when people say, “Oh, I’m passionate about homelessness. Or well, you know, my sister in law volunteers and you know, she kind of made us come.”

Abra Annes: Agreed. And it’s a really nice way to have a conversation, especially with somebody you don’t know, or you’ve just been introduced to. And it brings it all back home. Don’t waste your cocktail hour but make the best of it and make you usually have an hour, an hour and 20 minutes, make the most of it. So, that’s number one.

Dolph Goldenburg: I also think the great thing about asking a question like, “What’s your connection with the organization?” or “Why are you here tonight?” is as humans we are kind of programmed to mirror that question back. Typically, that other person will say, “Oh well what’s your connection with the organization? Why are you here tonight?” And then if you’re a board member, you can tell your love story for the organization.

Abra Annes: Totally. You are so right. And the other thing that it does is it kind of gets people primed, gets them ready and thinking about why they’re there that evening and why they’re passionate. When someone comes up and asks them to buy a raffle ticket or to participate in the silent auction, they are more likely to participate because they’re already got their brain juices flowing about how much they love this organization and how much they believe in your mission and how much they want to support you.

Dolph Goldenburg: And I have to tell you, I went to an event last year, I think it was the Georgia Lawyers for the Arts gala, which is probably the best arts gala and auction in the city, really in the region for Atlanta. I went to this, and I’ve known their board chair for a couple of years, and I walked in. As soon as I walked in there, then the board chair walked up to me, put a set of beads, like Mardi Gras beads over my head and then took me by the elbow and said, “Dolph, I gotta show you this. Just come with me.” And then he walked me over to the raffle table, and then he told me how great this one amazing raffle prize was, and the raffle tickets were like $50 each or $100 each. And I think it was a week at a fabulous vacation home somewhere. And he’s like, “Oh my gosh, Dolph, I have stayed here. This is an amazing place. You know, my family, we go every year. You got to consider buying raffle tickets.” We then bought two or three raffle tickets. Had that board chair not walked me over there and sold me on that, honestly, I probably would not have bought two or three raffle tickets.

Your board members need to invite special event guests with the capacity to care and the capacity to give.

Abra Annes: Well, that is a great point. You got to use your personal connections and your personal experiences. Now, there is a flip side to this coin. I’m a big fan of having board members saw raffle tickets, but often times they are so well known in the community that they can’t really sell because they get stuck talking in conversation. The job of a raffle ticket seller is to kind of like weave in and out of the crowd and have a little conversation, sell a ticket, move on. Board members can be phenomenal at that if they know, you know, share your passion, make the cell, say hello and then move on and don’t get stuck in a conversation for 20 minutes. But yes, I 100% agree. If I could continue, you know, getting attention from a board member or the board chair makes people feel special, especially if you’re new to the organization or if you’re a lapsed donor or returning donor or a donor who’s coming back after some time away and is not quite sure. That attention from the board members can really make you feel special, which is why I always encourage my clients to have their board members work the room during the dinner break.

Typically, during any event, there’s a dinner break where like the 500 servers come out in one fell swoop. They pick up the plates, and then they go back to the kitchen, and they drop everything out. It’s typically noisy. We typically don’t have speeches during those times. We typically don’t have an auction, but what I always think jazz is that board members get out of their seats, excuse themselves from their table and walk over to two or three preassigned tables that are assigned to just them and walk up to each member of that table, introduce themselves, shake their hand and say thank you for coming and then have a little interaction with them, and I will tell you this idea is not mine. I experienced this firsthand as a donor, as a guest, as a donor at an event, and I had never seen this before, and one of their board members got up during the dinner break, came over, shook my hand, said thank you so much for coming. What brought you here this evening? I’m so glad to see young people here cause I’m, 35. I’m youngish, and I will tell you I have never forgotten that moment. And from now, from that moment on, I recommend it to all my clients cause I figured if it made me feel so good, it must’ve made everybody else feel phenomenal.

Dolph Goldenburg: If you’ve got like 12 or 15 board members and you assign each two tables, you can probably hit most of the crowd in five minutes.

Abra Annes: Definitely. And instead of just having your board members sit at their table with their friends, right? Because typically they buy a table and fill it with people they know, you’re getting them up; you’re getting them out of their chair and mingling. And one of the things that we find is most people do not come back to events because they didn’t have a good time. They didn’t feel welcomed or part of the community. And we also find that that’s one of the biggest hindrances in people attending events. People new to the organization always say they are afraid and that they are not going to know anybody. We’re afraid it’s going to be awkward. Everyone’s afraid of that seventh-grade lunch room situation where they’re going to be by themselves, and they’re going to feel on the outside instead of part of the in-crowd, which is, if you’ve been to some events, events can feel cliquey, especially in smaller communities. So, trying to make everyone feel included and welcome and do it genuinely where you’re genuinely interested can really have great results.

Dolph Goldenburg: But do those board members ever then report back on people they met? Like, you know, go back to the development person or go back to the ED and say, “Oh my gosh, I met this guy named Bob, and you know, he is the CFO at a Fortune 500 company and may have an interest in dot, dot, dot.”

Abra Annes: I always think, yes. I do get a lot of push back on this because every time I present this to a board, and they feel it’s a little icky reporting on the people they meant they met. I’m with you, Dolph. I think they should report back and even better, I think your development director of your advancement team should assign each board member three or four prospective donors to meet at the event to seek them out and then report back on those four. I think it’s hard to report back on every single person you meet, unless, as you said, a CEO or somebody who has real potential. But I do think that it is doable and I always push boards on this cause they were very apprehensive to have three people that they are assigned to meet during cocktail hour that you’re not being a detective on, but you are putting forward the question about your organization and seeing what they have to say and you’re basically doing prospect research for your nonprofit, and that is so valuable. It is one of the most valuable fundraising tools as you know that your board can do. And once you’ve made that connection and the board member has that connection to that prospect, they can then introduce them to the development team to further develop the relationship.

Dolph Goldenburg: And how those prospects are assigned to board members can also be very symbiotic. If someone is an envelope salesperson, maybe they’re assigned to talk to you, you know, the person who is a purchaser for a large corporation.

Abra Annes: Correct. It also can be great for people’s professional lives too, right? You can make a connection with a potential prospect at an event who could be a potential client of yours outside of your fundraising life. They could be a prospect if you’re a lawyer. They could be a potential client for you. So it could, I agree it should be symbiotic, and it should be really, well. I don’t know why I get so much pushback on boards. They are very anti-reporting on the people they meet for. I would say 90% of the boards that I present this do they do, they feel icky about this. I think it’s one of the best things you can do.

Dolph Goldenburg: And I am right there with you. What are some other ways that boards can engage in fundraising at the events?

Abra Annes: Well, one of my favorites is we typically ask our board members to buy tables. That’s one of their jobs. Or to fill a table. Now, one of their jobs is to fill that table with the right people. You know, don’t bring your neighbor who is not interested in homelessness if they’re only interested in puppies. They’re not the right fit. But bring people, have the capacity to give and the capacity to care. That’s step one. But step two is to take that one step further and make them feel extra special that evening. So, I always encourage every board member who was hosting or purchased a table to take 20 to 25 minutes and write a quick little handwritten note to each guest who will be sitting at their table and it should just say “Hi (name). Thank you so much for coming. Homelessness connection is very important to me because of my sister (name) was homeless age 17. I support homelessness connection, and I hope that you will feel move to support it too.”

So, you’re thanking them for being there. You’re sharing them a small tidbit of your passion story for the cause, and you’re asking them in a private, intimate manner to support you when the time is right. And with this, we see great results because people have a personal connection to the ask. Yes, I can get up on stage and make the ask. But if the board member has asked me to sit at their table and then has asked me to support their cause, I will have a much stronger likelihood of supporting the organization at a higher level. Because I feel personally moved and personally touched, and we all know that fundraising happens the best. When one person asks another person to help with a third person, which is exactly what we’re doing in this note. And then they can take it home, and they can have a memento of that evening that is very meaningful and shows how much they are valued by the board member.

Dolph Goldenburg: I like that. Let me ask you, how do you feel about those board members that say, “All right, at our table, it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to have a party all night.” And so, you know, they might bring corsages and booed nears or Tiaras for all of their guests, and you know that they will my drink a little too much, but they have a really good time. How do you feel about board members that are hosting tables like that?

Abra Annes: Look, everyone doesn’t want to go out on a Saturday night and head to a dirge party. They want to go to a fun event. However, we do have to remind our board members that at specific times in the evening, they are in charge of their table, not in a like a Naughty-mom or Naughty teacher where they’re scolding everybody. But letting them know, okay, we have this time to be rowdy, and then I’m going to ask you to be quiet. I encourage rowdiness. I like it. I think it builds great energy. What I don’t like is when that gets out of control, and that’s a very fine line between a really good time and out of control people out of their seats, people really into the drinks, back at the bar, interrupting things. And that’s a whole other story.

And I think you need to set expectations for your table hosts and for your board members. But I think the more things you can do to make it your table feel special, the better. You should also remember that at every event we’re always fighting the seventh-grade feeling. You don’t want people to feel left out. So, I would bring extras. If somebody says, do you have, “Oh, can I have a Tiara?” You don’t have to say to them, “Oh sorry, it’s only for table 12 course.” Here’s another one. Right? We want to make people feel included.

Dolph Goldenburg: I love that because I had not thought about that, but also what a great way for the board member to meet someone else. Well, of course, but first I have to know your name. “Oh, Hey Barbara, thanks so much for being here. Why are you here?”

Abra Annes: Agreed.

Dolph Goldenburg: I also kind of want to share with you and, and this kind of deals with board members when they’re at the table itself in a way that we used board members at the table when I was the executive director of a prominent community center in Philadelphia. So, we used to host not a huge dinner, but you know, 50 tables of 10. So, a dinner of about 500 people. In the northeast, you knows, sometimes you have dinners with, you know, a thousand or 1500 people. So, you know, it’s not huge, but it’s an okay size. We would always do a live solicitation, and then how we would collect the gifts as we would say, okay, the executive director is going to come to every table while dinner’s being served and collect the gifts at every table.

I would have about a minute at each table, and I would say, and I would show up with a photographer, as well as a handler because that’s someone who keeps me from getting stuck at a table for 10 minutes. And I would say I am here for three purposes. The first is to interrupt your meal. And I have successfully done that. I am also here to take a picture with this illustrious group of people, and the photographers here for that. And if I have your address, I will make sure you get a copy of the photo. The best way to make sure I get a copy of the photo is to make a gift tonight. And I’ll have your address, and I’ll collect gifts when we’re done with the photo. But the board member’s job when they saw me two tables away was to tell their guests, “Okay, you know, he’s only got a short period of time where this table, let’s go ahead and get our gifts together.” So, people would fill out their pledge cards and all of that so that I was not stuck at a table for five minutes waiting for someone who’s drunk to fill out their pledge card.

Abra Annes: I love that. I’m totally gonna use that idea. Now, I’m going to give you one back on this same theme. The big trend out here in California is getting entire tables to participate in the solicitation. I mainly call it the fund-a-need. So, for this conversation, I’m going to call it the fund-a-need, because that’s what I usually call it, which is the live solicitation. At the start of the fund in need, we announce that every table that has 100% participation, so all 10 people at the table make a gift. Any level. It doesn’t matter, the table will be entered into a raffle for free to win a prize that they can do together as the table again. I did this for an organization, Wine, Women and Shoes, uh, which is a franchise philanthropy event, and they had a prize, which was a spa day for all 10.

It did two things. One, it encouraged all tables to have a hundred percent participation because most of the time we find that tables are all friends, and they get together, and they go in on a table, or there’s one person hosting and invites all their friends. So, they are connected to it gets everyone. Two, it gets everyone to make a donation. And then three it gets people back together if they win the prize for another fun day, remembering, you know, having a wonderful time, but they will also remember how they got here, remember how our table all donated. And then we won the raffle, and now we’re here getting massages and drinking Mimosas by the pool. So, that is a huge trend out here. Raffles for table participation.

Dolph Goldenburg: You are a genius. I love that.

It’s very fun. And then it doesn’t turn it from the 1500 people, 100% participation. All that matters is each table. The board member is in charge of, and the board member has a little box of flare, but that’s from the movie Office Space, right? It’s little blinky rings; it’s necklaces; it’s light up glow sticks that when you make a donation, whatever the level, the board member hands you, your glow stick. So, eventually if you are the last person at your table who does not have a glow stick, you are going to feel the pressure, and you bet your butt that when we get to our last level, whether that’s $100 or $50, that last person at your table is raising their paddle so that they can get that glow stick and really and get their table into the raffle.

Dolph Goldenburg: In the South, that’s called an altar call. Then about 20 years ago I went to a funeral. I have to say I’m not Christian. In order for this to make sense. I went to a funeral of a dear friend’s father and they did an alter call at it, which is where they play quiet piano music. And the minister asked anyone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to come up. And I was probably the only non-Christian out of like the 200 some odd people there, and her family knew that, and I was sitting in the row with the cousins and everyone is like looking at me like, is he going to go up? Is it going to go up? And that pressure was significant. I did not go up. But yeah, so I love it because in the south we would call that an altar call.

Abra Annes: So, I hear you. I went to a Lutheran school, and I’m also not Christian. I’m Jewish. And we had that happen every other week. We had convocation during school, which is basically like a little service, and I’m the only Jew in the school. So, every time they’re asking for people to go up and accept Jesus into their heart. You know, everyone’s looking at me. I totally know that feeling,

Dolph Goldenburg: But it’s got to feel that way at the table too, you know, when you are the one guests without the glow stick or without the pin or the wrist band or whatever, and you’re like, “I’m a holdout. I’m it.”

Abra Annes: Well, and also everyone at your table should be encouraging you. You know, come on, we want to be in the raffle. It’s much more manageable as a table of 10 than getting a hundred percent participation from 500-1500 people, which is almost impossible. Yeah. So that’s really, really fun.

And then additionally, I’ll give you another one here, and I don’t know how we’re doing on time. I always recommend that after the event, your board members find the names of the guests that they interacted with, that they met during cocktail hour, that they met at certain tables, which they were assigned to during the dinner mixer, which is what I call it. And they follow up with those donors personally with those guests. We’ll call, we’ll call them guests cause we don’t know if their donors yet.

Hopefully they are. You can have multiple, multiple follow-ups. And My follow-ups, I just mean thank you. Thank you for coming. It was a pleasure meeting you. Here’s my contact information. You know, setting up the follow-up because I think one of the biggest things that nonprofits get wrong, they’re a bad boyfriend. They call you for a wonderful date once a year, and they court you like crazy to get you to go on that date once a year. And then once you’ve been there, and you’ve had a good time on your day, you danced, you ate, you drank, you donated some money, they don’t call you again. They’ll maybe call you and follow up once, but they do not call you again until it’s time to go out on your yearly date. I always tell my clients, don’t be a bad boyfriend. Keep these donor lists that you’ve assigned to your board members as follow up for the rest of the year. Call them at holiday time. Call them at Thanksgiving. Call them just to say thank you on your way home from work. These people should be on your speed dial and not to be annoying, you’re creepy, but just be real and be thoughtful and say thank you in an honest and real manner.

Dolph Goldenburg: Does the development team kind of had the development team kind of have to be on top of that as well and maybe send out reminders to board members like, “Hey, you know, it’s Thanksgiving week. This would be a great time just to reach out with an email and tell your prospects that you’re thankful for them.”

Abra Annes: I have development managers that do that. I have development committees which are on the board that manage that. I also have executive directors who drafted the entire calendar, and it’s all automated. It gets pushed out to you. I think they draft it once, and it gets pushed out to all of their board members every single time they would like a reminder. I even have one client who crafts the message for their board member. So, literally all the board members have to do is cut and paste if they’re sending an email.

Dolph Goldenburg: I am all about cut and paste, although I have to tell you Abra, I’ve kind of learned this in my own life. Sometimes, when I cut and paste it directly into my email system, it messes up the font. So, it ends up in two or three different fonts and then it looks like I cut and paste it. So it’s a great idea, but I always have to remind myself to, to select everything in the body of the email and then make it one consistent font and size. Otherwise, well it looks like I cut and paste.

Abra Annes: Because your “Dear John” is in one font, and your signature’s in another, and the body’s in another, I’m a big fan of the phone call, and I’m a big fan of the handwritten thank you. I know they’re old school, but they work and people don’t get them as much anymore, and there’s so much email coming in every day from everywhere. I didn’t know anyone who gets less than 300 emails a day in terms of coupons and offers and all that stuff. Mail makes a difference. Mail, snail mail.

Dolph Goldenburg: I am all about the real mail. I use it all the time. When I was a fundraiser, I use it all the time. And my consulting business, I use it all the time. We get junk mail, but we don’t get real correspondence anymore, and I will say that I notice it when a charity handwrites the envelope. I notice it when there’s a handwritten note on it, either by a board member or by the executive director, I notice that.

Abra Annes: I do too. I very much notice that. And I work with a lot of boards who are planning events, who after their event, they start their post-event board meeting or two or three with 10 minutes and at their place at the board meeting is note cards, stamps and envelopes, and they get a list of people to write handwritten thank you notes. And the executive director carves out 10 minutes of time for every single board member. It’s just quiet. Everyone’s writing. They set an example in front of every board member. Here’s an example of what you could write. Thank you for coming to our event. We raised XYZ. Now we’ll be able to do QRS. Thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to meeting you soon. Whatever it is. And you take those 10 minutes and write three thank you now, and it really makes a difference. You’re so right – that handwritten stuff you cannot do any better.

Dolph Goldenburg: I also want to go back earlier in the event and talk about the role that board members might play in the auction. If there’s a silent auction or a live auction, what kind of role might board members play in promoting that?

Abra Annes: Well, in the silent auction, I always recommend that your board members be aware of all the closing times, and they also should congregate, not block but hanging out around the silent auction. And just like you had that board chair lead you over to the raffle at the Georgia Lawyers for the Arts Gala.

Dolph Goldenburg: Good memory, Abra. Yeah!

Abra Annes: I do. I do have a good memory to why, you know, it’s one of my tricks. We can ask our board members to grab people that they know in a nice friendly way and encourage them to look at the silent auction items. “Hey, Sally. Hey, Bonnie. Have you checked this out? This is something you’d really like to do.” The other thing that we ask our board members to do quite often is host a buy-in party. So this is something where, for example, my husband and I would host a Luau in her backyard. Let’s just pretend. And we would say, come to our Luau. It’s on March 22nd. We’ll have a big fine hula dancing party, and then we say, if you’d like to join us tickets to the party are $50 each. Well, as a board member, I’m going to hang out near my buy-in party and encourage my friends to buy a spot and get in on the action because we really need to utilize the board members’ connections and their network. That’s a huge thing we can do during the silent auction.

Dolph Goldenburg: Abra, I love that idea. I have never thought about doing a buy-in party and selling it at your event itself. I often recommend that boards do you know, small fundraising events at their home or around a special occasion, but I have not once thought, “Oh yeah, you can market this at the event.” Some organizations, you know say pick any bottle of wine on this table for 25 bucks, some are worth a hundred some are worth five. I love that. That’s a great idea.

Abra Annes: Oh, I’m so glad you liked that idea. And then for the live auction, I am not a big fan of preselling items to board members. I don’t like that there’s something that just doesn’t feel kosher to me. I want an auction to be a real auction, not where I know something is already presold to somebody in advance. I don’t like, but what I do like for board members to do is for them to send an auction preview to their network of potential donors to the live auction, so they don’t have to all be attending but sending out to their network. Now, for guests that are attending, it’s encouraging them to bid on it at the event. For guests that are not attending, it’s sending out an auction preview. Say, “Hey, I’m sitting on the board of Homeless Connections. Here are five amazing auction items. Take a look. I think you might really find the trip to Napa interesting, and if you are interested, please fill out our proxy form and send it back in.”

That is one of the biggest advantages in a live auction is you can have bidders who are not in the room bidding via proxy, and the only way we get to those bitters is through your board members. We put all the live auction items together in a beautiful looking pdf with lots of photos. It looks really great, and then your board sends it out to a targeted list of potential live auction buyers who might be interested in buying these items, and they can be anywhere in the world and sending them off with some interesting ideas in it. Oh, this would be great for your 50th anniversary. Oh, this trip to Napa would be great for your 40th birthday, whatever it may be, reminding people what they can use it for and that they’re supporting you at the same time.

Dolph Goldenburg: That is genius. Once again, a really great idea. I have never thought about using a proxy for a live auction

Abra Annes: I’m just going to give you a little couple tips here. The biggest things to know what the proxy is, you have to have them fill out a form in advance. Don’t have them on a phone. It’s a mess. It’s not like Southerby’s. It’s a mess in a charity auction. You want them to fill out a form. You want them to say which items they’re interested in and their maximum possible bid. Let’s say they’re interested in a trip to Napa, their maximum possible bid they say is $10,000. Then, you need a credit card number because you can’t let anyone bid in your live auction unless you know they can pay for it because otherwise, you might not ever get the money.

That’s one thing that we can do. And the other thing at the beginning of the event for the live auction, if you have a really, really outgoing board member, someone who likes to chat, someone who knows everybody, you may want to consider live streaming your event on either YouTube live, Facebook live, Instagram live and having them play host that evening. They walk around with an iPad. They have a hit list of people to chat with, and then they can live stream the program itself, all your speakers, you can live stream the auction if you would like, but you do need a really outgoing person to interact with the people who are watching at home and be really fast at texting and really fast at talking and answering questions. So, if you really want to give somebody an interesting job, maybe somebody younger, that’s a great job to give a board member.

Dolph Goldenburg: That’s fantastic. Well, Abra, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m not letting you go yet though. Oh, I’m going to steal a few more of your minutes because I always ask our listeners as you know, an Off-the-Map question and that’s a question that will help people get to know you a little bit more and is not directly related to our topic that we’re discussing today. So, the Off-the-Map question that I have for you is, what type of event would you like for nonprofits to stop doing it?

Abra Annes: Golf tournaments.

Dolph Goldenburg: Tell me more.

Abra Annes: Well, I know I’m getting get a lot of hate mail after this, but golf tournaments are one of the most expensive events to host because you have to typically buy out the club and you have to pay them. You have to provide tee prizes, which means at certain tee off locations, you get a prize, like a pair of shoes, a pair of something. And it’s a very, very long day. If you were playing shotgun start for golf, which means everyone’s on a different hole, and they all start the same time, meaning you started at whole one and I started four, five, it’s a long day to have 40, 50, 60 teams play through 18 holes. So it’s typically four to five hours at least. And then every organization that I work that does a golf tournament has a dinner afterward. So, not only are the golfers exhausted, all they want to do is go home.

They don’t want to sit through a live auction and abundant need. And what I see, I only have two clients that do golf tournaments. 50% of the golfers get up after dinner and walk out. I will also add for the extra kicker. All the research is showing us that young donors, millennials, not young donors, young people in general, millennials are not playing golf. So, if you think you’re going to get young people by doing a golf tournament, I think you are very incorrect. Young people do not have time to take an entire Sunday or Monday off to play golf. So, I’m leaving it there, and you don’t get a very diverse crowd at most country clubs. Everyone tends to look the same. We’ll put it that way.

Dolph Goldenburg: You’re not going to get hate mail from me on this because I’ve always kind of felt like golf tournaments are a lot of work. Even when they raise a lot of money, they don’t engage that many people. In my opinion with events, you want to raise money, and you also want to engage supporters.

Abra Annes: Correct. And most people who play in golf tournaments are only there for either the prize or to play golf with their buddies.

Dolph Goldenburg: Yeah. I agree with you, although I think that is one of the reasons why it’s at a club they really want to go to. So, you know, if it’s a club they can’t get in any other way, they’re like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to golf. It’s second down or whatever.”

Abra Annes: I’m with you. I’m very anti-golf tournament. I only had out of my 60 sometimes more of NC or only have two people that do a golf tournament. And I will tell you for the past five years I’ve been with these clients, their number of golfers each year have gone down.

Dolph Goldenburg: You know, I could see that because as you said, you know, the average age of golfers is going up because young people are not golfing.

Abra Annes: I agree. That’s a good question. No one’s ever asked me before. That’s a really good question.

Dolph Goldenburg: It’s funny, I thought you were going to pick the easy fruit or the low hanging fruit, which is like, I wish people would stop doing bake sales, although I wish they’d stop doing that too. Quite honestly.

Abra Annes: Well, bake sales are a whole other bag of worms, but in terms of like big events that take months and months to plan golf tournaments, stop doing them.

Dolph Goldenburg: Well Abra, thank you again for joining us today. As I said last time, the amount of knowledge that you drop in such a short period of time is incredible. I think you and I have been talking, gosh, maybe 35-45 minutes, something like that. And I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and there are two or three new things that I’ve never thought of in the last 25 years, and no one has told me in the last 25 years. There are some great takeaways from this about how you can engage your board. I want to make sure that I say directly to listeners that if you want to visit her website, just check her out at Also, check her out on Instagram at generosity auctions and on YouTube. And just look for Abra Annes on YouTube. I recently learned that if you put in charity auctioneer in YouTube and search for that, she will be the first hit. Are you the first hit?

Abra Annes: It depends on the day. I take up most videos on the first page. You can’t miss me.

Dolph Goldenburg: All right. There you go. So, we’re not going to edit this piece out. We’re going to leave all that in. But there you go on the first page, and Abra will be all over it. I’m not on Instagram so I do not follow her there, but I do subscribe to her YouTube channel, and it is incredible. Of course, we will also include her contact information in the show notes as well as her social media links and her website. Hey Abra, thank you so much for joining us today.

Abra Annes: Thank you for having me back, Dolph. It’s been great, and I hope that your listener community works with their board members to implement some of these things we’ve talked about today to make their next fundraising event or their fall fundraising event even better.

Dolph Goldenburg: It’s interesting you say that. I don’t do a lot of fundraising consulting. Most of what I do is board development and strategic planning and interim executive engagements. Almost all of my clients currently have fundraising events coming up in the fall. I’m actually going to forward this episode of the podcast to them and say, “You got to listen to this. There’s some good stuff in here that you need to be doing with your board.” So thank you again for joining us.

Abra Annes: Thank you so much, Dolph.

Dolph Goldenburg: Once again, be certain to visit to get all of Abra’s contact information from our show notes. I’ve said it a lot on here and I think this might be the last week that I say maybe second to last week but pack your bags with us because we are going to the Board Leadership Forum hosted by board source. It will be in Seattle this year from October 18th to the 20th, and this podcast will be the first ever podcast to media sponsor of the Board Leadership Forum. Every day we will be coming to you with a special episode, kind of a person in the street or more [inaudible] for a convention. A person in the corridor or kind of a take on this year is board leadership forum. And we will also be interviewing well over a dozen thought leaders who are speaking or leading seminars at the BLF, and those we will be producing over the next year and just including in our regular calendar. That is our show for today. If you found value in it, please go on iTunes, Stitcher, or your podcast streamer of choice to subscribe, rate and review it. And as always, we hope that you gained some insight that will help your nonprofits thrive in a competitive environment.

(Disclaimer) I’m not an accountant or attorney, and neither I nor the Successful Nonprofits™ provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been providing for informational purposes only and is not intended or should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.


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