Jun 1, 2020

Embracing the Online Platform & Informing Your Donors

Happy creative businesspeople brainstorming in office, placing sticky notes with ideas on glass

The following is a transcript of our Q&A conversation from Episode 1 of our Pivot Success Series.  You can view the full webinar, and other webinars in the series, on our Pivot Success page

This episode talks about embracing the online platform, and keeping donors informed along the way. 

I would like to hear how your sponsors responded to having a virtual event.

JEN URIAN: I’m going to assume it’s a sponsor that maybe gave monetary donations in advance.

What probably the intent here is that generally, sponsors at live events get different advertising things where they get more eyeballs.

JEN URIAN: That was a concern of ours and week we had one sponsors back out. It was a parent and they preferred to since they weren’t getting the advertisement to put their money into the auction items, and they still donated just as much but it was through auction items instead. We originally had a step-and-repeat, which is like a photo backdrop that you take pictures in front of that you get that logo on. And you have your printed program. We didn’t have those items anymore. All we really had was the advertisements on our websites as well as the GiveSmart site. So actually, all the sponsors were very understanding and still wanted the money to go towards the cause. But if we had had more time that was something we probably would have looked at a little bit closer. What other ways could we still use their money in different ways but in this case, it all happened so quickly and the sponsors were just very giving and understanding. 

Elizabeth, if the tech gremlins aren’t continuing to eat your audio. How do you recommend getting the auction items to the winning bidder especially if they live out of state? Do they pay shipping costs?

ELIZABETH GARDNER: One thing that Jen did great was they came up with a redemption logistics plan with a whole spreadsheet of how the item breakdowns per guest basically. And for the majority of their guests, they had a like it was four hours a three hour pickup time at their school. So guests could just drive up and do a pickup there. And then, they also for anything that was like a gift certificate or an experience that they either were able to email it directly to their guests, or mail it to them. So that was no contact at all.  And then I knew they also have raged being neighbours with some folks, and just did a porch drop-off. So they definitely got creative there. I do know of some organizations though that are shipping items  if they’re winners are out of state and I think if that was the case, that would be an excellent moment to utilize what we had talked about in the beginning. With putting the FAQ use on the phone page, you could definitely include a bit there that says “If you win this item and you cannot pick it up, you will have to pay for the shipping or arrange other arrangements for that.” So again I think that’s about communicating with your guests as much as you can. 

How did you know which raffle items they wanted to win or did it not matter? Did you like a history probably is what they intend here to know which raffle items would be popular?

JEN URIAN: What we chose which raffle items we have a few that are just specific to our school that we do every year.  We reserve seats at our graduation in our parking spot. And a very popular one is 50% off tuition what was really popular this year. Then we had we chose to some non school related so that we could open it to friends and family. So we just actually had past alumni donated Costco Target and Amazon gift cards for the raffle. 

Everything is closed did you limit oxygen items to merchandise versus experiential packages?

JEN URIAN: We still put those on there because I guess we’re not going to be in our homes forever. But we changed we worked with the donors of those items about expiration dates and on all of the things that were kind of time-sensitive. We added a disclaimer about Covid-19 just saying that if the event was to get cancelled or postponed and they could not go that they could get either get refunded or consider it donation to just like kind of the tickets it could be a donation as well. So we kind of put that disclaimer in there because we really don’t know. I mean the basketball games NBA was cancelled, baseball postponed. So we had some items like that that we just had to put that disclaimer in and do them as kind of as they happen. 

What is the average number of items in the online auctions that you see?

ELIZABETH GARDNER: I would say generally speaking. Most people I work with it’s probably around 50 to 100 is probably the most popular size. I mean that being said though, I’ve also seen 10 and I’ve also seen 500. So it’s quiet a broad range but generally, 50 to 100 is what I would say average. 

For auctions, do bidders for an item receive an email notice that they have been outbid?

PATRICK CLORE: They get a text message to notice. So kind of in our system, the cell phone number is the unique identifier for folks. So you get a text message when you’ve been outbid but obviously you know one thing that I’ve done this myself it’s better in things is if you are using a computer there is a very and we can send a screenshot. There’s a star button where you can follow an item so if you are trying to play the waiting game, you can kind of wait until the last second. Always dangerous because you never know but whether you kind of following the item are actively bidding there’s this my activity button that’ll show you can actually just follow. So knowing that people are obviously doing out on the phones, but a lot of us out there can’t really go anywhere. So I think I’ll we’re seeing a lot more people do it via a desktop. So there’s it says you’re winning you’re losing things like that. But you do every time you get outbid, you automatically get a notice. And in that same vein my biggest tip that I give to people when we’re at physical events and I think the same thing is just as valuable is we do have in the system and a bid price. So let’s say, there’s a particular item, I want to take these two beautiful dogs here for a walk no matter to go up to 500$ even if right now the price is only at 100. You can set that auto bid ceiling and then the system going to do the work on your behalf. So it will notify you once it goes to 550 that “hey, it’s time to come back in”. But that is definitely my favourite tip especially if you’re having a glass of wine and enjoying it. You don’t have to pay a lot of attention. Always letting the system work for you is my best recommendation, but notices are sent mobile and then you can see it both on your phone or computer depending upon what to buy.

What percentage of family do you think we’re engaging? 

JEN URIAN: We have probably 250 families. And we had sold about I don’t know 200 tickets at the time, so let’s assume that’s like a hundred families. I want to say we probably had about 50% of our families participating.

How does that compare to other years? 

JEN URIAN: That’s pretty much on par with other years as well.

Because things have changed so you know every day every three days things are changing. Is there anything you would do today to modify, do differently today to modify for a virtual event happening today, or next weekend or anything different about the environment today? 

JEN URIAN: Honestly, I’m so pleased with the results that I can’t think of anything that if I was to sit down and do lessons learned that I would change from the way we did it. I would say one thing that we did do was we had a lot of items. We had like 50 items and that allowed us to start a lower starting bid and let more people be involved. And I guess given the environment, I think that was a good thing. So I would do that again. We had some really great procurement people this year. 

Anything Elizabeth you would add to them?

ELIZABETH GARDNER: I think one thing that we had a very little time for this Pivot. We like it was like the Friday before the event like seven days before when we had the pivot. But I think one thing that has been really cool that some other clients I’ve seen been doing who have a little bit more time has been really leveraging either pre-recorded videos or live stream. I think there’s been some really cool creative stuff going on there. But sometimes that just takes a little bit more planning. 

JEN URIAN: And our principal had given us that suggestion but we didn’t have enough time. 

How do you engage the audience throughout the virtual event? Jen, do you want to talk about maybe what your team thought about that? And then Patrick you might have some ideas to add?

JEN URIAN: We had our silent auction. It went I think two days, so we did a kickoff email a kickoff text. And then like the day of, we sent something that morning just kind of reminding people getting people excited about the day. And then during the evening time which would have normally been our live event or in-person event. We sent texts like reminder you’ve only got an hour left and 15 minutes left. We didn’t have the benefits of going “Oh! This number you know this item getting really exciting let be sure to bid on it.” something that you would have done in person. But I think hats leveraging GiveSmart for the text messages were very helpful. 

Patrick, anything else you want to add there?

PATRICK CLORE: The nice thing about 2020 in terms of Technology and different engagement means, we could spend 30 minutes on it whether you’re doing a live stream. We’ve seen some examples of that and whether it’s Facebook live or other different kind of means. But my favourite thing at events has always been the text messaging. You have the ability to you know if it’s a pretty strict timeline and you are going to follow you can write them, save them as drafts and send them out accordingly. My favourite thing has always been to kind of send them out on the fly and make it little bit more fun and exciting. I think especially you know people are cooped up, I think humour goes a long way and you can kind of hook people. We’ve seen some pretty creative text messages. I think in addition, making sure you put the countdown clock that “hey, the oxygen going to be closing in 15 minutes” similar to how we talked about the onset of turning the homepage into a communication vehicle. I think doing it and then one of the things that based upon what Elizabeth and Jenna talked about with the informational ads. You could always add an ad on the fly and kind of keep people engaged and each time you refresh those ads will remove the screen. So be curious if somebody has already done it. If it was me doing something this weekend I think I would take a try with that and trying to “Oh looks like John is winning” or different things. You have a lot of options. I think the number one is always know your audience. So people everybody knows their constituents and their supporters. So if there are particular buzzwords or themes or different things like that based upon your organization, make it personal and make it kind of tied to the theme. And really you’re going to learn what works, just as well as you’re going to learn and what doesn’t. But I think the number one piece of advice is trying a bunch of different things and kind of see what my resume.

Jen I think this is one you have addressed but I think all of you can understand that Folks as the days and the weeks go by, people are wondering are you know do be asked but are people willing to donate. So Jen any words of advice to your peers out there who have events or Pivots in front of them and they’re concerned about asking for donations.

ELIZABETH GARDNER: That was probably our concern. We were very sensitive to the fact that our families don’t have a lot of extra. A lot of them don’t. So we didn’t want it to be we’ve never wanted to push our fundraising to be like we need this money. We always wanted it to be optional. One thing I didn’t mention is big part of this benefit that we hold every year is fellowship, so we were losing that whole piece of it. So we were just now asking for money. So I think a lot of it has to do with how you communicate. Our emails were very much around. We understand the times that we’re in and if you cannot participate just being empathetic to that and making it just more for fun. If you saw Patrick put up a little bit earlier with the kind of the pop ups that we’re having on our homepage. It was very much like we understand if you can’t participate but if you want to see what we’ve got out there, we’ve got bargains out there and in low starting bids and just trying to make just acknowledging it goes a long way that you are not expecting it and just understanding where people are right now. I really was blown away by how many people still participated even in that very uncertain week. I mean I feel I like we know more now than we did a couple weeks ago just about our world and where it’s going. So I really was pleasantly surprised how many people still wanted to step up and be part of it even if it was a small amount. 

Elizabeth as organizers, do we have access to the bids in real time during an event? For instance, during the silent auction? 

ELIZABETH GARDNER: As an admin on the back end, you can always see item history. You can see bids coming in per item. They update and reports live as well as. So you have a lot of options there but yes. 

What are the biggest expenses in order to conduct the Virtual fundraiser?

JEN URIAN: Do you want me to answer that? GiveSmart. That was our only expense but it was a very worthwhile one. Because we took out our printed program, we took out the hotel and the food and everything else that goes with that. So GiveSmart was our biggest expense. 

I think that’s good news. We’ll take it. And last one, can you display a giving thermometer or visual representation of how much you have left to raise to goal on the event page? 

ELIZABETH GARDNER: There’s a couple of different ways to do this. The first that comes to mind is on the home page you’re able to set donation revenue goal. That is basically like an image that fills up as you get donations so that would be right on your home page. And then separately, if you do decide to do some sort of live stream, you can also use one of our displays. Displays can be customised a lot whether you want it to be a thermometer filling up name, saying like “Thank you, Elizabeth for your donation”. So there’s an option there for sure. 


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County