Oct 18, 2019

Paddle Raise or Mobile Giving?

graphic of paddle bidding and mobile bidding

Many charity partners we work with have trouble with deciding whether to use a paddle raise or mobile giving the campaign to execute their event fund-the-need.

The goal is, of course, to raise as much money as possible for their cause.

There are several factors that should be considered when determining which method to use to gather direct donations at your event!

Factors to consider:

  • Audience Excitement
  • Event Size
  • Ease and Speed
  • Donor Base
  • Venue/Program

The two main ways that charities collect donations during the fund-the-need portion of their event are by raising paddles and giving via a mobile web browser. While the paddle raise is traditional and has been working for years to help charities raise funds during their fund-the-need, mobile methods have become more and more popular.

The paddle raise method usually requires the auctioneer to ask for donations at different amounts from the crowd and donors will raise bid numbers to commit to giving at that certain level. The highest donation level should be something that at least one donor is guaranteed to give and the lowest recommended donation level traditionally is no less than $100.

There are two ways to implement mobile giving: text to give and fund the need with mobile support. Mobile giving allows users to donate using their phone. Usually, an auctioneer will lead this portion of the program and ask donors to give at the same levels as with the paddle raise, but instead of raising their number and needing to process payments after, donors can give instantly via phone. This also allows you to show the total donation amount in front of the crowd on a digital display and can help the auctioneer encourage donations as you get closer and closer to various “mile markers”.

Audience Excitement:

  • Paddle Raise: The paddle raise is a great way to harness audience excitement at the event because donors can see who is giving and the bandwagon effect encourages them to donate as well, at any amount.
  • Mobile Giving: Similar to texting to give, mobile giving allows for the charity to show real-time donation data to increase audience excitement as the numbers raise. Some platforms will even be able to display donor names on the screen showing who is giving, similar to a paddle raise, and allows for customized images rather than the typical thermometer.

Event Size:

  • Paddle Raise: Volunteers are required to jot down the donor numbers and amounts to ensure accurate donation counts and correctly process payments at checkout. Because of this, it’s not recommended to use the paddle raise if your event has over 500 attendees.
  • Mobile Giving: This method is great for any event size because of the simplicity. Donors can enter their credit card information on their mobile device and don’t need to checkout with a volunteer at the end. GiveSmart can provide more assistance based on the number of guests to ensure you are properly staffed in case some donors need help registering or entering their information.

Ease and Speed:

  • Paddle Raise: It’s hard to track the total as more and more donors agree to give and requires a lengthier checkout process.
  • Mobile bidding: Guests register, enter their credit card information, donate, and checkout from their phone making the process of giving simple and seamless. Adding this to your program will still get you the experience of the paddle raise without the need to collect donations using pen and paper and process payments after the event.

Donor Base:

  • Paddle Raise: Long-time donors may feel more comfortable with a paddle raise as it is more traditional. However, with a paddle raise, only donors who are present at the event can give.
  • Mobile Giving: Younger donors will feel more comfortable giving using their mobile devices, and long-time donors can receive help from event volunteers and GiveSmart staff members who are there to help register, bid, and aid in any other way possible. Donors can also give remotely if they are unable to attend the event! Mobile giving can also be utilized as more of a ‘soft ask’; donors are prompted to donate but there does not need to be any added pressure.

Venue Layout:

  • Paddle Raise: A paddle raise will work best in a space where guests are seated for the donation campaign and the auctioneer can clearly see their bidder number.
  • Mobile Giving: This method works great when the event is more of a cocktail party style, without a formal program or seated dinner. Donors are able to continue mingling without needing to be gathered in one area.

Event Program:

  • Both types do best when the campaign is kicked off by some form of testimonial or introduction to the campaign explaining exactly what the donors’ generous donations will be benefitting. Some ways our partners have done this in the past is by creating a video montage summing up the past year’s accomplishments and an explanation of what is still needed, a testimonial from a person who was directly impacted by the work of the organization, or by having some influential voice/figure in the community who can express the need for donated funds give a short speech.


Paddle Raise:
If sponsors are paying a certain amount for their table or other event benefits, ask them to instead donate during the fund-the-need section of your program instead of pay beforehand. Because this is usually a larger donation, it inspires other donors to give at that same level.
Have two separate volunteers recording bidder numbers and donation amounts to ensure that everything is accurate to make checkout as smooth a process as possible.
Try to ensure that there is at least one donor at the highest level that is read aloud. This kicks off the momentum of the campaign and helps avoid an awkward moment. You can even plant someone in the audience to make that donation and remove the charge from their account at a later time.

Mobile Giving:
Place volunteers around the room so that if anyone needs help with the process, they can be attended to in a timely manner. GiveSmart staff also provides this service as part of the on-site staffing package.
Ask your third-party provider about customizing the keyword donors will text to match your charity so that it is easy to remember!

If you have any questions about which method would be best for your organization and event, please reach out to your GiveSmart Account Manager, contact us, or request a demo.


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The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

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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.

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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.

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Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County