Many benefit galas include a segment where attendees are asked to make a donation to their cause. There are many names for this effort, i.e.- Donate Now, The Ask, The Paddle-Raise, etc. While names and methods may vary, this portion of the evening can, and should be, a critical moment in connecting donors to your mission.
The “Ask” requires critical thinking, when it comes to planning, presentation and execution of this part of the program. I like to present the Mission Moment (a video or a short testimony of an individual who has been positively impacted by the organization, or how the community has benefited) just prior to the “Ask”. This presentation should be 3 to 5 minutes, and be scripted in a manner that connects your mission to your attendees, and helps engage them in wanting to help you continue your good works.
I am also a proponent of using a bidder paddle (or card) during this portion. When others see people raising their paddles, it’s contagious. It also allows your professional benefit auctioneer to be able to personally thank that person, which is also an encouragement for others to participate. I mean, everyone wants to be recognized, right ?
In addition, I promote the use of electronic bidding technology, and using mobile bidding to enhance the “Ask” is technology that wasn’t available when I began conducting benefit auctions. I use a hybrid method of paddle raise and mobile bidding, in order to get a high level of attendee participation.
Finally, putting the “Ask” as the last item in your agenda is a critical error. By the end of the evening, many guests are antsy (or intoxicated, unfortunately…;-) and have become disconnected from the program. The same is true for putting your live auction at the end of the evening. Consult your professional benefit auctioneer for best practices regarding placement of your “Ask” and your live auction in your program. You could make thousands of dollars more, with just a few tweaks!