Entertain, Engage, and Extract - The 3 E's of Successful Nonprofit Fundraising

Nonprofits that host charity fundraising events have very different goals than those who attend. On one side of the fence, guests want to be entertained and have fun. On the other, nonprofits urgently need to raise money to support their mission.

To the rescue: the 3 E’s of a successful fundraising event, as coined by fundraising auctioneer Danny Hooper—Entertain, Engage and Extract. These 3 simple principles allow your event to reach its full revenue potential. (For more, check out “The “3 E’s” that Bridge the Gap Between Fun and Fundraising.”)

Keep your guests entertained yet focused on the fundraising by providing donation opportunities they have never seen before. Read on for 3 fresh techniques to employ in your upcoming auction, whether it’s in a few months or a few days. (Think your guests would be interested in bidding on a wine tree?)

Method 1: The Super Signature Technique

This technique works like magic when auctioning off subjective items like artwork that may not have an obvious market value. See how Danny employed this technique to generate 50 times more revenue from a single photograph…

Use Super Signatures for Bigger Charity Auction Bids

“A few years back, I was conducting an auction to benefit a medical evacuation service, or medivac, in our community for an organization called STARS Air Ambulance. They had donated a nicely framed photograph of one of their helicopters at a crash site for the fundraising auction. I expected we might pull in $350 or $400, but I knew we could do better.

So when it was time to auction off the picture, I introduced one of the medivac pilots. He came up on stage and shared a few powerful stories about missions he’d been on that saved dozens of lives. He then mentioned the cost to fly the helicopter for one hour is $1,000 in fuel alone.

I asked, ‘Do I have anybody here that would consider underwriting an hour’s worth of fuel for the medivac helicopter? Anybody who does can sign the back of this picture. We’ll have a nice plaque engraved as well. Then we’ll hang the picture and the plaque in the local airport: a nice public location where everybody can see it and be recognized for their donation.’

Just like that, 17 hands went up.”

One picture ended up generating $17,000 in a matter of minutes!

Charity Auction Bidders at a Fundraising EventThe Super Signature Technique can work wonders at your event, too, and here’s why. First, it’s preceded by a moving emotional story, which sets the stage for a successful cash appeal. Plus, in most live auctions, only a handful of attendees end up participating. The Super Signature Technique gives everyone in the room the opportunity to easily raise their hand, pledge a donation and contribute tangibly to the cause.

Unique, high quality travel Experiences are the crown jewel of a live auction. Click to browse our catalog of over 200 incredible Winspire Experiences to reserve for your next event.

Method 2: A Wine Tree

If you’ve ever helped out with a charity fundraising auction in the past, chances are you already know vino is a proven bestseller. Who doesn’t love a good wine? Wine is highly subjective in value, and time and again we have seen people pay high prices for wine.

"Wine Trees" - How to Use a Case of Wine as an Auction Item for Charity Fundraiser

Check out the bid sheet shown above. Despite a clearly marked retail value of $300 for this case of wine, bidding has gone all the way up to $800!

Wine Tree as Charity Auction Item One fun way to incorporate wine into your auction that’s new to many nonprofits is by using a wine tree.

Wine trees generated plenty of interest in our latest webinar, so we wanted to take a minute and explain the setup. Essentially this structure holds anywhere from 50 to 100 bottles of wine. (The wine tree pictured right holds 100 bottles.) It’s made out of plywood, typically with 3 to 4 tiers. Your auctioneer can sell these wine trees in their entirety or sell each tier individually, with more valuable wines and champagnes higher up on the tree.

“I’ve sold entire wine trees for anywhere from $1,500 on up to $27,000,” shares Danny.

Want to make your own wine tree? Get instant access to construction plans for a wine tree (and hundreds more resources) by signing up for Checklist Builder. Simply click below to create a free account, then purchase a $99 annual subscription and activate the “Silent & Live Auction Committee.” Under the task “Hold a brainstorming session,” print off the PDF and hand to a carpenter. It’s that easy! Click below to sign up now.


(Note: Please check with your local jurisdiction to confirm it’s legal to sell wine in your auction.)

Method 3: Raffles & Door Prizes

Finally, raffles and prizes are a great way to keep guests entertained and engaged until the last silent auction section closes.

Raffle Items at a Nonprofit Auction FundraiserOne to try is a “Best of Live”, “Best of Silent” or “Golden Ticket” Raffle. You can sell these special raffle tickets at your event, hand them out as early bird door prizes, sell them before the event or however you’d like. As the auction is gets underway, simply draw a raffle winner and allow them to pick any item from the live, silent or super silent auction, depending on the exclusivity and revenue generated from the tickets. (Our advice: Disclose ahead of time that the winner can choose anything but the most expensive items or high points of your auction, like an African safari trip.)

You’ll also want to consider having a few smaller raffles and door prize giveaways to wrap up the program. This holds guests’ attention and allows volunteers to get bid sheets to the cashiers, preventing long lines at the end of the night. What’s more, it’s the perfect way to use any extra items you might have procured that didn’t make it into your auctions.