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fundaneedA fund-a-need, also known as a fund-a cause, special appeal, paddle-raise, and other names, is an effective way for organizations to raise material amounts of money at benefit or charity auctions.

Fund-a-need presentations capitalize on two basic human instincts: Acting in like kind, and perceiving a discount. The fund-a-need allows everyone in the crowd to see who else is contributing, thus putting a bit of pressure (but also assurance that it’s “okay,”) on others to act similarly. Secondly, if the initial round of a fund-a-need is halved in the second round, and so forth, there is the sense of a discounted opportunity to help the cause.

It’s strongly recommended the auctioneer conduct the fund-a-need, while others are charged with conducting he appeal, writing down the amounts and noting the corresponding bid numbers; auctioneers are skilled in all the details.

In our experience (over 1,000 auctions for 501(c)(3)’s, raising in excess of $22 Million) there are three easy steps to any fund-a-need:

    1. The appeal should be made by someone everyone knows and trusts, respects — and the appeal should be about something people are likely to feel passionate about. A CEO appealing to the custodial staff about his bathroom upgrade is not likely a good appeal. Setting up a scholarship to honor a longtime retiring teacher appealing to the other teachers and staff is likely a good appeal.
    2. Have someone respected — who others in the group look up to — agree prior to raise their paddle at the top amount. And, have others agree at each of the other lower price points. If the fund-a-need is setup to ask $1,000 first, have at least one person already committed at this level, and others at $500, $250, $100, etc.
    3. The fund-a-need should take place after the auction — if there are so many items in the auction that the fund-a-need has to interrupt the auction, lessen the number of auction items. This way the remaining auction items are not a distraction, and those who were not winning bidders in the auction can focus on participating in the fund-a-need.

We have suggested the auctioneer actually conduct the fund-a-need because auctioneers know how to manage such events. Timing, encouragement and crowd interaction are all important facets to this fundraising activity, and auctioneers have these skills.

Those who have pledged amounts should be required to pay soon after the event. A variety of payment acceptance methods should be available including cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards, etc.

A fund-a-need is a great way for 501(c)(3)’s and other organizations to raise money in conjunction with an fundraising auction. In fact, the fund-a-need can raise more money that the auction in some instances, and allows attendees an additional way to give money to a cause for which they are passionate.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.