What Is a Fund a Need, and Can It Eliminate Your Silent Auction?

What is a Fund a Need? And more importantly for overworked auction planners, can the income generated from a Fund a Need replace your silent auction?

First, let’s review what the Fund a Need is.

The Fund a Need – also called a Special Appeal, basket ideas for silent auction Raise the Paddle, Mission Moment and a bevy of other names — has grown in popularity as charities seek new ways to enhance revenues. A well-organized and professionally delivered Fund a Need has the potential to eclipse revenue earned in a silent auction or live auction. This has prompted some nonprofits and schools to eliminate their silent auctions and instead offer a well-orchestrated Fund a Need auction only.

At a designated time during your special event, guests are asked to pledge a donation to the organization… in other words, to “fund an identified need” within the organization. Hence the name, Fund a Need.

The Fund a Need works best when it is centered around funding a specific cause (e.g. a new bus or a special program), but it might be towards something as generic as operating expenses.

Depending on the cause and the timing of the Fund a Need within your program, guests will either be asked to pledge at a level they select, based on a tiered scale of choices (say, $1000, $500, $250, or $100), or alternatively, everyone will be asked to pledge a flat amount, such as $100.

Because a well-designed Fund a Need is easier to run than other auction elements — namely, a silent auction — some nonprofits have worked to beef up their Fund a Need revenue and eliminate their silent auction.

For example, one of my nonprofit clients in the medical industry successfully eliminated her silent auction years ago.

Her 300 guests enjoy a raffle during the reception period, and a Fund a Need and live auction during the sit-down portion of the program. As she has no silent auction to oversee (and consequently, no bid sheets or software to manage), she has more time to mingle with her donors. She’s simplified her event by ramping up her Fund a Need and eliminating the silent auction.

To make this drastic change, you’ll need to become intimately familiar with the mechanics of a Fund a Need. Do not assume that because you’ve seen an appeal run at another event, you understand the underlying components of it.

Two years ago I received a call from a smaller school. They’d hit a plateau with their Fund a Need revenue and were seeking help to reach the next level of success.

After visiting with them, I realized they had been mis-managing the most basic elements of a Fund a Need: they hadn’t engaged in any pre-event marketing, they hadn’t arranged for initial donors, and they didn’t have a prepared speaker following a fundraising template on “how to ask.”

This is what happens when groups observe a Fund a Need at another event, but fail to grasp the underlying, “behind the scenes” elements that are put into place long before the auction, in order to ensure the Fund a Need is successful.

The basic steps of a successful Fund a Need are to deliver an emotional talk and then ask for money. But the underlying steps — the details — are where the riches are found.

Work with a professional fundraiser to get the details right, and then you can feel confident in eliminating your silent auction.