Auctioneers Blog

Feel Good Fall — Dreams Really Do Come True!

#coloradogive, #feelgoodfall

Featuring: Kacey Walisundara and the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation

#coloradogive, #feelgoodfallIt’s been proven that youth sports and activities develop important character traits, emotional, physical, social, mental and lifelong values in children. And, as school budget cuts grow larger with academics taking precedence over sports it’s no wonder that kids are missing out on the values and principles of organized sports.

The Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation (CYTF), whose mission is to promote the physical, emotional and social development of ALL youth who aspire to become active, productive and responsible citizens, is helping to fill that gap here in Colorado.

Today we are talking with Kacey Walisundara, a longtime CYTF special needs scholarship recipient. He also participated in a program the CYTF helps funds – USTA Colorado’s Star Search. For decades, the program developed, nurtured and promoted the tennis and life skills of identified kids from culturally-diverse communities. Star Search provided a platform for Kacey and others to excel in their tennis skills and expand their involvement in more formal competitive events.

Kacey, now 18 years old and a Freshman at Metro State University started playing Tennis at the age of 7 with his sister at community courts near his home in Green Valley Ranch. The courts, he recounts “were not very well maintained, but at least we could get out and play the game”.  At the age of 11, a friend of Kacey’s mother, Ms. Anita recommended that he get involved with the CYTF and Star Search program.

You see none of Kacey’s schools had formalized tennis programs, no real coaching, and no help with court fees, racquets, strings, balls, etc. Star Search helped Kacey find amazing coaches, competitive play, and helped him expand his game. He really loves the game of tennis, but not just for winning, he has learned so much about life, and says he’s become a better person, friend and team player because of the sport, and the people he’s met along his tennis Journey.

I asked Kacey to think back to when he first started playing in the Star Search Program, about the values he gleaned from the program. First, he said, is “Being Focused”. Kacey feels that tennis has taught him how to pay attention to the task at hand, be it studies, faith, family or tennis. Second, is “Respect and Sportsmanship”. Kacey shared that his view of success is not just about winning the game, but about how you treat people and how you support them in the ups and downs of the game, and in life. When you get to know Kacey, you know that you have someone who cares about you, and has your back! Finally, being “Driven and Motivated” — Kacey has a never give up on your dreams attitude in Tennis, Education, Fellowship and Leadership.

Proof that dreams really do come true Kacey is on the tennis team at Metro State and is so excited to take his Tennis game to the next level. He’s looking forward to sharing the principles and values that he’s adopted from his many years in Star Search to help build a strong team and stronger individual players.

In closing, I asked Kacey who his favorite players were on today’s professional tennis tour. First was Roger Federer because of his humility after every win, on and off the court. Win or lose, Federer is a respectful player and person. A close second is Novak Djokovic for the humor he brings to the sport, and like Federer, the respect he shows to everyone, on and off the court.

A big THANKS to the CYTF, because they are making tennis dreams come true for thousands of Colorado kids and have done so since 1961. When you are thinking about what organizations to support on Colorado Gives Day, please make a pledge to Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation at or check them out directly

Until Next Time,


Recent Reviews – I’ll be calling on you again next year!

“Shelly, a good time was had by all at our recent event and I’ve received so many compliments on the changes to the event, and the live auction.

I’ll be calling on you again next year!”

Barbara Kuzmic, Executive Director
Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists

Recent Reviews – We are lucky to have had you!

“Shelly, what an event it was! The event on Saturday night exceeded our expectations. I don’t think anyone thought that we would be so successful and that our community would feel inspired in quite the way that it was. So much of that is due to the coaching and expertise that you brought to the table.”

We are lucky to have had you!
Kay Anderson, Skyland Camp for Girls

Feel Good Fall with Cody Powell of SCI

Feel Good Fall
by Shelly St John

As the holiday’s approach and year end giving is in full swing, I want to bring you some stories to warm your heart and inspire your giving.

Today, we’re talking about a special young man, Cody (CJ) Powell. Currently the Interim Executive Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Project (SCI) in Denver, CJ has seen many challenges in his young life, but boy has he bounced back!

Having had the sport of Motocross in his blood since a young child, CJ had the world in his sites! A great family, good grades and college. But Motocross was his passion, he was a leader in the sport, and consistently won races and time trials, until “one day” — that one day that changed his life forever. CJ was in the middle a great run on the course, then his bike went high, but came down hard. Really hard.

In that Motocross accident in 2013 he lost the use of his body from his sternum down. After all the emergency sirens, ambulances and hospitals were past, CJ had to figure out this new life and how to make it work, really work, for him.

He quickly realized, that life is about more than money, fame or power, it’s about standing up for himself and others and that even in the darkest moment of one’s life, that life should be about love, kindness, compassion and passion. Not just for yourself, but for everyone around you. CJ makes the colloquial phrase “wake up and smell the coffee” REAL. He is not a victim of his accident, nor has he let his physical disability hold him back. In fact, he feels that his life better now and that what he’s endured and overcome has made him a better person.

CJ began as a client of SCI in 2014, a little less than a year after his accident because they fill the void after a spinal cord injury with physical and cardiovascular adaptive training along with integrative therapies to maintain health and wellness while providing optimal functional return.

As I spoke with CJ, he chuckled and said asked me how long I sit at my desk every day, and if it feels good to stand up every occasionally, of course I said absolutely!  It’s the same thing for him, getting out of his chair, feeling the blood flow throughout his body even though his legs don’t work, has been so meaningful to his physical and mental health. “I push myself in the gym like I used to before my accident, and the supportive staff at SCI pushes me even harder to be my best self”, says CJ. “SCI has helped shape my future and I feel so strongly about the physical and emotional benefits of the program that I joined the board of directors and am now leading the team as the interim Executive Director.”

In closing, as you sort through year-end giving campaigns in your email or your snail mail and prepare for Colorado Gives Day, I urge you to take a serious look at the Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Project as one of your beneficiaries. I guarantee you that your investment, great or small will immediately change a spinal cord injury patient’s life for the better!

So, get up, get out and change someone’s today!

Until next time,


Chronicles of a Fundraising Auctioneer

After 10 years as a Fundraising Auctioneer, with a 30-year career in marketing and public relations behind me, I have seen and experienced, the good, the bad and ugly, when it comes to live event fundraising. Before we get to that though, let’s look at the 501(c) industry as a whole.

In 2016, nearly $400 Billion Dollars* was donated by the kind and generous people of the United States to their favorite nonprofits, educational institutions or religious organizations. This number equals 2.1%* of our entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

These numbers demonstrate two important factors to me. First, nonprofits, educational institutions and religious organizations are businesses. The operate, or should operate just like a for-profit entity, the only real difference is that hold a 501(c) tax status. Secondly, the people of the USA are committed to helping others and have been doing so on an equal level, based on adjusted inflation since 1975*. Nearly 72%* of that $400 Billion was donated by individuals. People just like you and me, that found a cause, got inspired and gave . . .

When I was a new auctioneer, the world was my oyster, and I thought I could take the industry by storm. What I quickly learned, is that most auctioneers were male, the ones I was competing with had been in the business for 20 plus years. The thing that struck me so profoundly, was how they work. Most auctioneers have one or two meetings with a client; give them a limited amount of advice; send them off to collect items; but pretty much just show up the night of the event, bid-call or sell their items and leave. What was missing for me in that show-up, sell and leave mentality was that I felt, each client deserved more. More consultation, more strategy, more best practices and a more compelling live auctioneer performance.

So I set out on the planning path. I developed spreadsheets, planning guides, best practices, marketing plans, promotional plans, and event night strategies to help my clients provide a better guest experience that would exceed fundraising expectations.

In our ten years, we’ve turned this planning process into what we call our Recipe for Recording Breaking Fundraising Results.

Over the next several posts, we’ll examine each part of our recipe and how our strategies work together and independently to maximize fundraising success.

*Statistics from the Giving USA 2017 Report


For more than 2 decades Shelly St John owned a marketing and public relations firm. Today she serves as a speaker, trainer and national fundraising auctioneer. In 10 years, she’s conducted more than 550 auctions and raised an estimated $42 million dollars for nonprofits, educational institutions and religious organizations.

Use Demographics to get Closer to YES!

Whether your audience is one or 100,000, understanding them on a core level will help you get closer to yes in any situation. Although the following breakdown of our recent generations are a generalization, you can begin to see the similarities and differences between the ages, and who raised whom .

Traditionalists – Ages 63-86 have long been referred to as Veterans, Silent, Moral Authority, Radio Babies and The Forgotten Generation.

Notable Contemporaries
Martin Luther King, Jr., George Carlin, Audrey Hepburn, William Shatner

Behavioral Attitudes
Technology is – the Hoover Dam but many have adapted.
View of Authority – very respectful to all.
Communications Media – rotary phones, one-on-one interactions, memos or handwritten notes.
Communications Style – discrete, logical, prefers more formal language, slow to warm up, likes handwritten notes, less email.
Feedback and Rewards – no news is good news, want subtle private recognition, not a big fan of fanfare.
Motivated by – respect, security, and the personal touch.
Money is – and was all about their family and livelihood.
Fundraising Tips – conservative planned-giving with financial management, one on one meetings to ask their advice, they will respond better to traditional solicitation strategies like personal letters and face to face meetings.

Baby Boomers – Ages 44-62 are also referred to as: “Me” Generation or Moral Authority .

Notable Contemporaries
Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Oprah, George Clooney, and Bill Clinton

Behavioral Attitudes
Technology is – and was the microwave and the fax machine, but they acquire and embrace new technology.
View of Authority – impressed by those of power, celebrities and millionaires.
Communications Media – began with the touch-tone phone and portable bag phone they were also the first to adopt the call me anytime mentality.
Communications Style – diplomatic, face-to-face, or on the phone. They speak open with a direct style, they use e-communications, but like the personal touch, and prefer a friendly rapport.
Feedback and Rewards –money in their reward, will often display all awards,     certificates and letters of appreciation for public view, they like praise, title and public recognition.
Motivated by – being valued, and earning money.
Money is – the biggest status symbol.
Fundraising Tips – Put them out front and in the spotlight, appeal to their idealism, get them involved, allow them to find self-fulfillment.

Generation X – Ages 28-43 are also referred to as: Gen X, Xers, The Doer, Post Boomers, 13th Generation.

Notable Contemporaries
Tom Cruise, Sheryl Crow, Barak Obama, Jennifer Lopez

Behavioral Attitudes:
Technology is – anything you can hold in your hand, cell, PDA, tablet.
View of Authority – unimpressed, period.
Communications Media – smart phones, call me only at work, email.
Communications Style – blunt, direct, immediate, they use straight talk and email as their number one tool, they talk in short sound-bytes, and hate micro-managing.
Feedback and Rewards – Get them involved, encourage creativity, allow flexibility, be more hands off, ask for their input and use their peers as testimonials.
Motivated by – freedom, removal of rules and time off.
Money is – a means to an end.
Fundraising Tips – Use humor in appeals, use new technologies, engage quickly (often with humor) let them see how they can make a difference, messages can be delivered by technology but need to be short and to the point.

Millennials – Ages 8-27 are also referred to as Generation Y, Gen Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, Chief Friendship Officers or 24/7’ers.

Notable Contemporaries
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Prince William, Bruno Mars

Behavioral Attitudes:
Technology is – integral, ethereal and intangible.
View of Authority – relaxed.
Communications Media – internet, smart phones, e-mail, the latest app.
Communications Style – be polite, don’t talk down-they will resent it, use language to portray visual pictures, be humorous-show you are human, communicate in person if the message is very important.
Feedback and Rewards – meaningful work, like to be given feedback often, want recognition for their heroes, bosses, grandparents, they want a valuable experience for all.
Motivated by – working with other bright people in groups, time off.
Money is – today’s payoff, they are work-to-live generation.

Fundraising Tips – have them drive technology for fundraising (no appeal letters), utilize their networks with crowdfunding, ask them plan events that interest them, act fast on their interest or you will lose them, link your cause to social responsibility because “Mid Century Modern” is cool again.

Recent Reviews

“Thanks so much for your contributions to Hops for Hope, Shelly! Your guidance as to what should be included in the live auction was invaluable this year. The High Bidders Choice packages went for so much more than they would have in the silent auction!”

Julie Wagner
Board Chair, SCI Recovery Project