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.

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