An In-Person Paddle Raise is a gala event featuring just a paddle raise (also known as a special appeal or fund-a-need) but no Live bidding items. It’s basically a Gala Auction without auction items. It can (and probably should) include an inspirational, entertaining program and a professional auctioneer or emcee.
Best Practices and Tips
Work with your auctioneer/emcee to plan the emotional arc of your event. Start with entertainment and/or a presentation designed to tug at heartstrings (and open wallets). Then, when sentiments in the room are running high, segue to requesting donations.
Consider having a figure beloved by your community or someone who has directly benefited from your program make the ask.
Get right to the fun part--save thanking sponsors for the end of your event.
It’s typical to start donations at a specific level and then “walk down” until you reach a level that will allow all attendees to donate. Be sure to line up at least one pre-committed donor who will be in attendance to give at the highest donation level you’re offering. Otherwise, you’ll start your paddle raise with crickets, which can deflate the mood and people’s excitement about giving.
Plan the donation levels with your auctioneer ahead of time, and let them know how many pre-committed donors you have at the highest levels. Set the lowest donation level to an amount that pretty much everyone in the room would be willing to donate.
You can add some fun and competition to your paddle raise event by converting it to a Last Hero Standing game. In this model, you start with the lowest donation level first and work higher. People can donate at as many levels as they wish. The last person donating wins a prize, which should be substantial and widely appealing, so that people are willing to continue donating in order to win it.
Increase the power of donations by offering a recurring option. If you offer a $10/month option, rather than a $100 flat option, most people who would have donated $100 will go that route, netting you an additional $20/donor.
Be specific about what each donation level will purchase. For example: “$1000 feeds X food pantry families for Y days,” or “$1500 buys Z laptops for the fifth graders.”
Things to Avoid or Consider
It may be tempting to provide an online donation option prior to or during your event, but doing so may reduce the number of guests who attend. You want your donors in the room, where the energy and excitement might inspire them to donate more generously. Wait until after your event is over to open an online donation option on your site.