Increase Auction Proceeds with a Paddle Call

Posted by Amanda Foran on November 7, 2010

I’m surprised by how often I speak with clients who have never heard of a Paddle Call. A Paddle Call – also known by names such as Fund-A-Need, Flurry, Special Appeal and others – is a highly effective tool for raising a lot of money for your cause in a short period of time.

A Paddle Call takes place during the live auction portion of your event. The auctioneer asks for guests to raise their paddles to make a monetary donation towards a special project, a scholarship fund, a large piece of equipment or a special item that is needed by your organization. Guests who would like to donate raise their paddles while an auction committee member records the paddle numbers. The auctioneer then asks again, this time for a lower amount. Typically, a larger number of guests will raise their paddles. This goes on for at most five levels – for example, $5000, $2500, $1000, $500, $100 – at which point the auctioneer should have reached a level where the majority of guests have their paddles raised.

Sounds easy. And it is. But to make your Paddle Call even more successful, here are a few tips and tricks:

The Appeal

Prior to the Paddle Call, have your auctioneer invite a speaker to the podium to make a short presentation about the specific cause or project for which you’re raising money. The best speakers are those who can clearly define the need and elicit an emotional response from the audience. When selecting a speaker, look for a charismatic and trusted member of your community, a respected leader in your organization or an expert in the field. And don’t hesitate to think outside the box. Slide shows, short performances and skits can be very effective as part of the appeal.

Most importantly, never lose sight of the goal of the appeal: to pull at the heartstrings and purse strings of your audience.

Paddle Call Timing

Your auctioneer is a good resource when establishing the timing of your paddle call. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • It’s best to conduct the paddle call about 2/3 of the way through the live auction. This change of pace will help to re-invigorate the audience as your auction crescendos toward its culmination.
  • Be sure to allow enough time for you to record all of the donations. (If you’re using ReadySetAuction, this can be done very quickly using the multiple-winners bid-recording page.)

The Starting Paddle Call Level

The level at which your auctioneer starts the Paddle Call will depend on the composition of your donor audience. Are there big donors in attendance who might give a large sum, like $25K or more? Or is your largest donor likely to be in the $1,000 or less range? Do not start the paddle call too high, or your guests may feel uncomfortable.

If you have a guest who has approached you prior to the event with a large monetary donation, ask if she would be comfortable raising her paddle during the Paddle Call to ‘kick things off.’ Typically, once someone donates a large sum, other guests will likely step up with similar donations. Plus, lower levels are then perceived by the audience as more ‘do-able,’ and you’re more likely to get higher pledges across the board.

How Low To Go

As you would expect, there will be more donors at the lower levels. Therefore, your auctioneer should work his way down to a level where almost every paddle in the room is raised. At most events this is at the $100, $50 or $25 level.

Don’t Overlook the ‘Shy Donor’

Give your publicity-shy donors a more anonymous way to make their private donations by handing out donation cards at check-in. Many of your guests will greatly appreciate this more confidential approach.

At your next event, if you’re not already using a Paddle Call, try it! We’d love to hear how it works for you! And if you have any additional Paddle Call tips, please submit them below in the comments.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS