Paddle Raises: The Art of Fund-a-Need

Adding a Paddle Raise (aka Fund-a-Need) to your next nonprofit event is an engaging and inspiring way to raise more funds for your cause.  A Paddle Raise occurs during fundraising events as part of the live auction. The objective is to raise the bulk of your event’s donations, which can be unrestricted or designated for a particular cause or program within your nonprofit organization.

Paddle raises have been shown to raise the most amount of money for the least amount of work at nonprofit auctions, making them a valuable addition to your upcoming event.

Keep reading to discover how this popular trend in fundraising events can help your nonprofit connect with supporters and raise more funds for your cause.

What is a Paddle Raise or Fund-a-Need?

Paddle raises are rising in popularity at nonprofit events. They serve as an interactive and emotionally compelling addition to fundraising auctions. Unlike traditional auctions, where participants bid on tangible items, the paddle raise focuses on inspiring donors to contribute monetary donations at various levels.  

How Does a Paddle Raise Work? 

A paddle raise will take place during the live portion of a fundraising auction. Many nonprofits will incorporate powerful storytelling into this segment of the evening to help drive more paddle raises. Generally, an auctioneer or emcee will guide a narrative that taps into the guest’s emotions and shares with them the benefits of their support. As the host moves through the narrative, guests will be asked to raise their paddles at various levels of support. In turn, this leads to a feeling of inclusiveness within the organization and creates a team-like mentality. 

The Benefits of Incorporating Paddle Raises

What makes paddle raises so successful is the emotional connection they create with your audience. It also taps into a segment of your audience who may not be interested in winning auction items but still wants to provide additional support to your cause. Below are some of the additional benefits of adding a paddle raise to your event. 

1.  Engages Donors  

Paddle raises allow nonprofits to establish an emotional connection between their cause and the donors. The storytelling element helps inspire empathy and gets donors in the spirit of giving. In addition, paddle raises provide an interactive platform for donors to actively engage with the cause, making them feel like valued stakeholders in the organization’s mission.

2. Offers Additional Immediate Impact

Unlike traditional auctions where there is one winner for one item,  paddle raises can have multiple “winners” at each giving level. They also generate immediate funds and require less work to process than a traditional auction. This allows nonprofits to respond to urgent needs promptly and efficiently. Through AuctionSnap, donors who bid specific amounts can add their donation right to their cart. Upon check out at the close of the evening the funds will be enroute to your nonprofit’s bank account. 

3. Makes Participation Accessible

Your paddle raise should engage a wide range of donors, from those who can give large amounts to those who contribute smaller donations. It fosters an inclusive environment where everyone can play a part in making a difference. Make sure your nonprofit offers a good range of giving opportunities at your paddle raise so everyone can participate. 

When Should the Paddle Raise Take Place? 

The paddle raise should take place at the arc of your event when the energy is high. According to The Gala Team, simply moving your paddle raiser earlier in the program can yield a 10% to 20% increase in funds raised. If you have it too early in the evening your guests are not properly primed and warmed up to participate. If you wait for too late in the evening, guests will be tired and ready to go home. Aim to have the paddle raise right in the middle of the event when guests are engaged and ready to give. 

Should Your Paddle Raise Focus on Unrestricted Funds? 

When your organization is planning your paddle raise, you might be wondering if you should have the funds restricted or unrestricted. Ultimately, choose what is best for your organization. If someone is attending your event, they are most likely invested in your cause and will give no matter what. 

One best practice is to offer specific tangible impacts of each giving level. This will help improve participation and engagement, without restricting your funds. For example, for $500, you will provide [specific tangible impact, e.g., sponsor educational materials and supplies for a classroom, aiding the learning experience for students and enhancing the educational program’s effectiveness].

Best Practices for a Successful Paddle Raise

Set Goals for What You Want to Raise at Each Level

Prior to your event, you should set a realistic goal for how much you should raise at each level. If you have done them in the past you will have a good starting point. Having a specific number can help rally up the crowd, people love to work towards a common goal. Aim for approximately 5-7 giving levels. Begin with the highest giving level, for instance, $10,000, and the lowest giving level, for example, $100. Then, set donation levels in between these two points. 

Hire a Professional Emcee or Auctioneer

Hiring a professional auctioneer who is an expert at getting the crowd going is one of the best things you can do to have a successful auction. These professionals know how to get a crowd going and tug on heartstrings. You also want someone who isn’t afraid to put people on the spot for a little healthy peer pressure to get more donations coming in. They will also help guide the narrative of the evening in a thoughtful and effective way. 

Your Excitement is Absolutely Essential

Put yourself in the shoes of a guest for a moment. Look around the room and imagine the staff prior to and during the paddle raise. Are they showing any signs of excitement? Are you excited to make a large donation if the staff members around you are uninterested or the emcee is asking for donations apologetically? 

Now imagine a paddle raise with an actively engaged staff strategically placed throughout the room that is obviously excited. They understand that a successful paddle raise could open doors that make a real impact. They are making eye contact with you and chipping in with their own verbal appeals. That excitement is contagious and encourages donors to give even more generously. Come ready to show your excitement in order to take your paddle raise to the next level.

Secure Major Support Ahead of Your Event

Nothing can bring down the energy of a paddle raise quite like low participation. Prior to your event, connect with major donors/board members who you anticipate will give at certain levels. Secure their support ahead of the event, so you know at each giving level you will have at least one raise. This will help bring up the energy of the evening and ultimately lead to more participation. Board members should be reminded that they can raise their paddles multiple times to increase peer pressure and participation.

Secure a Matching Donor

Securing a matching donor for your fundraising event can significantly boost the amount of money raised during your paddle raise. When a donor pledges to match the funds raised during a specific portion of the event, it creates a sense of urgency and excitement among your supporters. Knowing that their donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar motivates donors to contribute more generously, amplifying the impact of their contributions. Incorporating a well-known figure from your organization as the matching donor can enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of the match. It also can add an element of excitement and perhaps competitiveness that will increase donations even more. 

Utilize an Auction Management Tool to Simplify the Process

Nonprofit auction management tools like AuctionSnap help nonprofits streamline their auctions. With a paddle raise, you have a lot of moving parts to manage since you will (hopefully) be receiving lots of donations at varying levels. Tools like AuctionSnap will make it easy for you to enter bids and will simplify the checkout process for your guests. The more streamlined you can make your auction, the happier your participants will be. Learn more about how AuctionSnap works here.

How to Run a Paddle Raise in AuctionSnap

Step 1: Choose Your Paddle Raise Setup

In AuctionSnap, paddle raises are set up as “Buy It Now” items, either for online or in-person options. Your choice depends on whether you want participants to enter their own paddle raise amounts or have an admin manage the process.

Participant Entry: If you want participants to input their own paddle raise amounts, create a “Buy It Now Only (Online)” item for each paddle amount. Participants can then add these items to their cart. Admins will also be able to add these items to participants’ carts during the live event using the “Manual Bid Entry” page.

Admin Only Entry: If you want paddle raises hidden from participants’ view, set them up as “Buy It Now Only (In-Person Only)” items. This ensures the paddle raise amounts are only visible and accessible during the live event.

Step 2: Executing the Live Paddle Raise

Follow these steps to add paddle raises to a participant’s cart for checkout using the AuctionSnap platform:

For Participant Entry: After you complete each segment, instruct guests who have raised their paddles to add the buy-it-now item at the appropriate amount to their cart. 

For Admin Entry: During your event have someone record the raised amounts. Log into AuctionSnap and navigate to the “Manual Bid Entry” page. Locate the “Buy It Now” items you’ve set up for paddle raises. Input the raised amounts manually based on the recorded values.

Step 3: Checkout

 Regardless of the entry method you choose, participants can then proceed to check out using their mobile devices or opt for a traditional admin checkout line, based on your setup preference. 

Pro tip: Direct as many people as possible to check out from their own phone. It will make what was previously the most stressful and tedious part of your event a painless instant!

Final Thoughts

The paddle raise, or Fund-a-Need, is a powerful fundraising tool nonprofits can use at their fundraising events. By harnessing the collective generosity of donors, organizations can raise more at their nonprofit auctions. They provide an opportunity for an exciting component to your evening that will secure additional funds for your organization. With the help of a tool like AuctionSnap, your next paddle raise will run smoothly and help you further your mission.