Two Steps Forward, or Three Steps Back?

Will adding technology help or hinder your guild's event?

There are many ways to integrate technology into your guild's fundraising efforts, such as providing for online event registration, conducting fundraising campaigns by email and enabling guests to bid on auction items or make donations via their smartphones.

Deciding whether to add technology to your event can be both tempting and intimidating, so the Guild Association's Fundraising Development and Support Committee has put together the list of tips below. Review them as you evaluate whether new technology will help or hinder your guild's fundraising efforts.

Know your audience

Do your supporters shop online? Do they use smartphones? Are they active on Facebook and other social media platforms? The more comfortable your guests are with technology, the more successful your technology-based fundraising efforts will be.

Read the small print and ask questions

Before you buy a new technology service or product, review the contract carefully and ask questions. Are there upfront costs in addition to a fee per transaction? Is it a one-time contract, or does it span multiple years? What information will the service provide after the event? Confirm that you will have access to donor names and addresses for acknowledgement letters and tax purposes, as not all companies provide this information. Also, ask whether the new product you're considering is compatible with other software you use.

Calculate the costs and benefits

Depending on overall cost, if the technology saves time and increases revenue, it may be worthwhile. Also, compare the fees as well as the features and capabilities of similar products. You may find that a small difference in the fee percentage or features of a technology saves (or makes) your guild money.

Use it wisely, then widely

Consider adding technology to one aspect of your event and then expanding if it's successful. For example, use technology to make sure every guest has an opportunity to donate. Some of your attendees may not win an auction item or raise their paddle. Add a "text to donate" option for donations at less than the lowest raise-the-paddle level, and see how guests respond.

Test it

And then test it again! If the technology you're considering relies on smartphones, test the reception at your venue. If the technology requires wireless Internet access, test the speed and determine whether guests will need a password. If you're showing a PowerPoint presentation or video, make sure your computer is compatible with the venue's projector and sound system. Also, remember to test how technology affects other aspects of your event. For example, can your guests easily bid on silent auction items with their phone while enjoying appetizers and drinks? Are there tables or other surfaces near your silent auction area where guests can put their plates and wine glasses?

Have help and other options available

When the Symphony Guild first used "text to bid" for its silent auction, volunteers handed out cards with instructions and assisted guests as needed. When the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Guild included a "text to donate" option at the Run of Hope, members also set up a location where participants could donate in person. The Imagine Guild uses online registration but also provides an option to print out and mail a registration form. Also, remember to ask the company and/or venue how quickly tech support can respond if there is a technology issue you can't solve.

Reevaluate each year

In addition to determining whether new technology increased your revenue or aided in event reconciliation, ask guests and guild members if they liked using it. As you make plans for your next event, remember that technology changes quickly. Something that didn't work very well two years ago may be worth trying again.

Online Fundraising

If your guild wants to fundraise online, consider creating a fundraising page, a new tool available through Seattle Children's. Learn more by calling the Guild Association at 206-987-2153.