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How to use Virgin Experiences for Fundraising Events with Fundraising Event Consultant & Auctioneer, Emily “Auction Emily” Quinn

There are endless solutions that our experiences can help you and your business, from employee rewards and customer acquisition to on-pack promos and even using experiences for fundraising events and auctions. We sat down with Emily Quinn, fundraising events consultant and auction expert who has been working with non-profit organizations and corporations of all sizes since 2008. Emily has recently found success using some of our exciting experiences during some of her events, here’s what she had to say about experiences and fundraising events:

Where, when and how should a nonprofit use packages and experiences at a fundraising event?

Purchasing travel or experience packages can be a worthwhile investment for nonprofit fundraising events. I don’t typically recommend using paid experiences for a live auction item but I absolutely love using them for drawings/raffles, as guest incentives or as engagement perks. For example:

  • Drawings/raffles: Use paid experiences/packages as the grand prize if you don’t have one or use smaller packages to supplement your raffle as runner-up prizes. Alternatively, if you create baskets or hold a “choose your prize” raffle, an experience can be used to supplement or be a stand-alone item
  • Guest incentives: Use experiences to motivate guests to purchase tickets by a specified date (ie: “purchase your ticket by X and be entered into a drawing to win Y!”
  • Gifts/Thanks: Offer your committee, board, leadership or keynote a little experiential thank-you!
  • (Sometimes) Live Auction: In rare cases, an experience/package may be used as a Live Auction item, for example if you have several items in one category (ie: sports) but feel you could use another category represented (ie: food/entertainment). Note that you’ll need to consider the cost of the experience when setting your starting bid!

Why do you think gifting experiences are growing in popularity for nonprofits?

“I had the best experience of my life thanks to an event I attended for that organization! I won a trip and took my 2 childhood besties. It was unforgettable.”

Brain science research and happiness psychology research proves what I call the “Hatrick of Happy Spending.” What does this mean? That humans can literally “buy happiness” when they spend their money in the following three ways:

  1. On experiences. 
  2. On other people (ie: donations or gifts).
  3. When they pre-pay for experiences (think all-inclusive travel or gift certificates redeemed at the end of a meal).

For my nonprofit clients fundraising events offer the perfect recipe to create this Hatrick and it’s a great way to create positive stewardship opportunities with new donors.

Investing in experiences for your event audience means you are giving them that perfect Hatrick:

  1. They spend their money helping people.
  2. They gain an experience, and…
  3. …the experience is already paid for.

Voila! Now your guest associates their good time with your organization.

Is it ever a good idea for a nonprofit to pay for packages?

It certainly can be! This is a simple ROI (Return on Investment) problem: Cost of Item vs. Profit Potential

Cost of Item < Profit Potential

There are a few exceptions to this simple equation (I’ll explain in a moment) but really, that’s it!

If you are considering purchasing packages, look for ones that are “high interest, moderate value” items (always keeping your ROI equation in mind, of course!):

High InterestModerate Value
80%+ of your audience would want to do itCost of Item < Profit Potential
NearbyConsider other event costs
$0/minimal additional cost to participateValue doesn’t exceed a natural “comfort zone” for your audience
Accessible: Experience is aligned with the audience mobility level (ie: active/young audience might be more interested in sky-diving)Value is high enough that the experience feels special or “just out of reach”
Braggable (guess what WE did!?)
Audience can imagine themselves doing it

Now for the exceptions to our simple ROI equation:

  • You are purchasing gifts/thank-you’s (the “return” on this is stewardship, not dollars)
  • Your purchase price might exceed the return for that particular item but if it adds value to the entire event, it might be worth investing

Are there other ways nonprofits can use packages and experiences?

Human beings crave connection and love creating memories. And let’s be honest: nobody needs more “stuff.” At a time when many of us are considering our consumer impact on the planet, experiences and opportunities become more valuable. Additionally, the prevalence of social media means more people want to show their friends how much fun they are having. Yep–people love sharing their FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – inducing photos.

Here are some ways my nonprofit clients use Virgin Experience Gifts: 

  • Thank the Board: Did your board do a great job? Thank them with an opportunity to get together, get to know each other and have some fun.
  • Board Incentive: Need to motivate your board to sell tables, fundraise, recruit, etc? Create a friendly competition and reward the high-producer with an experience.
  • Team incentive: Is your team feeling frustrated, beat-down or worn out? Create a playful competition among them and offer an experience as a reward.
  • Board development: Is your board incohesive but you don’t have the bandwidth to plan a retreat? Have them participate in an experience together.
  • Team building and Staff Appreciation: Nothing says “thank you for all you do” like a day off, having fun. Get out of the office and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Volunteer appreciation/team-building: Have some outstanding volunteers? Get them together for some community fun! Note you can even sell these spots to your volunteers! Many volunteers crave community (that’s often part of why they volunteer!) so offering ways for them to connect around your organization creates good-will all around.

What experience would you want to take part in and why?

I would love to take my kids to NYC for the VIP Hamilton experience and dinner with the cast! Locally, I am a big fan of the dining adventures!

Experiences for fundraising events and auctions are a fantastic idea. You can find out more about Emily and her business, Auction Emily below:

So what are you waiting for?
Let’s get talking!