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National NonProfit Day

National Nonprofit Day
(Quote source)

National NonProfit Day is on August 17th. At Gesture, we have worked with over 3,000 nonprofit organizations to make hope happen with our fundraising and mobile bidding technology and will have helped raise over $500 million by year’s end. We wanted to take today to share about this celebratory day, hear from our employees on why they love working with nonprofit organizations and offer some tips on how nonprofits can increase donations by leveraging this day!



Let’s begin the celebration of this significant day by touching on the history of nonprofit organizations in the United States. Although some nonprofits are thousands of years old (such as Harvard College), most charitable organizations were founded within the past 30 years2. In fact, nonprofits are the most rapidly growing organizations in the world. Nonprofit organizations differ immensely in scope and scale from other types of organizations, which makes it difficult to determine exactly what nonprofits are, what they do, and how they do it. Nonprofits can range from informal organizations without employees to multi-billion dollar foundations with thousands of employees and members. Because of the many complex and diverse nonprofits working in every community, millions of lives are touched each day. It would be challenging to find anyone who has not been influenced in some way by a nonprofit organization, whether they knew it or not.


Hear from Gesture Employees:

Since 2011, Gesture has partnered with thousands of nonprofit organizations to capture each helping hand, each friendly smile, and each round of applause by turning inspiration into action. We are motivated and energized by the work our partners do. Our Event Operations Specialist, Loretta, loves working with nonprofit organizations because:


“Partnering with our charities offers a continuing reminder that there are still people who are ready, willing and able to help those in need no matter what it takes. It’s a humbling experience to see and hear the outreach of love and sadness that exists and know somehow we’re all striving for the same goal, to Make Hope Happen one community at a time.”





How organizations can benefit:

National NonProfit Day provides a notable opportunity for organizations to advocate their cause. Here are a few tips on how to effectively increase donations and awareness by leveraging National NonProfit Day:

  1. Create a social media strategy: Many nonprofits use social media to promote their organizations because it’s an easy way for people to show support for causes close to their hearts. You should increase the amount of content shared on social media and include information about how your audience can get involved and give to your cause.
  2. Use email to send reminders and donation opportunities: Use your email list or monthly newsletter to remind your supporters that National NonProfit Day is coming up. In these emails, you should provide your audience with ways to donate and interact with your organization. You might also include a set of promotional images or graphics focused on National NonProfit Day in the digital/email reminders. Send these notices up to a month in advance as well as the weeks leading up to National NonProfit Day.
  3. Thank your audience and donors: Although the day has ended, the work isn’t done yet. It’s critical to measure any engagement your organization received in response to the day (i.e. the number of donations, views, shares, volunteers, etc.). Next, update your social media channels and email newsletter thanking your audience for their participation and reporting on how successful the campaign was.


Utilizing these tips will contribute to your success on National NonProfit Day. These suggestions will increase your donor audience and overall donations as well as provide your donors with more ways to interact with your organization in the future.



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Inc. Magazine Unveils 36th Annual List of
America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies—the Inc. 5000

Gesture Ranks No. 1423 on the 2017 Inc. 5000
with Three-Year Sales Growth of 285%


CHICAGO, August 16, 2017 – Inc. magazine today ranked Gesture, a mobile fundraising technology company, NO. 1423 on its 36th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment— its independent small and midsized businesses. Companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees of the Inc. 5000.

“At Gesture, our mission is to help nonprofits of all sizes fundraise for their causes and exceed their goals to help Make Hope Happen,” said Jim Alvarez, founder and CEO of Gesture. “We are extremely proud to be named on the Inc. 5000 list for the first time, as it symbolizes our leadership in the fundraising technology industry and is a testament to the dedication and hard work our team puts in day after day, year after year.

“Since our conception in 2011, we have strived to solve the challenges fundraisers face” Alvarez added. “We are innovators striving to continually improve upon how we help nonprofits reach their revenue goals by improving their donors’ experiences.”

The 2017 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 16) is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year average growth of 481%. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $206 billion, and the companies on the list collectively generated 619,500 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at

“The Inc. 5000 is the most persuasive evidence I know that the American Dream is still alive,” says Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “The founders and CEOs of the Inc. 5000 tell us they think determination, risk taking, and vision were the keys to their success, and I believe them.”

The annual Inc. 5000 event honoring all the companies on the list will be held from October 10 through 12, 2017 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, CA. Speakers include some of the greatest entrepreneurs of this and past generations, such as former Ford president Alan Mullaly, FUBU CEO and founder and “Shark Tank” star Daymond John, Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin, researcher and #1 New York Times bestseller Brené Brown, and Gravity Payments’ founder and CEO Dan Price.

About Gesture:
Gesture’s mission is to “Make Hope Happen” for nonprofit organizations through use of their innovative mobile fundraising technology. Gesture’s platform is packed with tools that allow charity partners to fully manage fundraising campaigns. The intuitive products help nonprofits connect with donors on their mobile devices making it easy to give. Located in the Chicagoland area, Gesture employs a team of 70, each member dedicated to helping nonprofits achieve fundraising success.

For more information contact:
Brandon Stec
Gesture Marketing Director

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000

The 2017 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2013 to 2016. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2013. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2016. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2013 is $100,000; the minimum for 2016 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at

About Inc. Media:
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Winner of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012. Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 18,000,000 today. For more information, visit

The Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation’s most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates their remarkable achievements. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.

For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit

For more information contact:
Inc. Media
Drew Kerr

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7 Additional Fundraising Opportunities at your Event

Looking for ways to bring your audience excitement and increase revenue at your next fundraising event? Fixed-price opportunities of chance are a great way to do so! There are many different kinds of opportunities. Some of the more popular ones are explained below. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your audience; pick three or less for your event, depending on your audience size.

  1. Mystery Box: This can be executed many ways to best fit the theme of your event and your audience. For example, you can gather jewelry donations from local jewelers and sell each box for a flat fee. Donors won’t learn what’s inside their box until after they purchased in to participate, adding to the element of surprise!
  2. Heads or Tails: Participants will pay a flat fee. You can either use the honor system or give each participant a pin/necklace/etc. to denote that they are a participant. There are several spots in your event program where you can incorporate this. Your guests guess whether or not the coin the auctioneer flips will come up heads or tails. If they think heads, they put their hands on their head. Tails? Their hands go on their “tail”. If they guess wrong, they sit down. Keep flipping until there is only one person remains standing, and they win a small prize!
  3. Selling Commemorative Gear:Do you have leftover shirts, bags, or other swag from previous events? Did you decide to create a special sweatshirt for your organization’s anniversary? You can sell these at your event, or pre-purchase on the site, to increase revenue and allow guests to spread awareness for your organization!
  4. Wine Pull: There are several ways to execute a wine pull, but the concept is the same. Like with the mystery box, guests will pay a flat fee for a random bottle of wine. You can partner with local liquor shops to get bottles donated in a range of values from $10 to $100. Set the price per pull and guests will have the opportunity to win a bottle in varying price ranges and types.
  5. Raffles/Opportunity Draw: Sell tickets, which give guests the opportunity to win a basket of goods or an item. You can pull the winning raffle/opportunity draw ticket at the end of the silent auction or general donation campaign when you have the attention of the whole audience!
  6. Cakewalk: Very similar to musical chairs; the game begins when the music starts and participants walk in a circle on a path of numbers. When the music stops, every participant stays on the number they are on. The person who is running the event then pulls a number from a container and determines the winner of the cakewalk! The prize is traditionally a cake, but other baked goods work as well. You can charge a fee to play the game and receive donated cakes from bakeries or volunteers to increase event revenue with a fun game!
  7. Sign-Up Party: You will need a volunteer, community, or board member that is willing to host a small party on a set date for a limited number of guests. You can then sell the “invites” to this party at a flat price. The party could include dinner, drinks, and/or an activity like a movie or dancing. Use fun party themes to encourage guests to sign-up!

Gesture’s software makes it easy for you to offer these additional fundraising opportunities at your events using the already-present technology. Contact Gesture today here to learn more about how you can streamline event processes and increase event revenue using mobile bidding and fundraising technology.

If you have any questions about any of the fundraising opportunities listed above or want to discuss other possible ideas and how best to implement them through Gesture, please reach out to your Account Manager.

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SoleMate Program

Charity Partner Feature: Girls on the Run St. Louis

What do you do when you want to combine your passion for biking and your commitment to Girls on the Run and empowering girls for a lifetime of healthy living? You do what David Pokorny is currently doing and bike from Wrigley Field in Chicago to Kauffman Stadium (“The K”) in Kansas City via Busch Stadium in St. Louis while supporting the Girls on the Run St. Louis Scholarship Program.

David is raising money through the Girls on the Run St. Louis SoleMate program, a charity athlete program that challenges parents, friends, coaches, and volunteers to raise money for Girls on the Run through their own personal athletic goals.

This ride is important to David because it shows the girls in the Girls on the Run program that you can set large goals, surround yourself with people who support you, work towards your goal, and accomplish what you set out to do.

Girls on the Run St. Louis serves 6,500 girls annually and around 75% of these participants receive some sort of scholarship in order to participate in the program. Girls on the Run St. Louis is committed to offering their program to every girl regardless of ability to pay the program fee and SoleMates, like David, ensure that this is possible. The funds that David raises as a SoleMate are crucial to helping girls in 3rd – 8th grade learn about living a healthy lifestyle and setting them up for success with a “can-do” attitude.

Last year, David rode with friends across Missouri and was able to raise $6,000. That ride inspired him to attempt something even bigger this year. For the 2017 ride, David’s goal was to raise $5,000 and sponsor two full Girls on the Run teams for the fall 2017 season. However, David has raised over $6,500 already and the ride isn’t over yet!

You can help David raise funds to support more Girls on the Run St. Louis participants by visiting his SoleMates Facebook page here and donating on the Gesture page here.

David in St. Louis

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Double Up

Gesture’s Brandon Stec collaborated with Winspire’s Ian Lauth to teach the “double up” strategy for live auctions. When you double up on auction items, you not only increase donations, but you also increase audience excitement and involvement.

What is the “double up” strategy? The “double up” strategy requires you to have two identical items, however the second item should be kept as a secret from the audience. After an intense bidding war, you end up selling the first item to the top bidder. You can then offer the second surprise item to the second-highest bidder for the same price and double your revenue on this particular item.

Watch the webinar below to learn the necessary tips and tricks to successfully double up at your next live auction!



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Paddle Raise or Mobile Giving?

Many charity partners we work with have trouble with deciding whether to use a paddle raise or mobile giving campaign to execute their event fund-the-need. The goal is, of course, to raise as much money as possible for their cause. There are several factors that should be considered when determining which method to use to gather direct donations at your event!

Factors to consider:

  1. Audience Excitement
  2. Event Size
  3. Ease and Speed
  4. Donor Base
  5. Venue/Program

The two main ways that charities collect donations during the fund-the-need portion of their event are by raising paddles and giving via a mobile web browser. While the paddle raise is traditional and has been working for years to help charities raise funds during their fund-the-need, mobile methods have become more and more popular.

The paddle raise method usually requires the auctioneer to ask for donations at different amounts from the crowd and donors will raise bid numbers to commit to giving at that certain level. The highest donation level should be something that at least one donor is guaranteed to give and the lowest recommended donation level traditionally is no less than $100.

There are two ways to implement mobile giving: text to give and fund the need with mobile support. Mobile giving allows users to donate using their phone. Usually, an auctioneer will lead this portion of the program and ask donors to give at the same levels as with the paddle raise, but instead of raising their number and needing to process payments after, donors can give instantly via phone. This also allows you to show the total donation amount in front of the crowd on a digital display and can help the auctioneer encourage donations as you get closer and closer to various “mile markers”.

Audience Excitement:

  • Paddle Raise: The paddle raise is a great way to harness audience excitement at the event because donors can see who is giving and the bandwagon effect encourages them to donate as well, at any amount.
  • Mobile Giving: Similar to texting to give, mobile giving allows for the charity to show real time donation data to increase audience excitement as the numbers raise. Some platforms, like Gesture, will even be able to display donor names on the screen showing who is giving, similar to a paddle raise, and allows for customized images rather than the typical thermometer.

Event Size:

  • Paddle Raise: Volunteers are required to jot down the donor numbers and amounts to ensure accurate donation counts and correctly process payments at checkout. Because of this, it’s not recommended to use the paddle raise if your event has over 500 attendees.  
  • Mobile Giving: This method is great for any event size because of the simplicity. Donors can enter their credit card information on their mobile device and don’t need to checkout with a volunteer at the end. Gesture can provide Gesture Pros based on the number of guests to ensure you are properly staffed in case some donors need help registering or entering their information.

Ease and Speed:

  • Paddle Raise: It’s hard to track the total as more and more donors agree to give and requires a lengthier checkout process.
  • Mobile bidding: Guests register, enter credit card information, donate, and checkout from their phone making the process of giving simple and seamless. Adding this to your program will still get you the experience of the paddle raise without the need to collect donations using pen and paper and process payments after the event.

Donor Base:

  • Paddle Raise: Long-time donors may feel more comfortable with a paddle raise as it is more traditional. However, with a paddle raise, only donors who are present at the event can give.
  • Mobile Giving: Younger donors will feel more comfortable giving using their mobile device, and long-time donors can receive help from event volunteers and Gesture staff members who are there to help register, bid, and aid in any other way possible. Donors can also give remotely if they are unable to attend the event! Mobile giving can also be utilized as more of a ‘soft ask’; donors are prompted to donate but there does not need to be any added pressure pressure.

Venue Layout:

  • Paddle Raise: A paddle raise will work best in a space where guests are seated for the donation campaign and the auctioneer can clearly see their bidder number.
  • Mobile Giving: This method works great when the event is more of a cocktail party style, without a formal program or seated dinner. Donors are able to continue mingling without needing to be gathered in one area.

Event Program:

  • Both types do best when the campaign is kicked off by some form of testimonial or introduction to the campaign explaining exactly what the donors’ generous donations will be benefitting. Some ways our partners have done this in the past is by creating a video montage summing up the past year’s accomplishments and an explanation of what is still needed, a testimonial from a person who was directly impacted by the work of the organization, or by having some influential voice/figure in the community who can express the need for donated funds give a short speech.




Paddle Raise:

  • If sponsors are paying a certain amount for their table or other event benefits, ask them to instead donate during the fund-the-need section of your program instead of pay beforehand. Because this is usually a larger donation, it inspires other donors to give at that same level.
  • Have two separate volunteers recording bidder numbers and donation amounts to ensure that everything is accurate to make checkout as smooth a process as possible.
  • Try to ensure that there is at least one donor at the highest level that is read aloud. This kicks off the momentum of the campaign and helps avoid an awkward moment. You can even plant someone in the audience to make that donation and remove the charge from their account at a later time.

Mobile Giving:

  • Have volunteers placed around the room so that if anyone needs help with the process, they can be attended to in a timely manner. Gesture staff also provides this service as part of the on-site staffing package.
  • Ask your third-party provider about customizing the keyword donors will text to match your charity so that it is easy to remember!


If you have any questions about which method would be best for your organization and event, please reach out to your Account Manager or contact us we will be able to offer more advice.


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How to: Staff Different Elements of your Event

You’ve been planning a major event for your organization for the past year, and as the event date is nearing, you’re getting nervous about executing everything from item procurement to checkout utilizing just yourself and the other planning committee members. You begin to realize that because of the size of your event and the number of tasks you will need done, you’ll need to bring on event staff or volunteers to help make the event a success. How do you go about finding and training the right people, and how do you ensure that everything is set up in a way that makes it easiest for the staff? What is the best way to go about managing the staff before, at, and after the event? 

Gesture Account Managers receive questions like these each and every day. Below, we’ve compiled some information and tips from our Account Managers on how to best staff different components of your event so that you can worry about the big picture:

Before your Event:

Many event chairs will utilize their volunteer network to create committees before the event to manage aspects related to finding sponsorships, increasing event attendance, and procuring auction items.


Event sponsors are a great way to offset the costs of hosting an event. You can ask sponsors to help with your event technology, consignment travel items, and much more. It’s important to recognize your event sponsors somewhere at the event, either in the program, on signage, or during the spoken remarks.

Traits that will help volunteers gather sponsorships: professionalism, effective communication, outgoing personality


What better way to increase event attendance than by encouraging volunteers and board members to share about the event on social media and invite their friends? You can either require that each volunteer receive a set number of committed attendees, or you can create a competition to challenge the volunteers to see who can bring the most people!

Traits that will help volunteers increase event attendance: social media savvy, approachable, driven 

Auction Item Procurement:

It’s impossible to have an auction without items! Auction item acquisition is one of the hardest aspects of planning an event, so designating a volunteer committee to take care of this is a great way to focus on the big picture.

Traits that will help volunteers acquire items: organization, creativity, cordial

Event Set up:

While the committees above will start planning months in advance, the event set up committee will only need to be available in the days before the event. This would be a great role for someone who can’t dedicate a lot of time to volunteering, but still wants to be involved.

Skills/traits that will aid someone with event set up: can-do attitude, teamwork, problem solving


During your Event:

You’ve been planning the event behind the scenes for months, but there’s still so much to be done on the night of your event. You’ll need several volunteers or staff to aid with check in, the auctions and raffles, instant buy merchandise, and checkout.

Check in:

Check in can range in complexity from saying “welcome” to guests and showing them to the event space, to collecting credit card information and giving donors pre-assigned table and bidder numbers. You can either use volunteers to aid with event check in or use a company like Gesture that provides trained staff members to help with the more complex aspects of check in, like collecting pertinent information and ensuring that donors are in the system.

Silent and Live Auctions:

Both auctions require volunteers or staff to help donors bid, keep a watchful eye on the items, and answer any questions that may come up. Using a company like Gesture will allow you to place your volunteers in other roles and the Gesture Pros will handle the aspects of bidding.


Offering raffle or instant-buy items at your event? One of the best ways to execute a raffle is to have volunteers walking around the event space with tickets. You can even tie a balloon to the raffle basket so they are always visible from anywhere in the room! For instant-buy items offered at a fixed price, like merchandise or commemorative gear, staff a table with volunteers and minimize the risk of having cash on hand is by using a company like Gesture where guests can purchase the merchandise using their phones.


Checkout is most efficient when you use a combination of staff members and volunteers. Gesture works with your volunteers seamlessly to shorten lines and increase donor happiness. After the auction closes, donors will be sent a link to pay on their phone and then they can pick up their items with the volunteers. Donors can also checkout with a Gesture staff member and then receive their items. Gesture is able to process all of the payments before the event is over, leaving you to not worry about receiving all of the funds you raised!


After your Event:

Clean up:

After all is said and done and the donors have left the dance floor, you’ll need a group of volunteers or staff members to help with cleaning up and breaking down the event. They will need to pack up any unclaimed auction items, take down event decor, and clean the space. Often, events run late into the night. Treat your clean up crew to some late night pizza to show your appreciation for their dedication!


Example: PAWS Chicago Beach Party

Gesture worked with PAWS Chicago and their 100 volunteers to seamlessly execute an event for 500 attendees. Here is a breakdown of how PAWS Chicago utilized some of their volunteers and Gesture staff members:

Gesture provided 10 Pros for the event, and the Pros were able to move between different tasks to make the most out of the number of people available. For example, two of the four people that helped with the live auction also helped with the fund the need. PAWS Chicago also made great use of their volunteers by using some of the auction item acquisition committee members as volunteers for the silent auction table.

PAWS Beach Party

Image Credit: PAWS Chicago

Each event is different, and that’s why our Gesture Account Managers are experts in making the most out of the staff and volunteers you have available. If you’re looking for staffing solutions for your auction or more information about what Gesture does, get in touch with us here.

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6 Tips for Texting Donors

Text messaging is a great way to reach your donors where they are most active: on their phones. Below are some tips on how to utilize text messaging during your fundraising event to increase donations.

  1. Keep your Messages Short and Simple: You don’t want donors to take their attention away from your carefully planned program to read your text message; make it short and easy to read so that your donor can spend just a few seconds reading and your message will be properly conveyed.
  2. Have a Call-to-Action: In your messaging, tell your donors what you want them to do and make it easy for them to complete that action by including a link. Most of your donors will have cell phones, so accessing a link on their phone will be simple and lead them to your pre-prepared web material.
  3. Create Urgency/FOMO: Compel your donors to do what you are asking them to do by utilizing the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) technique. Giving something an expiration date or time increases the urgency on the end of the donors.
  4.  Timing is Everything: Create a communications plan for the event and dedicate a volunteer to execute this plan. No matter the amount of planning behind an event, the timing will deviate so having a person send the messages instead of using an automated program will ensure the messages are delivered at the right time! (If utilizing Gesture, our on-site team helps in the execution of this plan and already has text message templates ready for you to use).
  5. Send Meaningful Content: You don’t want your donors to think that your messages are spam and want to unsubscribe because they are annoyed. Make sure that you are sending content that is relevant and useful to them. For example, it matters to each attendee that the silent auction is closing at 10:30 pm, but it may not matter to everyone that Jimmy Gesture is the winner of the rock climbing package item.
  6. Give Donors a Way to Give: If you are using text messaging to reach donors, donors should be able to give using their phone. Whether you use text-to-give, a mobile friendly donation site, or an app, the ultimate call to action of each message should be for the donor to make a donation to your organization. The easier you make it to give, the more likely you will receive donations!

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The Best Silent Auction Items


The best silent auction items are those that are unique, creative, interesting, and often can’t be easily purchased. These types of items are sure to draw lots of attention and frequent bids, increasing the overall revenue from your event. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the theoretical auction box, your donors will be more intrigued to bid on an item they haven’t seen at an auction previously!

A great silent auction line-up should read like a bucket list: once in a lifetime experiences that everyone loves and can’t pass up. Most of the items below are packages; packages are a great way to increase the percentage of fair market value you receive, and therefore increase revenue!

Below are some popular bucket list items and how you can re-purpose these as items in your auction.


Bucket List Item: Skydiving
Auction Item: Dive and Dine Package

Blow your donors away with an amazing package to conquer a fear or experience something completely different. This package could include transportation to and from the skydiving site, custom “I WENT SKYDIVING!” shirts with your organization’s name and logo on the back, photos and video from the dive, and lunch or dinner at a local restaurant for after the big jump.


Bucket List Item: Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant
Auction Item: Local Cooking Class

Spice up the auction with a cooking class! This will allow donors to learn how to make a new dish or explore a new cuisine. You could either purchase two entries to any class or talk to a local culinary school about hosting a private class and sell 10-20 tickets so that multiple event attendees can participate in the bidding and the class. A neat extra would be to include custom aprons to wear to the class and cooking at home!


Bucket List Item: Run a Marathon
Auction Item: Themed 5K

Many people have the aspiration to eventually conquer a full or half marathon, but everyone needs to start somewhere! Offer entry to a fun themed 5K and package the race entry with a training plan and a gift card to a local sports store so that the winner can purchase new gear. Donors will be running to the table to check out this great package that promotes both fun and healthy living!


Bucket List Item: Eat Pizza from Italy
Auction Item: Pizza Tour of your City

Your donors may not be able to travel to Italy to try authentic pizza, but you can offer them a taste of that trip with gift certificates to the top pizza restaurants in your city! Try to get donations from at least four restaurants so that your donors have the opportunity to sample different pizzas. You can even create two different packages: one with 4-6 restaurants and another with 6-10 restaurants to capture the attention of different levels of donors.


Bucket List Item: Ride in a Fire Truck
Auction Item: Firefighter for an Afternoon

While most adults don’t have this on their bucket list, you would be hard-pressed to find a kid that didn’t want to ride in a fire truck or police car. Speak with your local law-enforcement department about offering a ride in one of their vehicles and a tour of the station as a silent auction item. Have the fire truck pick up the kids from school and meet them at the station for a tour and meet and greet with the firefighters!


These are only a few ideas of some great silent or live auction items — there are many more out there! If you’re feeling stuck, here’s a tip: ask some of your friends and family about the best or most memorable auction item they’ve purchased in the past, or what they would love to see at an auction.

Don’t forget to be creative and think outside the box and you will be sure to increase auction revenue at your next event!

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Originally published in the June 2017 AHP Connect.

Fundraising technology is a game changer for fundraising professionals, making it easier to gather, sort and store valuable donor data and insights. Use technology to streamline efficiencies and strengthen donor relationships as you strategically integrate functionality across your systems.

Analyze your data. Fundraising technology makes it easy to track results and provide insights. User-friendly platforms deliver data offering opportunities for fundraisers to make real-time adjustments to their appeals and campaigns that will better resonate with their donor pool.

Offer ways to donate via mobile devices. In 2015, Blackbaud reported that 17% of the Giving Tuesday donations it processed came from mobile devices (1). Convey a sense of urgency along with your needs and encourage quick action with the ‘donate now’ button.

Create technology plans for special events. Incorporate mobile bidding in silent and live auctions to ensure every item has been “spoken for.” Give bidders time to raise more money by opening auctions online in advance of events, creating more excitement and offering non-attendees a chance to donate, as well. Strategic use of technology can also help make the best use of volunteer time. For example, transferring event invitations and pre-registration to an online platform frees up volunteers to spend more time on expanding donor relationships rather than on telephone outreach or tracking mailed RSVPs.

Streamline event registration and event check-in with technology. You’ll reduce the need to recruit multiple volunteers and you’ll help guests avoid long lines at the beginning and end of the occasion. Embrace real-time data to make targeted decisions, such as delivering personalized messages to key donors to encourage higher bidding and make sure all items bring in funds. You might save hours of post-event analysis by accessing accurate reports based on real time check out results. Use these powerful insights to quickly reach out to thank key donors, building stronger more powerful donor relationships.

If events are not a core of your tactical toolkit, crowdfunding offers a new way for donors to get involved. The success of crowdfunding demonstrates that today’s donors want to understand the impact of their dollars on specific projects and programs. Be sure to highlight your needs by emphasizing the impact donations bring to patients. Crowdfunding websites and software allow institutions to use fewer general appeals in favor of more targeted requests for assistance (2).

Hospitals that implement modern tactics may reach and retain more donors and more effectively juggle outreach and relationship building. For example, nonprofits retain only one in five new donors due to negative post-gift experiences. Think about ways to use technology in the service of creative stewardship plans. Try, for example, embed a patient thank you video message in a donor email.1 Bring your appeals and campaigns to life by adding compelling patient stories and images.

Cracking the code of what hospital donors are seeking can be a laborious and often variable process. However, the more multifaceted and customized the approach, the more chances there are of getting it right.




About the Author: Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of full-service fundraising technology company Gesture. Gesture has helped nonprofits across the country raise over $300 million since 2011 through the use of technology. Alvarez is the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award for his innovative idea and launch of Gesture. Alvarez drives the growing company to make hope happen for nonprofits developing innovative ideas that embrace technology.



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Tip Tuesday: How to Unite your CEO and Nonprofit Board

Through the past six years of working with charity partners of various sizes and structures, we’ve found that some nonprofit executive directors have a difficult time motivating and engaging their board. Think of your organization as a large sailboat. There are many necessary tasks and responsibilities and sailing requires the help of every member on board; some are responsible for steering, others for the angles of the sails, and more for managing the cables and making sure everyone is safe! Without everyone working together, the boat would stay in place or (worse) sink.

It’s the captain’s job to get everyone “on board” with the goal and motivate the crew to keep up their good work despite any hard conditions.

Assign Roles and Committees

Like a boat’s crew is split up so that all of the responsibilities are covered, a board needs to be separated into committees to ensure all tasks are handled. Here are some of the roles or committees you will need when planning a fundraising initiative or event:

  • Auction item procurement: gather popular items like packages and experiences to increase auction revenue. Check with local businesses and Gesture’s Corporate Donation Guide to get an idea of who to ask.
  • Volunteer management: make sure your volunteers know what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, and how to do it!
  • PR/social media: increase donor numbers and donations at your event by getting the word out about your event to the public. Spread the word using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also reach out to local news sources to see if they can host you to speak more about the event to their audience!
  • Venue logistics: assign a committee to take charge of securing the venue, organizing the catering, bar, furniture, and other key event details to make the day special. This group of people should be highly organized and preferably have experience planning events so that you can be confident nothing will slip through the cracks.
  • Payment/donation management: ensure you have a safe, secure, and easy way for your donors to pay for auction items and make donations throughout the event. Partner with a mobile bidding and fundraising platform like Gesture to make giving easier at your events.

Separate your board based on their abilities and passions. This will make them more excited to tackle their new project and help create an amazing event.

Leverage Passion

Also, keep in mind that each and every board member is part of the organization because they care about the cause you support. Even though it may be hard to motivate them at times, keep in mind that they too want do what they can for your cause and use that as a way to ignite them. When in doubt, remember to SAIL:

S – stay in charge: you are the leader of this ship
A – ask the board for feedback so they feel heard and you can change what’s not working
I – inspire your board with the mission of your organization
L – lead by example: show the board the types of behaviors you are looking for

Using Gesture for your event will help you with more than just payment and donation management. Gesture offers a myriad of services that can help with social media, bidding management, donor logistics, fund-the-need donation campaigns, and more. Learn more about the services Gesture offers and how they can help to make your next fundraising initiative a success here.

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Come One, Come All!

Why Nonprofits Need to Implement Mobile Fundraising Now

Written by Nhu Te for NonProfit Pro June 2017 Edition

Every industry— ours included— is transitioning into a more mobile-focused mindset. We are entering (if we haven’t already) a device-dependent era. Like it or not, the majority of people are attached to their smartphones, tablets, what-have-you. Whether you prefer the traditional way of fundraising (face-to-face), the more advanced way (digital) or a combination of both, we can all agree that technology is taking over the world by storm. While there may be disadvantages to up-and-coming technologies, there are tools out there that help bring nonprofit organizations closer to donors. For instance, let’s take a look at mobile fundraising.

What Makes Mobile Effective?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, let’s look at some stats that back up this claim. According to a study by Durham+Company, the use of a mobile device to donate to charities has significantly increased since 2013—a whopping 80 percent. In 2013, about 81 percent of people claimed they used a smartphone or tablet to donate. That number jumped to 93 percent in 2015.

When looking at demographics, Baby Boomers who donated through a mobile device grew from 13 percent to 19 percent in that two-year time frame, while such gifts from Millennials grew from 9 percent to 21 percent.

Transitioning or just making donating to your organization available through mobile would be a smart move for any organization, due to the fact that it’s more convenient. The “2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition” from Deloitte found that Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up and at an average of 47 times per day—that number almost doubles to 82 times among those between the ages of 18 and 24.

David Heitman, VP of communications at Wiland, believes that mobile is the most direct route to donors’ daily lives.

“When a device becomes ever-present like this in the lives of donors and prospects, it’s essential to be there to connect with your message and appeals. This ubiquity of smartphone use is good justification for having a mobile-first strategy for marketing and fundraising,” he said.

Like I said before, one of the things I do on my device is check my email. The mail application might be the most used on my phone. Why? Well, because I get a buzz or a ding every time a new email comes in. It’s second-nature for me to check it. And I’m sure donors are doing the same thing, so it’s important for organizations to implement a good email strategy for reaching their donors, because a bad email can send donors running in the opposite direction.

“For nonprofits using email to reach their donors, mobile is crucial because most emails are now opened first on mobile devices. That puts a nonprofit just a click away from having a meaningful interaction with prospective and current donors for whom they have email addresses,” he said. “This also means that email design and website design should be optimized for mobile. A poor mobile experience sends a bad message about a nonprofit’s professionalism. In fact, something as simple as page-load time can have a huge impact on response.”

When you think in terms of fundraising events, the single most important thing is that the donors have a great experience. If the donors do not have a pleasant experience, they will not donate—or worse, they will not come to another event. Enabling mobile fundraising at your event will aid in giving donors the best experience possible.

“What mobile fundraising allows you to do is streamline the event and just make it seamless for donors to be able to give,” Jim Alvarez, founder and CEO of Gesture, told us in an interview. “[Mobile fundraising] allows a person to give freely and easily. It increases the overall donor experience and by doing so, you’re able to have a much higher retention rate for donors and that’s probably the single most important thing for nonprofits.”

Mobile fundraising also eases the staff’s workload. Before the mobile technology, events were organized and managed by paper and pen. Now, everything is electronic, so everything that you need to know—registration, where people are sitting, how much everyone owes at the end of the night—is all in one place.

Tactics for Success

Feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is how anyone or any organization can learn and grow. We implement a plan that we think is fool-proof, and maybe it fails—but that’s OK, because we can’t learn to succeed if we don’t know what works for our organization and what doesn’t.

One strategy that you can implement is people-based marketing. With this strategy, you are identifying and reaching individual donors, as opposed to a strategy such as broadcast media.

“For people-based marketing to work, you need data about the individuals you want to reach,” Heitman said. “Then you need technology partners who can help you reach these prospects and donors on their smartphones. Companies, like LiveRamp, have the ability to match CRM or donor data with device IDs, enabling you to deliver ads to specific individuals, at large scale, but in a way that respects privacy by anonymizing the data.”

There is also the issue of how much you need spend to reach various segments of your audience, and that’s when you can start with recency, frequency, monetary. This is where you spend more to reach high-value donors rather than low-value donors, Heitman notes.

“That can then be translated into proportional bidding in programmatic ad platforms. It’s really not much different than the direct mail channel, where you invest more to reach your most promising repeat donors. Now, all the infrastructure is in place to take the same highly personalized approach in digital channels, including mobile,” he said.

One of the challenges of this strategy is the “match rate” delivered by on-boarding partners. Although you may have a great donor or prospecting list, the on-boarding provider may only be able to match half of them to their device IDs. The other challenge is that people-based marketing requires substantial commitment. This commitment requires you “to study the data, test how deeply you can go with various audience segments and compare results with campaign efforts,” according to Heitman.

Hosting an auction is a beneficial strategy organizations can use to raise money and cause awareness, engage and connect with donors and incorporate mobile fundraising. When it comes to auctions, mobile fundraising allows organizations to do three things:

  1. Open their auction up ahead of time. This gives donors more time and opportunity to participate and donate. But it also does not limit the auction to only those available to attend the live event. So now, those who are unable to attend the auction can donate through a click of a button on their smartphones or tablets.
  2. Send their participants notifications. Mobile fundraising allows nonprofits to send their participants—those who are able to attend the event or those participating remotely—notifications on their smartphones or tablets. Alvarez says the greatest way to increase giving is to notify people who are bidding that they have been outbid.
  3. Collect payments at the end of the night. One of the past hurdles of auctions was that when people bid on items at an event, they oftentimes forget to pay for the items, so the nonprofit will have to track them down. Now with mobile fundraising, organizations are able to collect payments with one click of a button.

The challenges that Alvarez and his team at Gesture face with mobile fundraising are:

  1. The squeaky wheel. When presenting to a board, there’s almost always going to be one person (the squeaky wheel) on the board who does not see a reason to change and does not see how implementing mobile fundraising will make a difference.
  2. Attendee participation. Due to the fact that mobile fundraising is mostly done through a smartphone, a lot of charities do not want their guests looking down at their phone the entire night. But Alvarez said that the reality is that people will be looking down at their phones, anyway. “I always remind our charity partners that if they are looking down at their phones that means they are looking at doing some kind of fundraising, and that’s a good takeaway. Your goal as a fundraiser is to raise as much money as possible and you know what, this really works,” he said.

New Era of Giving

Of all donations in 2016, 17 percent were given through a mobile device (vs. 14 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2014). On this past Giving Tuesday, 22 percent of all donations were sent through a mobile device.

The way people give has changed drastically and is much different from what it was years ago, and people prefer to give through mobile devices. Like I said before, it’s more convenient. According to the “2016 Charitable Giving Report,” being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Blackbaud recommends a multi-step approach that includes mobile-friendly email messages, websites and donation forms. The combination of all of these approaches will maximize the giving experience for supporters.

“I think that if a charity is not thinking mobile-friendly, then they are missing out,” Alvarez said. The whole world is going to this device that’s in your pocket, and if you’re not capitalizing on the fact that every single person in the U.S. has one of these, then you’re missing the boat.” NPPro


View the full magazine here and learn more about Gesture’s products and services here.

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