Fundraising Tips

We’ve run over 2000 silent auction events. Let us share what we’ve learned with you!

5 Ways to Have a Successful Silent Auction


5 Ways to Have a Successful Silent Auction

Silent auctions are one of the most popular ways to raise money for non-profit groups and engage prospective donors at fundraising events. I want to share with you five tips that may help you run a successful silent auction.

1. Think carefully about where and how your silent auctions will be displayed.
Choose a prominent location to display your auction items to maximize exposure. It is very important that a silent auction is not silent! Utilize the creative skills of your team to highlight and display your items in various ways such as unique lighting, decorations and differ heights of the items. Not only do you need enough space but you’ll also need to ensure that the flow in and around the items is adequate to make sure all can see them.

2. Match the silent auction items to your attendees.
You as event and development staff know your attendees, supporters best. Ask yourself a few questions: What are the particular services and items that they need? How much money they are willing to spend? Is this a younger or older demographic, golf outing, cocktail party or gala? Answering these questions will guide you in identifying the items to include as well as how to develop and craft the ‘ask’ for donations.

3. Create a time limit.
It is proven that in order to create a sense of urgency, run your silent auction for a limited time. Prior to the event, we suggest opening your auction two weeks ahead of time. This enables your community time to become familiar with the items and bidding process. It’s great to begin your event with donations and bids already in the hopper. During the event, you can create a sense of urgency by utilizing messaging and count down timers.

4. Utilize consignment items or travel
While the use of consignment may not be ideal for every situation or event, consignment items may prove to add unique merchandise or travel packages that may not be accessible to your donor community. Great consignment items include sports memorabilia, music and celebrity items as well as unique travel packages to award shows such as the Emmy’s or Country Music Awards, national sporting events such as the World Series or Masters Golf or even unique travel experiences that may appeal to your attendees.

5. Utilize Mobile Bidding.
Not only is mobile bidding an easy and convenient way for guests to participate in a silent auction, it takes a great deal of work off of you and your event staff. Guests are not tied to the auction table all night to complete bid sheets, bidding can be done all night and by those not in attendance. History shows us that, on average, donations increase 30% when moving from paper to mobile while the sheer volume of bids increases even more dramatically. For your development and event staff, by using mobile bidding, registration through check-out becomes a seamless process, enabling you to focus on cultivating relationships with your attendees and benefactors.

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2014 Corporate Donation List

At Gesture, we value the work you do, and are ready and excited to work with our charity partners to raise $1 billion dollars in the next five years. In our efforts to help you raise more, we’ve compiled our 2016 Corporate Donation Guide. Get access today!

In 2014, we released our first version of the guide. You can check it out here.

Click Here to view the 2014 Corporate Donation List!

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Which Features Would you like to Learn more about?

Silent auction There are companies all over the world that can donate items for your next fundraising event. From restaurants to airlines, major companies have programs where you can apply to request donation items. When asking for donations, keep in mind most companies need 4-6 weeks to process. We are constantly updating the list and adding new companies. If you know of businesses that donate items, please share below.


Alaska Airlines



Hawaiian Airlines

SkyWest Airlines




Southwest Airlines




City Market

Foods Co







Trader Joe’s

Walmart Community Giving

Walmart Local/State/National Grants











Rack Room Shoes

Trunk Club















Paradise Bakery & Café


New URL:


Pike Nurseries – Must be within 5 miles of one of their stores
Charlotte, NC Greater Atlanta Area






Canvas on


















Otter Box




Tiny Prints




























The Ellen Degeneres Show

Steve Harvey Show Tickets

Windy City Live Tickets



Nutiva – Superfood Sampler Pack















MAYTAG Appliance Solutions










SafeWay Foundation












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Gesture: Easy Mobile Bidding Check-in, Donations & Checkout

We are so excited to invite you to participate in our mobile bidding auction, hosted by Gesture!

In order to get started, you will need to register with Gesture. You will be asked to provide your name and cell phone number, and you may have the option to pre-swipe a credit card in order to expedite checkout.

Once you have registered, you will receive a welcome text message, which includes your PERSONAL bidding link. Be sure NOT to share this link with anyone else, as it is directly tied to your account!

Once you’ve registered, you will be able to browse, buy, and bid on items! To do so, select the blue link in your welcome text message. This will direct you to the ITEMS page of our auction site.

You can view items by category, or search for items directly. Categories appear by row. Simply select SEE MORE to view all items within each category. Select any item of interest to view the item’s full description, as well as the current bid and/or price. The system will auto-populate a bid amount based on the designated increment for all auction items. Select BID to place a bid at this amount, or enter an alternate amount and then select BID.

If your bid is accepted, a box will appear congratulating you as the leading bidder. If your bid is not accepted, a box will appear stating the minimum amount required in order to place the leading bid.

You also have the option to place an auto bid. An auto bid enables the system to automatically bid up to a designated amount for you! The system will bid incrementally up to this amount, so long as someone bids against you. If no one bids against your auto bid, the current price will remain. To place an auto bid, select AUTO and enter the max amount you wish to bid, then select BID.

If you are outbid at any time on an auction item, you will receive a text message notification. A banner will also appear across each item you bid on, to indicate your status (either winning or losing).

If you wish to make a donation, simply select the DONATION tab at the top of your
screen. Select the “Click Here to Donate” button, enter the amount you wish to
donate, and select DONATE.

If Gesture is facilitating checkout, you will have the option to pay for all of your
purchases directly through your phone! Once the silent auction has ended, you will
receive a text message with payment instructions. Click the personal bidding link in
this message, which will direct you to your PAY page. Review your cart to ensure all items are accounted for. If your receipt is correct, select PAY. If you pre-swiped a credit card, you will be able to select that card as your form of payment. Otherwise, you can enter a new credit card.

Once you have processed your payment, a PAID stamp will appear on your receipt. Show this stamp in order to pick up your items. If any changes need to be made to your receipt, please notify a Gesture team member BEFORE processing your payment, so they can make the necessary

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Silent Auction Goes Mobile

silent auction
Many charity organizations are moving away from the old “pen and paper” auctions to a more modern, auction friendly, mobile version. Lots of time is wasted in the traditional silent auctions as people sign in and begin by trying to find their friends or getting caught up at a dinner table eating before placing bids. With a mobile bidding system guests can begin auctioning for items immediately after signing into the auction. With the entire auction being held basically online and almost literally in the guest’s hands at all times, they can continue to socialize, eat, or drink while still placing constant bids on the items they want.

Almost everything is going mobile or online these days and the silent auction is one that definitely gains from this advancement in technology. With guests being able to keep real time updates on their bids it allows for a more aggressive and reactive bidding system. Where a regular dinner and auction would have guests trapped at a table for 30 minutes or more a mobile auction would keep the bids continuing even while they eat. Playing with your cell phone may be rude during a normal dinner but not when the guests are bidding for items for charity!

Since everything is being ran online a live leaderboard can be used to remind guests that they are at an auction and keep them bidding while also showing them what other donors are present at their auction. Notifications for being out bid or for when the live auctions starts can be sent to a phone via text or email right after the guest signs in. All they have to do is give their cell phone number or email at the beginning. The messages can be sent out to everyone or just one person helps to keep the donors in the loop about their bids and when to pick up their items if they win.

Mobile bidding helps both the guests and the staff have an easier time while the charity auction takes place. Along with being an environmentally friendly version of a traditional auction it also has added benefits for the charity. Not all charities sell their items or meet their goals with just one auction but now that it’s being done online and mobile the auction can continue for the items that weren’t sold online. This helps charities reach their goal or beat their goal even after the silent auction is over.

In a world that is going digital, or mobile, this is just one more stop on the way to an easier and better way to do things. Silent auctions for charity can do nothing but gain with this new way of bidding and opens up more opportunities for helping raise more money for charity.

Media Contact
Company Name: Gesture
Contact Person: Monika Rydzewski
Phone: (847) 409-7189
Country: United States

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How to Keep Your Major Donors Happy #TipTuesday

Three tips to keep your donors happy and coming back to your event year after year.

1. Make registration a smooth and simple process. Don’t try to capture too much information, as it slows down your registration, and leads to frustrated guests. We recommend only asking for the necessary information to get them in the door and engaged in your fundraising. If this is the first time a guest has been introduced to your organization, you want them to come away impressed by your simple and easy check in process. This is your last chance to make a first impression. Make it count!

2. Limit your program to under an hour. In my experience at fundraising events, I have noticed that after an hour of program, you will begin to lose the focus of your donors. Once you lose that focus, it is next to impossible to get them re-engaged in your fundraising. Your program should be long enough to recognize the best supporters (1 or 2), tell your story (what are you using their money to accomplish), and give the audience gratitude for supporting your organization.

3. Make your last impression leave them wanting to come back next year and bring their friends. Your check out should be smooth and easy. Make sure your major checkout rush is no longer than 15 -20 minutes. Those who are working the checkout area should always be smiling and always, always, always say thank you for your support!

Hopefully these tips will help you at your next event. For more fundraising event tips, check out our abc blog.

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3 Apps Every Charity Event Should Use #TipTuesday

I’m John Polacek and I’m lead web developer at Gesture. That means I get to use my knowledge of technology to help charities, and so in the spirit of that, I have picked 3 apps can come in handy when you are planning your next charity event.

The first of these is Trello.

Trello is great for when you have a list of stuff that needs to get done.

You can share lists with different groups, adjust priorities of tasks and basically just keep track of everything.

You can use it on your laptop, your tablet or your phone, and everything just syncs up.

And it is free. Go to or search for trello in your app store.

Next up is

A big blocker for getting things done is email. is an app that works with your email to keep your inbox clean. You will easily be able to get rid of all your junk mail, and organize the emails you want to keep. Just go to on your browser and follow the instructions there.

Google Docs

Lots of people already use Google Docs, but what people sometimes miss are the excellent built-in collaboration features. Beyond providing a place to store your document in the cloud, Google makes it super easy to simultaneously edit your docs with other people whether you are huddled in a room together or spread out all over the world. Find out more by searching on Google for google docs tutorials.

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Top 5 Silent Auction Items

Hi, welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tip!

Today I’m going to share five of the best selling silent auction items to help you increase revenue at your next silent auction event.

Number 1 – Autographed memorabilia. We see both sports and music memorabilia getting high bids.

Number 2 – Fine dining restaurant experiences and certificates

Number 3 – Weekend hotel packages. Who doesn’t like a weekend away.

Number 4 – Unique event experiences such as premier sports tickets, once in a lifetime events, or any experience that is out of the ordinary. VIP experiences that can include private tours, concert tickets and backstage passes are popular.

Number 5 – Celebrity experiences. If you have a connection with a TV or movie celebrity, a popular entertainer, local radio personality, a government official or local popular sports figure, see what type of package you can put together with them!

Hopefully these top 5 auction items will help you at your next fundraising event. Check out our Gesture blog for more fundraising event tips.

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How to Start a 501c3 Nonprofit Organization

start 501c3How to Start a 501c3 Nonprofit Organization

1) Determine what type of nonprofit organization you want to create. Choose an issue that is important to you or something that is a matter of public interest. Such issues may include arts, charities, education, politics, religion, research or some other non-commercial endeavor.

2) Choose a name for your organization. Although each state has its own set of regulations, you can expect 3 general rules to apply: The name cannot be the same as the name of any other corporation on file with the state’s corporations division. About half of all states require the name to end with a corporate designator, such as Corporation (Corp.), Incorporated (Inc.) or Limited (Ltd.).Your name cannot contain certain designations reserved for the state, such as United States, Reserve, Federal, National, Cooperative or Bank.

3) Apply for the name that you’ve chosen. Take the following steps:

Visit your state’s filing office website or call your state’s corporations division. Ask to see if the name is available or if it is already taken.
If the name is available, then you can usually pay a small fee that will reserve the name for you until you’ve filed your Articles of Incorporation. If the name is taken, then create another name.

4) Formulate your mission statement. As a nonprofit organization, you exist to accomplish your mission based upon your purpose, services and values.

The mission statement is a concise expression that covers in one or two sentences the name of the organization, what it does, for whom it performs services and where it dispenses service. It should also portray how your organization is distinct from others like it.

Make your mission statement compelling. It will be used in all published materials, funding requests and public relations handouts. Use some of these mission statements as examples:

“The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.”

The National Mental Health Association is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and achieving victory over mental illnesses through advocacy, education, research and service.”

“The mission of Texas Mental Health Consumers is to organize, encourage, and educate mental health consumers in Texas. TMHC supports and promotes the mental health recovery process through peer directed and operated services, advocacy, economic development, and participation in public mental health policy design.”

5) Hire an attorney. Your attorney will help you with your Articles of Incorporation and the bylaws.
Hire someone with 501(c)(3) experience to help you file your state and federal exemption forms. You’ll save both time and money in the long run.
Most paralegals and attorneys have little experience with nonprofits. You can usually check out these services via the state bar association, references from fellow nonprofit owners or the Better Business Bureau.

6) File Articles of Incorporation. Articles of Incorporation are official statements that you are creating an organization, and they are filed with a state’s corporations office.
Articles of Incorporation protect both board and staff from legal liabilities incurred by the organization, making the corporation the holder of debts and liabilities instead of placing responsibility with the individuals and officers who work for the organization.
The specific requirements governing how to incorporate are determined by each state. You can obtain the information you need to proceed with this step from your state Attorney General’s office or your Secretary of State’s office.
These official documents may have different names in different states. For example, you may see names like “corporate charter,” “trust instrument” or “articles of association.”
Before you spend any money, consider consulting with an attorney who is experienced in the area of nonprofit law. This step will help you to avoid many major mistakes that people make when they try to incorporate without legal representation.

7) Apply for a federal employer identification number. Regardless of whether or not you have employees, nonprofits are required to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is also referred to as the federal ID number.
This number is used to identify the organization when tax documents are filed and is used not unlike an individual’s Social Security number.
If you received your number prior to incorporation, you will need to apply for a new number under the corporate name. Ask for Form SS-4 when applying for your EIN.

8) Hire a certified public accountant (CPA). Consider the following factors:
Look for an accountant who has experience with organizations like yours. Someone who’s never worked with a 501c3 may not have the experience to handle the nuances of the process.
Make sure that you feel comfortable with the person. The person should reliable, should listen to your concerns and should respond to requests as soon as possible.
Choose a firm that matches the size of your nonprofit. If you’re a small 501c3, then choose a CPA who works alone or a small firm. For large nonprofits, choose a large firm with a good reputation.
Take time to make your choice. Look for referrals and references and interview different candidates so that you make the best choice from a pool of available accountants.

9) Apply for recognition of tax-exempt public charity status. You’ll need to fill out either Form 1023 or 1024, which is an application. Publication 557 will provide detailed instructions for filling out either form and will let you know which one, 1023 or 1024, your organization needs to file.[2]
Submit financial statements for the current year as well as budgets for the next 2 years in Part XI of Form 1023.
If an attorney is representing you, fill out Form 2848 to designate power of attorney.
Either can be obtained from your local IRS office or the IRS website. The filing fee will depend upon the size of your organization’s budget. This application is an important legal document, so seek the assistance of an experienced attorney or certified public accountant (CPA) when preparing it.

Send your forms to 1 of the the following addresses:
For applications sent by regular mail:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 12192
Covington, KY 41012-0192

For applications shipped by express mail or delivery service:
Internal Revenue Service
201 W. Rivercenter Blvd.
Attn: Extracting Stop 312
Covington, KY 41011[3]

10) File for state and local tax exemption. In accordance with state, county and municipal law, you may apply for exemption from income, sales and property taxes. Contact your state Department of Revenue, your county or municipal Department of Revenue, local Departments of Revenue and your county or municipal clerk’s offices for information on how to apply for exemption in your state or municipality.

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Gesture: Gesture Easy Mobile Bidding Check-in / Bidding / Checkout

At Gesture, our mobile bidding software makes it easier than ever for charities to raise money with silent auctions.

When you arrive at the event, a Gesture Pro will pre-swipe your credit card to expedite check out. We’ll ask you for your cell phone number. From there, you’ll receive a text message to your cell phone with a link to take you to your personal bidding page. Once you register with a Gesture Pro, you’ll receive a text message to your cell phone. Click on the blue link, which will take you to your personal bidding page. From here, you can scroll through all the items that are available. When you’re ready to bid, click on the item. You can view a better description of the item here and place your bid. It’s already populated with the next highest bid amount. If you want to make a donation on your cell phone, you’ll click the donate tab. From here you can click the green $ and enter a donation amount. When you’re ready to check out at the end of the night, you’ll click the “My Activity” button and you’ll simply click this button to pay via credit card.

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Mobile Bidding is Easy as Gesture

At Gesture, we’ve run more mobile bidding events than anyone else. When guests bid on their own phones, the result is a giving experience that is fun and contagious, and brings in more revenue for our charity partners.

How to use our Gesture Mobile Bidding Platform

A Fun Way To Raise More
Worried about guests who aren’t tech savvy or that mobile bidding is too expensive? Read what these charities say about our affordable service that guests love (even technophobes and seniors). We frequently work huge galas and big golf events, but we also help schools, museums, hospitals and churches.

We have charity event experts all over the country ready to answer questions and demonstrate our mobile bidding technology and services. Go to our contact page or call us at 888.748.2323.

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AlwaysBeCharitable TV Interview: How to Host a Successful Golf Charity Fundraiser

golf charity

Gesture is excited to announce our new Gesture – the Gesture TV Show! Each week we interview charity founders and directors who share their best advice on what it takes to run successful nonprofits.

Our special guest this week is Eileen Belokin who is the manager at the Marianjoy Foundation.

Want to be our next inspiring guest?
Submit your name, organization, mission and contact information to

Gesture TV:
Find out how a golf charity fundraiser was able
to raise money in a thunderstorm.

Video Interview with Eileen Belokin, Manager at the Marianjoy Foundation.

Monika: Hi everyone welcome to Gesture TV I’m your host Monica Rydzewski and I have with me Eileen Belokin manager of the Marianjoy Foundation. Thank you for being here.

Eileen: Thank you for having me.

Monika: So tell us about the mission of your organization.

Eileen: Our mission we are a physical rehabilitation hospital so we accept patients that have physical disabilities and through therapy and patience we get them back to their lives and their lifestyles and regain their independence.

Monika: How did you get involved with the organization?

Eileen: Well I’ve been with the organization almost 6 years now. The organization has been around since 1972. In the 90s my father had a major stroke and he was a patient there and at the time I was working for another not for profit and when I went there and saw the care that he got and the progress he made it made me want to be there so I decided that if I ever switched jobs that would be a destination for me and I was just fortunate it happened and it came true.

Monika: You have been there how long?

Eileen: Six years.

Monika: Six years. Tell us, what are some of the responsibilities as a manager of the organization. What do you do?

Eileen: Well we are the fundraising arm. I work in the foundation and we do the fundraising. We are a not for profit organization and we run a lot of different programs to raise funds but we have two major fund raisers a year. We have a golf event and we have a gala and those are the major events that bring a lot of resources and a lot of new friends to the organization.

Monika: Tell us about your golfing event.

Eileen: Well our golf event we’ve had this will be our 26th year and we are having it in July and we have it at the same place every year. We have it at Cantigny Golf Course in Wheaton which is a beautiful it is a public course but it is as beautiful and challenging course as any private course in the area and we have a wonderful group of return people that are very loyal to us and they come every year. This year we are hoping to sell it out at 192 golfers and we have an amazing silent auction. Our silent auction is a big part of our event and our guests look forward to it every year.

Monika: Tell us with the golfing event I’m sure the weather doesn’t always permit. How has that always.

Eileen: Fortunately I haven’t been rained out completely but it is Illinois and the weather is always challenging. Sometimes we have rain delays and it is always hot because our event is always in July. We had one year three years ago when we had a big storm come through and completely knock out the electricity to the facility so they had no air conditioning, no refrigeration and even though the weather cleared and we were able to play the course itself was fine but the amenities were difficult. We had to really do makeshift planning in a very quick amount of time. Gesture really helped us because we were able to keep the bidding up and going all through the storm, all through the event, when we had no air conditioning and no refrigeration we still had the auction and it was wonderful because by the time the players came off the course we already had $11,000 in bids where the year before we had not used Gesture we were using hard copy. We would not have had any bids at all so our auction that year would have totally been a disaster had we not gone with Gesture. I figured it was a sign from God we needed to do it.

Monika: Have you noticed some challenges of people being kind of, oh this isn’t for me, this is technology stuff.

Eileen:A little bit, we didn’t get a lot of push back. We had a couple of people and as we move forward this is our third year that we’ve used it we get fewer and fewer and there are staff on hand that help and our golfers are more than willing to have one of the girls that are there to help them register and get ready and it becomes easier and easier every year so we are very, very pleased with it.

Monika: What advice would you give someone who is looking to passively host a golf outing?

Eileen: Boy there are lots of different things you have to think about. Your timing is important. It is always difficult with a weather situation so you are always taking a chance on that. You have to know your population. You have to know who is going to attend and cater to them. Some golfers are not as good at the sport itself so they want to play a different type of game. They want to play a scramble so you really have to know who is going to come to your event to design the contest to suit their levels and their abilities and make it fun so they come back year after year.

Monika: How do you get your auction items?

Eileen: We do a variety of things. We have a really good mailing list we’ve honed over the years that has a lot of different retailers in the area, restaurants, entertainment. What sells really good at our auction we have sporting events that sell, spirits or alcohol seems to sell really good. We have a wine and vodka auction and unique experiences; petting the Beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium and things like that. Those can be difficult items to get but if you have a board member or committee member that has a connection that’s a lot easier to make. So we send out about 400 ask letters to different retailers and vendors in the area and then we rely on our committee members to make some personal asks and that is really where you get the really nice items.

Monika: Tell us last but not least how do your market an event.

Eileen: Well there’s lots of different ways you can market it and this is evolving because with the evolution of social media it has really, really helped. We used hard copy, we used US mail, snail mail to send out hard copy invitations but we also go on Facebook or on Twitter. We do email blasts to all of our return guests and we really try and communicate that way because it saves money. Postage is so expensive so anything we can do electronically we will because it is just a better medium and it certainly saves us money on printing and postage.

Monika: When is your next event coming up?

Eileen: July 21st at Cantigny in Wheaton. We would love to see anybody who wants to come. They can call us or visit the Marianjoy website at

Monika: Sounds good. Well thank you so much for being here.

Eileen: Thank you.

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is more than just a motto.

People want to act on what’s important to them, to contribute to the success of something that matters. But often the business of charity interferes with the experience of giving. Since 2011, we’ve partnered with organizations to capture each helping hand, each friendly smile, and each round of applause by turning inspiration into action.

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