Read full article on the Brainerd Dispatch Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! I am really excited to share with you a bit of tech that I was able to experience first hand in a real world situation a week ago at The Big Event fundraiser for the Brainerd Public School Foundation.
It was my first time attending the BPSF Big Event. I was out of town last year and if you have not gone, make sure you put it on your calendar for next year. It was a ton of fun, great food, and a great cause. The BPSF’s mission is to help provide enhanced opportunities for our students and faculty, of the Brainerd Public School District, to experience academic, arts, activities and athletics that they may not otherwise have a chance to do. Many of the opportunities present themselves in the form of grants that BPSF awards to applicants for a variety of different areas. If you’re curious to see a list of some of the recent grants that have been awarded, or if you wish to contribute or get involved, check out their website, www.bpsf.org.
A big part of The Big Event is that the evening serves as a fundraiser for the foundation but it also is a time to recognize grant recipients and all of the people involved that make the programming a success. While individual donations and major sponsorships are always an integral part of the support process, if you’ve ever been to a fundraising event you will see the standard silent auction tables and usually somewhere in the program is information on some live auction items that will be bid on during the event sometime.
I will admit, I usually silently groan when I see this because deep down inside I like to be lazy. Ebay, Amazon and my mobile devices have made me this way (maybe not really, but that’s my story). There are always great items on the tables, for great deals, that support great causes but let’s be honest, when it comes down to the wire and I have the choice of breaking away from my meal to just check on my bid I tend to pick my food. To win you have to hover by the silent auction tables – waiting in the wings to make sure no one vultures your find. Thanks, I’ll take the apple pie at my table.
This year, I was at first confused, and then pleasantly surprised, when I approached the silent auction tables and saw there weren’t any bid sheets. I thought maybe I’d stumbled across a table of live auction items, but none of them had any bid sheets – they hadn’t fallen on the floor and no individual would have hoarded them so they won everything, right?
It was then that I was approached by a very polite student in Warrior apparel that asked if I’d registered for the auction items yet. She explained that this year they were using a digital interface for their auction items and that I simply had to register on the event site and it would give me up to date information about all of the auction items.
That’s right. Up to date, instantaneous, real-time, pick your choice of words – in one phone call BPSF became my heroes for silent auctions and eliminated the vulture stare down.
I registered, which was a snap, and as I bid on the items I was interested in, I could see in real time, which items I was winning, which I had been outbid on, and eventually, which items I won or lost. All of this was made possible by a partnership between BPSF, CTC and a company I had not heard of before – Gesture (Gesture).
I was fortunate that I was able to chat with Jas Hurd, the Upper Midwest regional manager, who was onsite at the event to ensure that service was top notch. With so many different items up to auction he was busy but I connected with him later this past week and he explained a little more of the technology at work.
Hurd detailed that the company was formed in 2011 by a couple of gentlemen from the Chicago area who had a dream of streamlining the budding auction technology at the time and using it to help nonprofits, charities and other auctions that were unique or simply looking for a better solution. They worked hard to compile the needed information to put together a great product and by the time they rolled out their current software configuration two years ago they had a fully integrated system for their customers to use. The core of the program is the websites and landing pages that make up the item pages. As a user I went to the event page and I could select to view the items, view the items I was bidding on and a number of other basic options. Once you got into that sub page it would show the current bid and if you had bid, were you the leading bid or not. Placing a bid was incredibly simple but left no room for error. I was really impressed when after I had placed a bid I received a confirmation via text that I was winning, and I continued to receive periodic texts alerting me if others had outbid me, and a warning when the auction was ending.
Hurd explained that the text served a dual purpose, not only was it a convenience service (like for me), but it also enabled those without smartphones to still participate by bidding via text. This also leads into another neat feature that you didn’t need to be physically present to be able to bid – the websites and the mobile sites allow those that were not able to attend to still bid on the items if they wished. Hurd recalled a unique instance where one savvy auction-ista placed his winning bid for a hunting trip with Willie Robertson and Adam LaRoche while he was deer hunting in his stand.
While Gesture has customers like the Timberwolves, Hurd emphasized that where they really stand out is their work with nonprofit groups – foundations, churches, charities and such. Gesture was also the auction technology behind the Taste of the Lakes event put on the by Kinship Partners. They have grown exponentially from around 60 events in their opening year to over 1,500 events that they will help facilitate across the nation this year, including around 45 in Minnesota alone.
Here’s what I love about how Gesture works – from what I gather they are extremely fair and are just as dedicated to seeing an event succeed as the group putting the event on. They bring all the necessary equipment, help the group organize all of the details and planning for the set up, and their pricing is based off the staff that would be required to be at the event. They don’t nick the group on a percentage, it’s just one flat rate.
This is also where CTC entered the picture. Eryk Haapajoki, Sales Manager at CTC and BPSF Board Member, spoke with me about how CTC was able to work with Gesture and BPSF (can we throw another acronym in here?) to ensure that the event ran smoothly with no technical hiccups and also helped train the Warrior volunteer students in how to help Gesture process payments and introduce newbies (like me) on how to use the platform.
Payment at the end of the night was a snap; in five minutes I had left my table, paid for my auction items and had been given the items I’d won. Simple, easy, and no insanely long lines to wait in. I was in silent auction heaven.
What really made this so impressive to me is that this is a real life example of how technology is being employed in our community to help out some great organizations. The best part is that the organizations truly seems to come out ahead and still gets a stellar service.
Check out Gesture’s website, www.gesture.com, if you want to learn more about what they do and how they work, I was thoroughly impressed by the program and I hope to see more of them in the area. If you’re an organization looking to possibly utilize their tech at your next event, there is a contact form right on the website.
Great job all around, they really made the process as easy as Gesture.
OK, OK, I can’t leave you with a pun, so instead enjoy this. Haapajoki also shared that even with donations still rolling in The Big Event has raised over $44,000 dollars with $28,000 coming from the live and silent auction. That is tremendous and will go a long way in providing some stellar opportunities for our future generation of doctors, scientists, philosophers and leaders. Thanks for all who attended and supported, hope to see you all there next year.