Fundraising Tips

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

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.

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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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Gesture TV Interview: How to Host a Successful School Auction Fundraiser

GestureGesture 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 Kellie Lang who has helped cochair a successful school auction.

Gesture TV:
How did one elementary school raise $30,000 in 20 minutes?

Video Interview with Kellie Lang, cochair of an elementary school auction fundraising event.

Monika: Welcome to Gesture TV. I’m your host, Monika Rydzewski, and today we have with us Kelly Link, who is the cochair of a fundraising event benefiting a local elementary school. Thank you so much for being here.

Kellie: Thank you for having me.

Monika: How did you get involved with school actions?

Kellie: Well I’m a parent of elementary school age children and a volunteer and a PTO. And I was asked to cochair our major fundraising event that we do every other year, so it’s every two years that we do this. And when we do it, it’s a big deal because it’s the major fundraising event that allows us to fund educational enhancements at our school over our children for the following two years. So it’s something that the school community gets very excited about and I thought it would be a great way for me to have an impact, not only on my children, but others as well.

Monika: That’s great. So what are some of the steps of having a successful school charity event?

Kellie: Well I think most importantly, it’s very important to be very organized and if maybe you aren’t personally maybe cochairing with someone who is, there’s a lot of things that go into it and as long as you’re organized, I think it won’t be as overwhelming as it could be. So it’s not very hard to get people excited about it and get volunteers lined up for all the different committees that you might want to have to help you out. So I think it’s easy to get people on board and to get a lot of assistance.

Monika: Okay. So I know at one of your events, you had a theme going on. Tell us a little bit about this theme party that you guys did.

Kellie: Well that is another important factor of hosting a successful fundraising event at a school, is to have a fun theme. I once was a rodeo theme, so people didn’t have to get overly dressed up but it’s fun to go little Western here and there. We had a lot of great entertainment with bull riding and we had dancing and we had great themed food and we had a themed cocktail. So I think that’s important to get the excitement going and to generate a desire for people to come because the only way that the fundraiser is going to be successful is if you have a lot of people attend.

Monika: That’s really great. So I’ve been hearing this term sign-up parties. So can you tell us a little bit about what a sign-up party is and what are some of the benefits or what are some of the things that you’re involved at?

Kellie: Sure. Sign-up parties are a great fit at elementary schools. They can be children-focused, as well as adult-focused. So a sign-up party is when a couple families come together and donate an activity or a party, let’s say. And we find that teachers do this. The first grade teachers might donate a pottery party at one of the local pottery shops here in the area. And they will allow for, let’s say, 15 students to sign up. And they will pay $25, the parents will pay $25 for their student to attend, but the event is actually being donated by the teachers. So the cost of the event will be donated by the teachers.

Monika: How much did you guys raise?

Kellie: Oh. It is so popular. I remember working with our Gesture representative the night of the event and within about 20 minutes, most of our sign-up parties had sold out and we had raised close to $30,000.So it, now we had a lot of people donating a lot of activities. All of our teachers dove in and donated something and all of our families were very generous in hosting. So we had a lot of generosity given to us, in terms of what was available. But then we had a lot of generosity at the event in terms of those events selling out.

Monika: I know the checkout can get very chaotic cause there’s a lot going on with these events, so tell us a little bit about your process with the checkout.

Kellie: Right. In the past, it has always been kind of the most challenging part of hosting an event like this. And at our school, the PTO board was responsible for that closeout process and it was always very manual. You have to remember, when you’re parent volunteers, you know, we’re not professional fundraisers. And we don’t have all of the tools to, you know, within the school to be able to do something like this. And so it’s always been of a very manual process with bid sheets and then collecting those at the end of the night and having to come up and compile a list by person who needed to go home with what items. And we’re talking, you know, several hundred items. You can see how that can be very overwhelming. So when we decided to work with Gesture last year, that was a huge benefit that may be at the beginning in considering to use them, it was more about the user experience and kind of having, you know, a technology savvy bidding process and, you know, doing something different than we’d ever done before. But a huge benefit, an outcome, of utilizing them was the checkout process and once the auction closed, very quickly Gesture started generating receipts by person and it was just coming off the printer in stacks. So we very quickly could, as the person walked up, get their receipt, get them their items, and very efficiently and pleasantly for the guest, get them on their way. And very efficiently and pleasantly for our volunteers as well. And then, the follow-up afterwards was so minimal because of that, because we had the right things going home with the right people. We didn’t have people getting frustrated or irritated that maybe their winnings weren’t available to them or people walking away and us having to then departed the venue with a bunch of extra items that didn’t get picked up. It really just made the whole closeout experience so much more pleasant. And because of that, I would highly, highly recommend using Gesture for any auction. And I think sometimes a school might think that maybe they’re not large enough of an event to utilize an electronic bidding platform, like Gesture offers, but because of maybe the capabilities of the school and the fact that we’re not professional fundraisers, it makes utilizing Gesture make that much more sense. So large or small, it’s really a wonderful organization to partner with.

Monika: Well thank you so much for being here, taking the time to share all of your valuable information.

Kellie: You’re welcome.

Are you hosting a school auction? Gesture would love to help! Please contact us today.

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10 Ways Non-profits Can Use Facebook to Get Their Mission Across

Growing Facebook Likes for Nonprofit Facebook Pagesby Monika Rydzewski, Marketing Communications Manager at Gesture

Growing a Facebook Page generally takes time and we all know that time is a precious commodity that is in short supply in the Non-Profit World. If you are in such a situation, below are 10 ways of coming up with fantastic Facebook posts which will help you grow your Facebook Page and get your organization’s mission across to fans:

Share History
A majority of non-profit organizations have a rich and long history. You should post pictures and videos going back in time, dig from your archives. The history keeps fans engaged in your activities and proves your dedication to the organization and its cause. This aspect will help you get the message you want across to so many fans.

Behind The Scenes
Post behind the camera footage of video and photos taken with a smart phone or camcorder showing how you, the directors, workers and volunteers come together to achieve your organization’s goal. Such behind the scenes footages will create personal relationships with fans and it becomes an easy task to get your mission across.

Successfully small/medium and large corporations all take surveys to gauge their customer loyalty, why not do the same for your organization? Quickly run a survey fast and easily through Facebook and prove to your fans that you are listening.
The survey will help you attract more fans, get your message across and incorporate some of their brilliant ideas.

Use Your Tabs
Using the Facebook tabs at your disposal is not something that many organizations think of, however these tabs are well set to turn your Facebook Page into a busy hub that helps you get your message across without much fuss.There are literary dozens of possibilities that you can achieve by using your Facebook tabs. You can link the tubs with your website or sig-up-sheet that works well with your email list that you use to send subscribers the latest happenings in your organization.

Show off the results
Believe us when we tell you Donors always love to be updated about how the money they have donated is being used. Take videos and pictures of the things you have bought or services you have performed with the donated money. Always thank each and every fan for their contribution.
This is one of the easiest ways to get the message across!

Share testimonials
Why not transfer client’s testimonials to your Facebook Page and bring the spotlight of your newsletter to a wider audience. More people will read the newsletter and you have the opportunity to bring across your messages.

Show off what you’re doing
To make your message effective and accessed across the Facebook fraternity, upload colorful pictures on your Facebook Page concerning the activities you are engaged with, use smartphones and whenever necessary add descriptions on every photo and explain its purpose. More people will load your page and they will get the information you sharing with them.

Link to press coverage of your cause
Whatever event that is happening in the organization, be it winning an award or having a radio or newspaper interview your board members, this is news that should be shared on Facebook. This will help the organization continue to generate more momentum in its niche and more people will know what the organization does.

Include legislation that affects the organization
Doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad legislation, anything always has an impact on the organization and its missions, better share with fans what is going on and keep all followers up to date with the latest information, this builds credibility and trust!

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3 Tips for Planning a Successful Charity Event

Advice from Renee Jones, Expert Auctioneer and Fundraiser

Video Transcript
Some very important tips to remember to have a successful nonprofit, gala or benefit event is to understand the importance of a timeline and maintaining it. Don’t have it just as a secret between a couple of people on your team. Make sure everyone that’s involved, volunteers and staff alike, meet and actually discuss every element of the event. All vendors should be included in it, especially the hotel and event staff, including your caterer.

It is so important for your experience as a guest, and also as a staff member volunteer at an event, for there to be a good flow, whether that’s from the arrival of guests, to the check in with no waiting, utilizing technology, to the actual program itself.

Maintaining a constant inspirational and motivating environment, including a live auction and “Fund-The-Need” benefit part of the evening is so important but the main thing to remember in fundraising is it’s supposed to be fun.

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Nonprofit Tools: Google, Facebook and LinkedIn

Google, Facebook and LinkedIn all have various product offerings to help nonprofits and charities with their missions. Here is a quick rundown.


Google for NonprofitsGoogle has made their premium Google Apps Suite including Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive free for nonprofit organizations. The promise of these apps is to “reduce your IT costs and help staff and volunteers work together more effectively.”

In addition to the apps, you can apply for Google Ad Grants (AdWords for Nonprofits) 10,000 per month of AdWords advertising, to promote your organization to people using Google’s search engine. It doesn’t stop there, as Google also has YouTube for Nonprofits and Google Earth Outreach. Go to Google for Nonprofits for more information.

Also, if you don’t already have a Google+ page for your organization, you should create one. You may think no one is using Google+, but in actuality its userbase is significant and growing. In fact, it is the 2nd most popular social network behind Facebook. Additionally, Google+ is great for improving your search rankings so if you have a blog, it is an important outlet to publish to.


Facebook Donate ButtonFacebook made news recently with their launch of the Facebook Donate Button. For a closer look at what this means, I recommend reading Beth Kanter’s #FacebookAdGrants: What Nonprofits Need More Than a Facebook Donate Button article.

Most charities have a Facebook page for good reason – it is an excellent way to reach and engage with a large audience.


Nonprofits on LinkedInLike Facebook, LinkedIn recently made some news with a new feature benefiting nonprofits. The
LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace seeks to “connect professionals to nonprofit volunteer opportunities.” In addition to finding volunteers, LinkedIn offers other nonprofit resources at

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5 Ways to Have a Successful Silent Auction

abc_checkoutSilent auctions are one of the most popular ways to raise money for non-profit groups and engage prospective donors at fundraising events. This article will provide you with helpful ways to ensure that your silent auction is a success.

Choose a prominent location for your silent auction. It is very important that a silent auction is not invisible and silent. You need to choose the perfect setup in order for people to view all your items as well as place bids in a convenient and easy way. You need to have enough space in order to accommodate all people who are willing to bid for your items that you want to offer for the fundraising program.

Match the items with the attendees. Local businesses are great potential donors for auction items. In order for you to attract a lot of bids, consider a variety of factors such as who are those people that will come to your event, what are the particular services and items that they need and want and how much money they are willing to spend. For example, during Valentine’s Day, you need to put items and services that suit both men and women such as flowers, restaurants and gifts. These are items that most people are looking for. It is very significant that you match the event with the items that you want to bid in order to attain success in your silent auction activity.

Create a time limit. It is proven that in order to create a sense of urgency, run your silent auction for a limited time. We suggest opening weeks prior to the event. People can become familiar and engaged well before the event even begins. Also, because people use their own mobile decides, they don’t physically be there to participate. The potential for more time and additional bidders significantly impacts the amounts our charity partners are raising”

Know how to handle your unsold items. It takes some time to spur interest in a silent auction especially when it comes to the starting bid. It is important that you announce and project your auction items on screen. If there is no bid, you can return the auction item to your merchandiser and decide to auction it again on another event. Try to work with consignment companies that allow you to only pay for items after they’ve been successfully auctioned.

Mobile Bidding. One of the most convenient ways for guests to participate in a silent auction is to bid by phone. No more hanging out by the auction table all night, or filling out bid sheets. Not only is mobile bidding more convenient for guests, but realtime alerts help drive up the revenue generated. It can make a big difference in the amount of funds raised for your non-profit organization. Electronic bidding also streamlines the checkout process and getting fundraising reports when the event is over. Learn more about mobile bidding

Watch some of the Live Auction Ideas from our expert auctioneer Renee Jones

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