Keep up with what’s happening at Gesture and the latest mobile bidding, silent auctions and fundraising news.

Gesture Is Boosting Fundraising Revenues With Innovation

abc-lightbulbPlanning and executing a charity related fundraising event is no easy feat. Silent auctions are a popular way to consolidate individual donations into a fun and donation maximizing event, but they are often viewed with pitfalls for the charities involved. Keeping track of bids via paper and tallying up winnings is often inaccurate and frustrating for those running the event. So much so, that many charities are forgoing holding silent auctions simply to avoid the hassle.

Enter: Gesture – a company that focuses on streamlining and optimizing the charity auction experience for both the charity involved and participants. In the past three years, Gesture has raised over $140 million for charities in 10 markets and has been nominated for many awards, according to company press materials.

Gesture utilizes unique mobile bidding technology that frees charities from paper, pencil and calculator. By keeping a running tally of every bidder, every item, and every bid cast, Gesture offers streamlined service to increase revenue and make participation easy – for both the clients and the participants. Gesture client and repeat customer Artis-Naples, a center for the arts in southwest Florida, said of their experience, “Not only did they facilitate in helping us raise a record setting amount of funds in one evening for an event such as this, they held a strong part in building and sustaining relationships with our patrons.”

Additionally, Gesture streamlines the bulk of the work of the auction so the charity can maximize rewards without overtaxing volunteers or staff. The company provides an event production manager for every event and allows for participation by those who cannot make it to the event in person. Bids can be placed via many devices including mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers. By making space for non-attending bidders, Gesture allows charities to ratchet up their donation potential by increasing the bidding pool and creating greater opportunities for participation by a wider and more diverse clientele, all for one flat fee.

By focusing on the user experience, Gesture is able to assist in providing pleasing events for everyone involved, increasing revenues and enhancing the experience. A more enjoyable user experience ultimately leads to increased participation in future events. Gesture’s technological innovation allows for detailed reports on each event which allows clients to respond quickly and plan future events accordingly.

A James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award winner and a finalist for both for a Moxie Award and the Chicago Innovations Award, Gesture is quickly gaining a wide-ranging and diverse clientele. With clients such as the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, The Boys and Girls Club, and multiple professional sports teams, Gesture is changing not only how charities and nonprofits raise money, but also how they plan for the future. Whether planning for a new charity event or looking to update a long-established, Gesture works with clients to provide the best participant experience possible, increasing revenues overall, and helping to fill budgets and increase programming overall.

Dianne C. Yoss, of the Colorado Make-A-Wish Foundation, reported that her organization’s experience with Gesture was key to making events run smoothly, even allowing her time to enjoy them herself. “By using Gesture we not only made more money than ever at an event, but their services provided me with time. I actually had time to talk to donors, special guests, and volunteers. Because I knew Gesture was taking care of the auction, I was able to manage other event and guest requests. It was wonderful.” She added, “The benefits of using Gesture were more than what I expected. It’s more than just making more money, its dependable service. I also found the final reporting to be excellent and incredibly helpful.”

Daily News Los Angeles – –

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Pitting Hawks fans against each other — by Smartphone (Silent Auction)

Silent Auction From Crain’s Chicago Business

Jim Alvarez is trying to start fights between Chicago Blackhawks fans during games — through their phones.

The CEO of Oak Brook-based software company Gesture LLC, best-known on the nonprofit circuit for its smartphone technology used for silent auctions and charity events and galas, is helping a growing number of sports franchises use the technology for competitive in-game bidding to give their fundraising efforts a little more firepower.

The system, which has been used at the United Center for every Blackhawks game this season since Nov. 10, allows a team to run a mobile silent auction during a game and gives fans the ability to bid on and pay for items all from their seat.

It’s designed to replace the standard table and sheets of paper on the concourse many silent auctions use — an annoyance for fans focused on the game.

“We’ve been able to close that gap,” said Mr. Alvarez, whose three-year-old company posted revenue of about $3.5 million last year and recently hired a full-time staffer to head up its in-game bidding business.

It’s a simple process: Fans must opt in via text message to join an auction and get a link to an item’s online auction page. They must put a credit card on file to bid on an item, and bidders get texts notifying them when someone outbids them.

That competition through a proprietary mobile bidding platform helps keep fans engaged, Mr. Alvarez said, and also gins up more bidders and revenue.

“Once (fans) sign up once for the auction, they can bid at every single game,” said Mr. Alvarez. “It helps teams raise a lot more money than they’re used to raising.”

The Blackhawks, for example, typically had fewer than 10 unique bidders on their usual pen-and-paper silent auctions set up in the main concourse of the United Center, according to Gesture.

Using the technology, the Hawks have had more than 900 people opt in to the mobile bidding system, and the team reports a 25 percent increase in the average amount of money raised per game.

The Hawks declined to provide the average raised using in-game silent auctions, but Blackhawks Charities pulled in $22,000 during last week’s Game 3 of the first round series against the St. Louis Blues.

Casting a wider, more efficient auction net also is a valuable data-gathering tool for teams. The Hawks, for example, gain a database of info of nearly 1,000 people with an interest in their memorabilia and merchandise.

“It’s a very powerful way for teams in the future to reach out to their fan base,” Mr. Alvarez said.

Silent Auction

The Hawks are one of 11 pro teams to use the technology over the past couple years, joining the Chicago Bulls, Cubs and Fire locally, as well as the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz.

The technology costs a team a little less than $1,000 to use per game, which includes 24-hour customer service support, meaning it’s a thin-margin business for Gesture.

In-game bidding represents less than 5 percent of Gesture’s revenue, which is on track to reach $7 million this year, according to a spokeswoman. But it serves as an additional marketing platform for the company, which faces stiff competition for charity events from rivals like Indianapolis-based BidPal Mobile Auctions and London-based iBid Events Ltd.

In-game use “creates a lot of goodwill and credibility that helps us in the other portion of our business,” said Mr. Alvarez, who last year won the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s James Tyree award for emerging business leadership.

Aside from tapping into fans while they’ve got the team on the mind, using the technology also opens onsite silent auctions beyond just fans at the game.

Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, Gesture’s first in-game bidding user in October 2012, now launches many of the auctions benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation two or three days before a game and sends notifications to previous bidders to let them know that an item is up for grabs. The number of unique bidders for the Fire’s commemorative player jersey auction jumped from 52 in 2011 without the Gesture technology to 205 when it implemented the system in 2012.

The team plans to use the technology for more games this season, said Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz.

“We’ve been up (year over year) in revenue prior to the game even starting,” she said.

See the full article in Crain’s Chicago Business

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SportTechie: Gesture Mobilizes Sports Teams’ Charities

From SportTechie

As much as sports franchises market their players to appeal to fans, there’s much more to them than simply trying to drive ticket sales or TV ratings. Teams represent the very heartbeat of their respective city. Fans attach themselves to them insofar as looking for hope and inspiration.

The glamorization of sports notwithstanding, this same aforementioned hope and inspiration transcends communities. Sports teams, in turn, invariably have a civic duty to give back. This responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly or overlooked. In fact, the same degree of innovation and technological change needed across the organization should be equally focused on endeavors to those in need.

Gesture, a Chicago-based startup, has spearheaded the efforts between charities and sports teams through their mobile platform. At its core, it’s a smartphone, mobile web-based application that powers bidding with just a click of a browser link. Users then get notified when items they’ve claimed have been outbid via a text message. A technology as simple and accessible as this has enabled franchises to grow their charitable impact along with adding an auction element to in-game fundraising events.

“Our mission is to bring as much money back to the charity as possible,” Jim Alvarez, Gesture’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, tells SportTechie.

Read the full article on SportTechie

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Tech Out Your Charity Golf Tournament!

From Colorado Avid Golfer

From registration to scoring, integrate technology and streamline the process

Companies like My Custom Event, iWanamaker and Gesture are automating and streamlining just about every function related to planning, scoring and monetizing a tournament.

To generate the most money from the event, many charity tournaments rely heavily on the après-golf silent auction. Gesture not only organizes your auction, catalogues the items and gets out the word to attendees; it also has a track record of at least doubling the event revenue of its charity partners.

Gesture accomplishes this by employing cutting-edge auction tips and ideas, such as pre-event bidding, a televised fundraising thermometer and real-time text alerts when and if you’re outbid.

Read the full article on Colorado Avid Golfer

For more information on Gesture’s Charity Golf Tournament Fundraising Services, contact us today.

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Gesture Featured In Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation

Gesture Featured in Blue Sky from Chicago TribuneOur partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Fire was featured in Blue Sky, the Chicago Tribune’s new gathering place for news, analysis and events related to innovation and entrepreneurship.

“It began with frustration. Jim Alvarez — serial entrepreneur, partner in the L.A. Tan salon franchises, owner of a Valparaiso, Ind., haunted house — couldn’t fathom why staging a silent auction took so much work.”

Read the full article in Blue Sky

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The May Report Spotlights Mobile Bidding Company Gesture

Startups and Entrepreneur’s section

The May Report – bringing you the latest in Technology Community News, Information, Opinions, Scoop, and Events.

“Some 12,000 charity goers will be sharing its technology platform and team of auction professionals simultaneously in states across the country on one night in March as the season for galas begins.

The mobile bidding platform sends competitive texts when fans are outbid on their favorite items that are sold to support their charity of choice – whether they can attend or not.

The Oak Brook, IL-based game changer has helped 700 charities raise $60 million since 2011. The company will host events in 120 major North American cities this year. More than revenues, the technology guarantees a convenient, simple and fun way to bring charities’ donors into the digital age using their own phones. Many say that the combination of the technology with a dedicated team sets Gesture apart.

The company revolutionized mobile bidding when it started three years ago as the first technology to allow patrons to bid with their own smartphones. It also was the first to offer a flat-fee business model so charity leaders could put the most of every dollar raised back into their operating budgets to serve community needs.

Listen to national charity leaders, including the American Heart Association, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Boys & Girls Clubs leaders, share their perspectives on doubling auction revenue or making $100,000 more in one night by using the platform and the service.

This month Gesture became the first mobile bidding company to offer in-game professional sports auctions so fans could contribute while rooting for their team. 2013 Stanley Cup winner the Chicago Blackhawks’ Foundation intends to raise up to a quarter of a million dollars annually as fans sip cold ones and donate directly from their seats. Gesture also gave U.S. sports fans the opportunity to bid on Chicago Bears’ Brandon Marshall’s green cleats in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week last fall.

Whether silent, in-game or online, Gesture keeps all types of auctions in an “always-on” mode. As soon as a patron’s smart phone is registered to the charity’s event, the bidding begins – even if the gala is weeks away or physically the fan cannot be present.

The company has placed as high as 350 people weekly across the country on its payroll to help staff events at a time when 44% of young college graduates are under- or unemployed according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It scored $3.5M in annual revenues this year and secured more than 1,000 events on its books for 2014, a far stretch from the 100 that the team managed during its first year.

Let us show you the mobile bidding technology live at an event or feel free to take a test drive by going to”

Read full article on The May Report

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Gesture Named A Chicago Startup Destined to Breakout in 2014

Tech Cocktail reached out to a handful of those fully entrenched in the Chicago startup scene to nominate a startup who was destined to breakout. Guy Turner, Managing Director at Hyde Park Ventures, had this to say about why Gesture was his pick:

“Jim Alvarez is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He is in the trenches with his fast growing team and works many of the events that Gesture serves to ensure quality and to get quick feedback from his customers. The market is also ripe with attendees at charity events – regardless of age – now with a smartphone in their hand. Paper auctions are a thing of the past, and Jim and Gesture are poised to accelerate into this opportunity.”

Read the full article on Tech Cocktail.

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Chicago Bears Receiver, Brandon Marshall Auctions Off Green Cleats To Support Mental Health Awareness Week

Chicago Bears Receiver Brandon Marshall Brandon wore a pair of bright green cleats to promote Mental Health Awareness Week during the Bears 27-21 victory. He had a great night, scoring two touchdown passes.

Brandon partnered with Gesture to put together an online auction on just hours before the game.

He was fined $10,500 for violating the NFL’s uniform policy. Said Brandon: “Football is my platform not my purpose. This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started & awareness raised.”

Mission accomplished as his charity, The Brandon Marshall Foundation was mentioned all over the news and his shoes fetched $360l for the cause.

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Gesture is Named a Finalist for the 12th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards

innovationbadgeOut of a record-breaking 562 nominees, Gesture of Chicago IL has been selected as one of the Top 100 Finalists still in the running for the 12th annual Chicago Innovation Awards.  The awards celebrate the most innovative new products and services in the Chicago region across all organization sizes, sectors and industries.  1500 business and civic leaders will come together to honor the winners when they are announced on October 30th at Chicago’s Harris Theater.

The innovation nominated was founded in 2011 to help non-profits improve fundraising efforts by harnessing the power of technology. The company’s technology platform is responsible for helping to raise over $52 million at hundreds of events annually for organizations such as Ronald McDonald House, American Red Cross, Make a Wish, American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs, universities such as Notre Dame, Purdue and DePaul, and Chicago-area hospitals including Rush Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Wheaton Franciscan.

“Chicago is in the midst of a monumental upsurge in innovation,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards.  “It’s inspiring to see the range of vision and the depth of talent among organizations in the Chicago area.  Companies are investing in innovation and taking more risks to launch new ventures and uncover new value.”

As one of the Top 100 Finalists, Gesture will receive a $2,500 scholarship to attend The Practical Innovator, a day-long executive education course on September 27th led by top faculty who teach innovation at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Each of the Top 100 Finalists is also in the running for the annual “People’s Choice Award,” selected through online balloting at

Out of the Top 100 Finalists, the judges will select 10 winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards, as well as winners of the Up-and-Comer Awards representing innovation in the start-up community, the Social Innovator Award and the Collaboration Award.  The winners will be invited to ring the NASDAQ Bell in New York City, invited to separate meetings with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Quinn to discuss their innovation and profiled in Crain’s Chicago Business.

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The Denver Post: Charitable silent auctions go digital and ditch the pen and clipboard

BK29AUCTIONTECHThe silent auction, among the last holdouts to succumb to the digital revolution, is finally giving way.

This year, several Colorado charities and nonprofits, from the Children’s Museum of Denver to the Colorado Symphony, ditched the pen and clipboard for the smartphone and Web browser.

By turning to mobile and online-based auctions for marquee fundraising events, charities increased the amount of money raised by 20-60 percent from the prior year.

The Children’s Museum used technology from Gesture, which allows donors to place bids via text message or a mobile Web browser.

“A huge part of Gesture’s appeal was that it allowed guests to bid on their cellphones and still mingle during the gala, as opposed to standing in front of a sheet of paper the whole evening to watch over their bids,” said Rachael Fischer, a marketing coordinator for the Children’s Museum. “Another great factor was that guests and museum employees were able to start the silent-auction process a few days before the gala by registering online.”

Article was originally published in the Denver Post.

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Gesture in Crain’s

alvarezAuction-goers dial their dollars with Gesture’s technology

Crain’s Chicago Business – June 2013, Lisa Bertagnoli, June 01, 2013, Photo by: Tori Soper

Jim Alvarez of Gesture LLC expects to conduct 755 fundraisers in Chicago and 13 other markets this year.

In 2011, Jim Alvarez attended a fundraiser and saw guests using smartphones to text silent-auction bids rather than scribbling on paper bidding sheets. The sight sent his entrepreneurial brain into a tailspin.

“As soon as I saw it, it was clear to me,” he recalls. “This is the future.”

Mr. Alvarez is CEO of Gesture LLC, an Oak Brook-based software outfit that enables attendees at nonprofit events to use their smartphones to bid on silent-auction items via texts, plus contribute to paddle raises and text-to-donate campaigns.

Mr. Alvarez launched Gesture by licensing the technology from its founders. His first gig was for Rush University Medical Center in May 2011, which he got by cold-calling. The event’s auction raised twice as much as expected, says Kelly Parker, assistant director of special events at Rush.

By the end of 2011, Mr. Alvarez had added 57 fundraisers. In 2012, the total rose to 295. He expects to conduct 755 in Chicago and 13 other markets this year and more than 2,200 in 2014 in part by adding six more markets—Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Houston, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Gesture will post revenue of about $3.5 million in 2013, he says. It has 34 full-time and 200 part-time staffers, who attend galas (in bright red polo shirts) to help guests get started and troubleshoot if necessary. Mr. Alvarez also controls the technology. Weary of bickering with the software’s founders over changes, he introduced his own this year.

Gesture differs from its primary competitor, Indianapolis-based BidPal Mobile Auctions, which launched in 2008. BidPal requires clients to use its own device, an iPod Touch, and it takes a percentage of an auction’s proceeds. Gesture charges a flat fee, based on gala attendance and the size of the auction catalog, which allows organizations to keep more of the loot.

Mr. Alvarez holds down costs by paying sales reps only on commission. That also has allowed him to expand with less risk.

Doug Porter, CEO of Oak Brook-based Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, began using Gesture three years ago for the nonprofit’s multiple silent auctions. Gesture has boosted net proceeds by about 20 percent and has made auctions more efficient:The annual Big Mac Under Glass silent auction offers six sports jerseys, not 12; fewer jerseys mean more and higher bids, Mr. Porter says.

Read the full article on Crain’s

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