How to Have a successful Paddle Raise, Fund-a-need, Ask

The Power of the Paddle Raise

A Paddle Raise is an appeal during the live auction to the audience for a fully tax- deductible cash donation. Sometimes more money is raised during the paddle raise than both the live and silent auctions combined. Often the money raised during the Paddle Raise is matched by one or more Matching Donors. Sometimes recognition gifts are given to every contributor, making the Paddle Raise one of the most exciting and emotional profit centers of the auction.

The power of the paddle raise is often not fully understood. It can be under promoted or thrown together at the last minute leaving the message of the need poorly presented. The Paddle Raise is the most valuable single item being sold and needs to be given the time and the marketing collateral to sell the audience on participating fully. If the goal is to raise $50,000, then create $50,000 worth of attention for heaven’s sake!

The Paddle Raise is the easiest piece of the auction to put together and can be planned early on before anyone is invited or one donation is secured. Once that plan is in place, spreading the message of the Paddle Raise will sell people on attending, donating and volunteering.

Usually the fund-a-need money is used to buy products, services, supplies or pay off debt. Consider inviting the supplying businesses to be part of the presentation by creating the displays, providing slides and printed materials along with the physical display. The display might include samples and examples of the items the organization is purchasing. Sometimes it is an advantage to have a representative of the company host the display and answer questions.

These are the steps to a powerful paddle raise.

1.            Choose a need that has broad appeal and that most of the audience will relate too. A targeted need that has less appeal requires a strategy for selling that will clarify the need and create understanding and support.

2.            Create message relaying: This is what we have. This is what we need. This is what we will have when that need is met.

3.            Create a descriptive visual display with that message clearly stating the goals. You might want to breakout the actual costs for the need i.e. 10 computers at $10,000, 10 desks at $5,000, 10 printers at $2,500, etc.

4.            Rally support for the need well in advance and start fielding questions. This feedback allows time to form a positive response to any objections or concerns and shape the marketing campaign on auction night.

5.            Place the display in the lobby of the school or physical building of the organization before the auction. You may want to create a smaller display for this purpose and save the large display for auction night.

6.            Post a page on the organizations website with an option of contributing to any or part of the need.

7.            Seek matching donors prior to auction night by surveying the membership and attendees. Matching dollars can be a great advertising cache for business owners. I call this Bonus Bucks.

8.            Begin searching for the vendor or vendors that the items will be purchased from and ask a sales rep from the company to help setup a tradeshow style display on auction night for maximum impact. Give at least one full length table with an 8foot backdrop for conveying the visual message. Use lighting, monitors and other visuals to sell guests on the need. Ask for samples and place oversized price tabs on each piece.

9.            Place a standup card or table tent on the dining tables describing the need with the paddle raise goal and include the increments the auctioneer will ask for.

10.        Create 2x3 posters using the same art and place them around the venue at key spots, near the bar, near the entrance to the restrooms or even on the back of the restroom doors.

11.        Create a 3-5 minute PowerPoint message set to music or create a video.

12.        OR invite a speaker to read a rehearsed appeal. This person should have a favorable image with the audience and can not be someone that might provoke controversy. Sometimes this person is not the director or the principal or the president. In fact, they might be a professional public speaker.

13.        I like to play a gentle piece of music at low volume during the ask.

14.        Print the message of the Paddle Raise on the back of the bid card.
15.        Use dollars for matches. Matches can be made at any level or for the overall total.


Whisker City is dedicated to saving the lives of abused, neglected and abandoned felines. Because we are a no-kill shelter, there is a constant demand for more space for cats and kittens in medical recovery, life time housing and in transition into the adoption program. Tonight, the Auctioneer will ask you to raise your bid card to make a donation. When you hear the level at which you wish to make a direct contribution, simply raise your bid card until the auctioneer calls your bid number. The funding levels are: $2500, $2000, $1500, $1000, $500, $250, $100, $50 and $25.

100% of the tax-deductible contribution will be used to build The new Whisker City shelter.

Tonight every dollar we raise will be matched by PetCo up to $50,000!

The Fundaneed Display