2020 has been one for the record books thus far! It seems that nothing can escape the grasps of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that accompany it. Plans are as good as no plans at all, as things change daily. Challenges and speed bumps have appeared at every corner along the way. However, with the bright minds within the RMEF, these challenges have also created new ideas and tools. These tools will not only allow us to stay the course in 2020, but propel us into the future. The RMEF online auction system is one of these tools.
Big Game Banquets are our bread and butter for fundraising, so we had to scramble to come up with new ideas when large gatherings were no longer possible. In very short order, our outstanding IT team created an entire online auction system from scratch. Staffers were able to build it to sync with our event management system, which houses all of our event data. When it was ready, field staff from all over the country picked up the idea and ran with it. As of July 10, we have held more than 40 online auctions, raising greater than $360,000 net, while maintaining a 55 percent net to gross.
Our online auctions can be found at auctions.rmef.org, and similar to our banquets, no one online auction is alike. The creativity of each and every RMEF regional director is alive and well within each auction.
AJ DuChene, RMEF Iowa/Nebraska regional director, had success with online auctions by introducing a technique commonly used at in-person events called a “Mad Hatter” auction. Participants bid on one of 12 smaller items to win a 1 in 12 chance at a larger item. He sold 12 RMEF flasks for more than $250 each. Each of the 12 people who purchased the flasks, then had their names entered into a drawing for one RMEF 2020 banquet rifle. He’s raised just over $9,000 total in his state’s online auction.
“Every dollar raised makes a difference,” said DuChene. “If you can’t make $40,000 now, would you rather make $9,000, or would you rather just say ‘forget it. I’m not doing anything.’ With that $9,000, you’re still going to be able to positively impact habitat.”
The Rose City and Wallowa Mountain Chapters based in Portland and Enterprise, Oregon, respectively, both had to cancel their banquets. However, they still netted $78,000 for elk country from March through the end of May utilizing online auctions and several raffles and sweepstakes. Shane Stenquist, RMEF northern Oregon regional director, and Oregon volunteers called all attendees who spent money pre-banquet and laid out options for them.
“For those who can and still want to support us, we wanted to give them every opportunity to do that, be that through raffles where they can win something or online auctions where they can purchase something,” said Stenquist.
Individuals and organizations alike tend to go one of two ways when faced with serious challenges along their respective journeys. RMEF, our employees and our members do not shy away from challenges such as those presented by COVID-19. Instead of panicking, we are rising to face it head-on. Our passion for elk, other wildlife and the outdoors is what drives our mission. Our new online auctions will be one of the many tools going forward that will help us continue to be one of the best conservation organizations in the world.
By Tim Monahan
RMEF Director of Membership and Fundraising Operations