The Nonprofit Organization
More than a century ago, in 1882, the first Catholic school in Fargo, ND was established. This school quickly evolved into a collaborative system of schools and formed a network that is now known as the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools. This network includes five Catholic schools in Fargo, North Dakota: Holy Spirit Elementary, Nativity Elementary School, Sullivan Middle School, Trinity Elementary School, and Shanley High School.
Each school gives opportunities to develop life skills based on values, faith, acceptance of self, and service to others as exemplified by Jesus Christ. Their impact is continuously felt throughout the community - by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike - and centered around their commitment to Catholic education.
Though they are rooted in their emphasis of education and succeeding in the classroom, with 99% of Shanley High graduates receiving a college acceptance letter, they also provide chances for success outside of the classroom. In the rich heritage of Shanley alumnus and legendary baseball player Roger Maris, Shanley High School has provided opportunities for its athletes to secure recent state titles in men's baseball, women's soccer, men's basketball, women's golf, and women's volleyball. These opportunities are especially reflected on the gridiron, with the Shanley Football team holding over 16 state titles and 11 undefeated seasons. Some of their notable alumni include NFL stars, Connor McGovern and Dan Arnold.
For 35 years, the Schools have hosted the Shanley Deacon Dinner Auction, an event so important to their cause that it raises nearly $750,000 in just six hours. This event is key to financing their annual operating budget and 2020 was attempting to throw a wrench in their plans. "Before the pandemic, fundraising was our major source of revenue," says Lee Hoedl, Auction Director at the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools. "That is because our families pay only tuition and, as a private school, our funding from the federal government is limited.
2020's challenges weren't just limited to potentially detrimental fundraising obstacles. In mid-February, the entire state of North Dakota and its schools were shuttered due to the Covid-19 outbreak. After accepting the fact that an in-person dinner auction was just not possible, the Auction Director and committee got to work organizing surveys and consulting with families, health experts, and other administrators, before deciding the safest and most effective course of action would be to host a virtual dinner auction with mobile bidding.
"Thankfully, we were quite familiar with mobile bidding." Hoedl says. "We've been using Text2Bid for the last five years in our auctions." Dale Fiske, Product Manager of Text2Bid® at MaestroSoft, an Arreva company, adds, "Having prior experience with Text2Bid definitely helped them adapt to the situation. Text2Bid is so easy to use that even nonprofits with little or no experience can benefit from it."
By pivoting to a completely virtual auction, the St. John Paul II Catholic schools wouldn't lose what they had already invested in promoting the 2020 event. For Hoedl, it also meant a chance to inspire in their community, a feeling of togetherness and hope against adversities like interpersonal conflict and the coronavirus. This inspiration was beautifully reflected through an updated auction theme, "What Binds Us Together is Much Greater Than What's Pulling Us Apart."
For their first virtual dinner auction, the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools decided to use Text2Bid®, MaestroSoft's virtual bidding solution. "Text2Bid isn't just easy to work with, it's a workhorse," says Hoedl. "It's 100% customizable and works for any situation. And that's because the MaestroSoft customer service team always takes our feedback seriously."
The St. John Paul II Catholic Schools opened virtual bidding from April 18th through April 25th, 7 days longer than previous events. They also eliminated event registration costs, organized raffle draws, and paddle games.
One objective of their auction event was to integrate the elements of fundraising and community building successfully. They invited families to submit images and short video clips of home activities during the lockdown for a live broadcast on April 25th. The focus was to further engage the audience, the donors, by showcasing how other attendees were celebrating at home. "Our donors loved the broadcast. During the livestream, we could see the donation amount spike in Text2Bid, " Hoedl says. "Our message of hope and unity inspired our bidders to give more."
Also, through Text2Bid®, the Schools could collect more relevant donor data, sowing the seed for better future interactions with its donors - a crucial component of donor retention.
It was awe-inspiring to get the chance to continue to bring the community and donors together, and experience how inspired people were to give. So much so, that the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools surpassed their revenue projection for the event, acquiring more bidders/attendees, saving costs, and enriching the organization’s donor database. The revenue exceeded the $113,138 projection by raising $114,999 while the Schools saved the money that would have been allocated to event planning, meals, and outside contractor costs. They also attracted 705 bidders from 27 states. A 40% attendance increase from the 2019 auction!
The funds raised by the Shanley Deacon Dinner Auction helped to support 600 families and numerous annual school programs. Scholarships were created from these donations and further advances were made to the Teachers Salary Endowment Fund, so that the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools could continue to provide competitive compensation to existing and new teachers.
The Shanley Deacon Dinner Auction's success, including an auction yield of 93%, which was record breaking for Schools, quickly generated excitement among local fundraising teams. "In the past year I have been contacted by 19 different corporations, schools, businesses, and charities who want to know how we did it." Hoedl says, "Even North Dakota State University has reached out for advice on how they can go virtual."
MaestroAuction Online™ and MaestroAuction™ virtual, live, and silent auction software, Text2Bid® digital and mobile bidding software, and Text2Fund® text-based donation software and services are helping nonprofits raise billions of dollars and further their cause through thousands of virtual, hybrid, and live fundraising events, charity auctions, golf tournaments, and galas.
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