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My podcast guest today, Abra Annes is a mom, wife, and avid gardener.  She loves horseback riding and is passionate about philanthropy.

At the age of five, Abra encountered an event that sparked her passion for helping others in life. Currently, she sits on a couple of boards and gives herself as well as travels for philanthropic work.

Abra worked in the entertainment industry through college. It was at a job on a cruise ship that she assisted an art auctioneer on a warm up auction. That’s where her auctioneering skills background began.

After the cruise ship, she went on to work for one of the ten biggest nonprofits in the US and learned to fundraise. She later put her fundraising and auctioneering skills together and in 2015 formed Generosity Auctions – the premier fundraising charity auctioneer firm in the US.

In today’s podcast episode, we discuss how Abra got started in charity fundraising. She gives incredible sales tips that can be applied to any business. We also discuss a simple method you can use to meet that big business person you’ve always dreamed of meeting.

In This Episode of the Start Fierce Business Podcast:

  • Abra explains why fundraising events are like a hidden gold mine that can help you meet people who can help in your business.
  • We discuss the proper way to ask investors for money (or clients for sales.) Hint: It involves keeping your mouth shut!
  • We talk about why being transparent and honest in your business will help people connect with you more.
  • Abra shares how an event she witnessed when she was five years old, sparked her lifelong love for helping people.
  • We also go into a mini sales master class that will help you in business regardless of if you’re a nonprofit, or are selling websites.

Abra’s Favorite Online App:

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Reach Out to Abra:

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Note: Transcripts are created automatically and are not 100% accurate. However, they help our visitors find relevant content using our website’s search feature.

Welcome to the show Abra.

Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so excited and so honored to be here. I’m happy to have you tell us about yourself outside of your business.

Sure. So first and foremost, I’m a mom and a wife. I have two kids and I have a great husband who supports me and everything that he do.

I’m an avid gardener. I have a huge vegetable garden every summer and a bunch of fruit trees. I love to horseback ride and I’m also really passionate about philanthropy. I sit on a couple boards I give myself and I travel for my philanthropic work as well so that is how I spend my time when I’m not working and tell us about your business and how you got started with that so generosity auctions is the premier fundraising charity auctioneer firm in the country.

And I’m I’m super passionate about and I specialize in creating interactive, engaging energetic and memorable fundraising events that really connect donors both current and potential to your organization. And I also work with my clients on connecting them to next gen millennial donors, as well as focusing on social media marketing, which is a space that the nonprofit world is kind of behind in. So that is another area that I work on with my clients. I got started and kind of a very bizarre way and I’m an entertainer at heart, and I was in the bar and Bat Mitzvah DJ can senior a wedding business all throughout college. And then I went to go work on a cruise ship. I was the assistant cruise director onboard a few of Carnival Cruise Lines, Sunday their ships, and I did that for three years. And on board there was an art auctioneer and I had some free time in my time on the ships. And I started working with him.

And one day the art auctioneer saw me calling a game of bingo and said, Wow, you’re really energetic and engaging. Why don’t you try doing a warm up auction for me. And I said, Okay, I’m, I’m up for the task. And that’s where my auctioning skills background began. When I got off the cruise ship, I went to go work for a very large nonprofit. It’s one of the look 10 biggest nonprofits in the United States. And that’s where I learned how to fundraise. And in 2011, I kind of smashed all my skills together, I smushed together my fundraising skills they really knew how to fundraise and ask for money with my entertaining and my auction earring skills. First went to go work for another auctioneer. And I did that for about two years. And then I started generosity auctions in 2015.

Do you have any tips for us entrepreneurs that aren’t in in organizations and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for our businesses?

I do, I have a ton of tips. First and foremost, you should know that fundraising events are like a goldmine, there are hidden goldmine of networking, and ways to meet people who can help grow your business. So you should know that own nonprofits are required all five of one c three, all legal nonprofits are required by the law to publish and a 990. And that is a form that tells you who’s on their board. And lots of big venture capitalists, lots of big investors, lots of people you may want to meet, you may want to network with, they sit on boards of large organizations. So if you’re interested in meeting somebody in your area in your community, and you cannot get through to them by email, or by phone, you can find out what board they sit on, and what not profit they’re aligned with. And you can get involved with that nonprofit and have a very natural conversation with them, and have a real honest connection. In terms of fundraising for yourself, for your own business. The biggest tip I can give you is to practice practice saying the words and asking for money so that when it happens in your real situation, it’s not hard for those words to come out of your mouth.

The second biggest tip is to embrace the awkward silence, there comes a time in every fundraising conversation where you’re asking for money, where you just have to hold your tongue and shut your mouth and wait for an answer. And if you talk too much, you will ruin the moment. So very often, you will say, I’m looking for an investment of $10,000.

And then you just wait and you wait for the other person to fill the silence and to say, Sure, or I don’t know, or Tell me more. And then you can figure out which way the conversation is going. So learn how to embrace the awkward and practice, practice, practice, practice, even if it’s in your car, or in your mirror that helps, okay, yeah, I mean, I have a problem doing it, even when I’m quoting a client for a website. So asking for money is something that I love doing. And I love teaching people about it. But I will say, for the other 99% of the population, it’s really awkward, and it’s really, really uncomfortable. But if you know that going in, and you’re prepared for it to be awkward, and you’re prepared for it to be uncomfortable, it’s much better.

I will tell you, the first time I ever asked for money, they totally totally blew it it. bumbled the whole thing.

I asked for a gift. I asked somebody to donate $1,000.

And then I kept talking and talking and talking. And then the lunch was over, the meeting was over. And I never got the gift. And as we walked out the door, my boss and mentor said, Let this be a lesson to you. You filled the silence and they didn’t. And we lost the gift. And, and that’s where kind of my journey began. Okay, so I can apply this in my web design business by when we’re having a conversation when you get down to price, let them know the price and then stop talking.

Just stop talking. And and it’s kind of a game it’s whoever talks first loses. So just think of that you put the price out there, they asked right there.

And that’s it, let it just kind of kind of set. And I will also tell you that being philanthropic that giving donations, even a small amount that is hugely, hugely appealing within the business community. So even telling people that like 2% of your profits, or 1% of your profits goes towards a charity of your choice or some industry some I would say like a branch of the fundraising world, not a branch some an area of focus area that can help with a sales conversion as well.

And when did you know that you were an entrepreneur, I think I knew in college I took in a business class and entrepreneurship class and I wrote this great business plan for a business that I was positive was going to work and I listened to all the naysayers and I do start the business. And three years later, while I was on the cruise ship, my dad and my brother sent me an article about the business that I wanted to start, somebody else started and they thought huge amounts of funding for it. And from then I knew I should listen to my gut. When I actually started my business. The first time actually felt like a real business owner was when somebody didn’t pay me for seven months. And I had a keep calling and calling and emailing and calling and going around and asking the accounting department that really felt like being an entrepreneur to me, like I was in charge of my business of my destiny of all the pieces at that point. And after seven months, I finally got paid. I never took that client back.

But that was a real entrepreneurial moment for me, what’s your greatest entrepreneurial challenge scaling this business, it’s a, a niche business that has wide appeal, but finding other people who are equally as passionate and comfortable asking for money has been really difficult for me, I can show you how to do it. But if you’re not comfortable, and having these types of conversations with people, and it’s almost impossible to be successful in this business, which is why I think there aren’t a ton of fundraisers who actually raise a ton of money and are very, very comfortable with their work. So that’s my greatest challenges is scaling the business. Okay. Yeah, I figure with something like that you could have something like, like, how they have, like, improv classes, but it’s still going to be up to the person to be comfortable asking for the money, right. And, and even with, you know, so I went the route of looking, excuse me, I went the route of looking for actors that performers like there has to be, there has to be some amount of being comfortable, extremely comfortable and natural, talking about money, which is something that we don’t do in our society very much.

So even if you’re a fabulous actor, and actress. It’s a role you rarely play, which is being very upfront and blunt about money, which for me, is great, because it pays off really well in my sales cycle. But most people like you mentioned, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. And, and I totally get that So scaling and finding the right people HR has been really hard. Like, right now, I feel like I need a sales class done by you.

Like how to get that confidence I can give you I’ll give you my biggest sales tip.

My biggest sales tip, which comes from fundraising is just to be really honest, and really transparent about who you are, and why you’re the best. And also what makes you different. So when people call me So first, when I started my business, the first thing I did was I did a ton of research on all my competitors. Now I’m in an industry where we all had videos on YouTube. So I was able to watch basically every fundraising consultant every fundraising auctioneer in the country. And I knew what their weak points were. And I knew what my strong points were. So now in my sales pitch, when you’re on a call with me, I can say, this is what I bring to the table.

I also find it really, really useful to tell people and be super duper honest, why I get hired and why I don’t get hired. And I have found that that has locked in clients much faster than any other tactic, because it really is really builds the relationship quickly. It gets people to trust you. And it shows that you’re honest, right? There’s no like creepy sales stuff going on. Because I’ll tell you, why get hired. And why don’t get hired.

And I tell that to people straight up. Well, it’s one of the first things we talk about. This is why you should know that I get hired and why get rehired and these are the two reasons why don’t get hired. So then they know for themselves, it makes their decision much easier.

So for you, if you know why you get hired and why you don’t get hired. I would put that I would leave not lead with that. But I would add that to your conversation. That’s great advice. Thank you. You’re welcome. What’s your favorite business book?

My favorite business? I have a couple. Can we do a couple or is it just limited to one? No, that’s fine. You can do more than one. Okay, so I’m, I love to read. I’m a huge reader. So one of the first business books I ever read in my life that has stuck with me to this day was fish buys Stephen. It gets London and it’s about pikes Place Market up in Seattle, and how they transformed it into being a really fun tourist attraction by throwing fish, which is something they never used to do, and how fun is part of their culture. And as part of my business, having engaging, memorable, energetic, interactive, fun fundraising events is a big piece of my business. So that was something that really stuck with me. Atlas Shrugged is another it’s a fiction book, but it’s all about macro economics by ein Rand that’s an A favorite, and then it’s going to sound a little weird, but I’m in the creative business. So I do a lot of performing and consulting and I’m always trying to push the envelope a little bit and disrupt the industry and there is a book called Stardust by Neil Gaiman and it really changed my perspective on a lot of things. And I always reread that book once a year. And I always gain a new creative idea for my industry while I’m reading it. So those would be my top three business books. Thank you. Those were different. I’ve never heard of those. I’m going to add them to my Goodreads. They’re good.

They’re really good. Start with fish.

And it’s super easy read fish in like 20 minutes. Okay, awesome.

If you could follow just one business thought leader, who would it be like follow them around for a day follow on social media or follow them around for a day? That’s a good one. I would love to follow Tony Robbins around for the day because the way he makes people feel is is astounding. And that is something that I’m always trying to focus on and have my clients focus on not what did the tablecloth look like, but how do your donors feel? How do your clients feel? What is their reaction? How are they feeling and I feel like Tony Robbins is the master of that him and him and Oprah.

They are the master of making feelings a business they’re in the business of feelings. And I just think that’s phenomenal. That’s essentially the business I’m at and but just not as be yet yes.

Correct. not as big yet correct? Yeah.

Because in a few years we’re gonna need different Oprah’s we’re gonna need different Tony Robbins because they’re going to be old and very true. Very, very true.

What advice do you have for someone that’s just getting started or wants to get started in business,

I think it would go back to the advice I gave you about your sales cycle, do your research on your competitors, but do a lot of research, okay, know what their strong points are, what their weak points weak points are, know what makes you different and unique and own the value that that brings. And then for me, I wish I would have known sooner that being really honest and really transparent really helps build the relationship and I’m close clients and makes makes them trust you, which is essentially what everybody wants when they’re going into a business relationship can I trust this person does Am I going to feel good working with them. And the faster that you can get to that feeling for me, leads to more people signing more contracts.

There’s a woman who has a really successful web design agency that I’ve been following her on social media for a while. And she is very transparent. She’s very authentic. And when she came out with a course, I didn’t hesitate to buy it, because she already had me sold before she even had anything to sell me, right. That’s a huge, a huge piece of business business advice, especially in the online world, the more transparent an honest, you can be. People can see that, and they could feel that. And they also, I mean, you’ve been sold by slimy business people before, like, it just feels yucky. And the more you can get away from that feeling, the more real and honest and good you can feel about making a purse purchase and trusting somebody with your money, the better. And I couldn’t agree more. There are tons of people that I follow online that if they offered a product, I would totally buy it because I trust them. And I value their opinion. And quite often I turn away business because it’s not the right fit. And people really value that as well did I’m not just out to get you know, another check. Then I’m just going to say, you know what, look, this is not the right fit for me. This is not what I do. You’re not going to have a good result. So I can’t even take you on and people really respect that. And quite often they come back to me the next year. And we change things up and it works.

Yeah. Or they refer someone that is a fit for you.

Right? That is such a good point. Yes, they can. They can totally refer somebody. But just being honest, you know, I used to work for and I don’t want to put anybody down. But I used to work for this other company. And they were all about the money. And that’s one of the reasons why I left is I didn’t want to be all about the money. Yes, my business is about fundraising. And yes, it is supporting my family and having a wonderful lifestyle.

But I wanted to be in the business of really helping nonprofits really reach their fundraising goals and being new and being different and being memorable and interactive. And connecting to Next Gen. And that’s really where I’ve succeeded, okay, aside from not wanting to work for someone else. And aside from your family, what is your why I’ve always been really, really passionate about helping it’s one of the first memories I have is I was at the zoo with my mom. And we lived in Chicago at the time. And it was in the middle of winter. And we were in a public restroom. And it was freezing cold in the restroom. And there was somebody listening to the radio in the next stall. And I asked my mom, why is somebody listening to the radio in the bathroom, and she told me, you know, that’s where she lives. This is her home. And I will never forget that feeling of empathy and compassion.

And it stuck with me, it’s one of my most clear memories from when I was five or six. And basically, since then, my passion in life has been helping, it’s where I give my time, my free time. It’s where I give my money to. And it’s it’s also my business. And so the reason why being an entrepreneur for me was the right move was because I could really turn my success into significant and make real change in the world. And the more nonprofits, I help them more organizations, I help to raise money, more work they can do and the more change they can have in the world.

And you know, Cindy, the nonprofit sector is really interesting, because they’re like any other sector, they are not empowered to invest in themselves and spend money. They’re empowered to be so slim of a budget and understaffed and underpaid and overworked that when I help you boost your budget, your bottom line, there’s so much more work that can be done and the results are just doubled and tripled out into the world. And that’s I’m really passionate about making the world a better place. I think that’s what it boils down to. I love that. That’s awesome.

Thanks. What’s your favorite internet resource or app that just makes your life easier, oh BlueJeans, hands down BlueJeans, do you know about BlueJeans, no, first time hearing?

Oh, it’s fabulous, it’s amazing. So it’s an online video course conferencing platform. I do basically 98% of all my meetings, through BlueJeans it allows me to be face to face with all my clients without having to get in my car and drive which I find for me, it can just be a big time suck. So this way, I can go from meeting to meeting, I can be there in the room, I can look you in the eye, I can show you things, I can share my screen. It’s phenomenal. You can host webinars on it. It’s amazing BlueJeans is great. It’s not free. It’s like 999 a month but for me 10 bucks a month. I use it probably four hours a day. It’s totally useful. And you can record everything which is useful for me too. That’s super affordable. Yeah, it’s a lot cheaper than some of the other ones that I’ve seen right and if you’re not hosting webinars with 500 people it host up to 50 people and do webinars on there. It’s It’s It’s awesome. I love it BlueJeans is great.

That’s good 50 attendees. That’s really good. I think I’m gonna sign up for this. Thank you.

You’re welcome. Where can listeners find you online? what’s your website? What are your social media accounts?

You can find me at auctions generosity. com. I write a blog twice a week. I put a ton of information out there for free just because not everyone can afford me and my services I have a YouTube channel you can search generosity auctions or Arbor Anna’s. You can find me on Instagram at generosity auctions. You can find me on Twitter at Arbor auctioneer. And you can find me on LinkedIn as well as our as our thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity city. It’s been great. No problem is great having you on.


Cindy Rodriguez is the host of the Start Fierce Business Podcast. When she’s not interviewing awesome entrepreneurs, she’s working on growing her startup, going to Disney World with her daughter, or reading a book.

The Fierce Entrepreneur Podcast is now the Start Fierce Business Podcast. Click here to learn more.

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