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Mon December 12, 2011
Kristi Saucerman – The Mom Behind Auction Frogs
BOISE, ID – It’s the heart of charitable giving season. Charities hold gala events to raise money for their causes. Many hold silent auctions. That’s where one Hidden Springs woman comes in. She thought those auctions could be run better. So she founded a company called Auction Frogs to host them online.
Hidden Springs lies nestled in the foothills above Boise. The Mercantile Building is hub and gateway for the neighborhood with its café and post office. On the second floor is an office barely big enough to fit a desk and chair. This is where Kristi Saucerman sits.
Kristi Saucerman: “Well, first and foremost primarily, I’m a mom. I still consider myself a stay-at-home mom because my kids are young and they go to school. And by three o’clock you’ll find me generally at home and that may be working at home, that may be working from my Blackberry, or shuttling kids to and from, but that’s what I do.”
Saucerman is also the founder, President, and CEO of Auction Frogs. It’s a tech company that lets charities “leap” easily into online fundraising by hosting web-based silent auctions. That’s where the “Frogs” in the company name comes from.
Kristi Saucerman: “You’ve been to silent auctions, right? You know when you walk around and you bid on those auction items. You’re limited to that two hour, maybe, time frame to go place that bid”.
Saucerman got frustrated by that format. She had years of volunteer experience at fundraisers for the charter school her two daughters attend. Saucerman knew there had to be a better and more efficient way to run a charity auction.
Kristi Saucerman: “Hope for enough people to come to the event so that they can bid on those items within that two hour timeframe. Once that time is up, the bid sheets are collected, the inventory is then organized so that the mass chaos of the people leaving the facility at the end of the night can show up, hopefully pay, take their items, and leave.”
Saucerman decided to simplify things. She found a software programmer to design a web-based system that automates silent auctions. Saucerman tried the system out at the charter school’s next fund raiser. Revenue tripled. Word about this new online silent auction spread to other organizations.
Kristi Saucerman: “And then I would get a call from another charter school, and then another call from another private school, and then a church would call, and then somebody in Michigan called, and then somebody in Florida called. And all of a sudden, I kept saying, ‘Well, how did you find me?” ‘Oh my cousins, brothers, neighbors, friends, aunt sent me a link to the school’s website that they were doing and thought maybe I should look into doing it for our school.’”
Saucerman launched Auction Frogs four years ago. She runs the company with three other people. A list in her office shows dozens of current and upcoming projects. It reads like a who’s who of local and national non-profits.
Kristi Saucerman: “I think we are in 32 states now throughout the nation and into Canada. We’ve had hundreds of clients and raised more than $2 million for organizations across, well I can say, across the world now.”
Auction Frogs competes with large companies such as eBay and biddingforgood.com. Those companies claim they’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charity. Corey Surber worked with Auction Frogs on her company’s silent auction this year. Surber directs government and community relations for Saint Alphonsus Health System.
Corey Surber: “It’s amazing that we’ve got this great a resource here locally. You know the fact that I can call Kristi up and she can meet with me the same day. She’s just so accessible and easy to work with.”
Surber wanted to find a way for all St. Al’s employees to take part in a United Way kick-off campaign. But their auditorium would only hold a few hundred of their 3500 employees in Boise and Nampa. Surber hired Auction Frogs so all employees could participate on the web. St. Al’s raised about $4,200 through the online auction last year. This year, they raised more than $8,000. Saucerman says she’s lucky to have found an occupation that fuels her passion to help charities raise money.
Kristi Saucerman: “I’m not a technology major or developer, programmer, nothing. I know to be successful in business you really need to hire the people that know their jobs very well.”
Saucerman’s team works collaboratively from remote offices. This allows them to work virtually. The set up also allows Saucerman to live what she calls “one full life” that includes her work and family.
Kristi Saucerman: “I really love what I do. I want to grow this company as best I can as high and large. And I want to create jobs in Boise. And I want to bring in more people.”
Auction Frogs makes money by taking a share of gross online auction sales. The exact percentage ranges from one to 11 percent, based on what’s raised. Saucerman says her business continues to grow, enough so, she plans to hire two more people next year.
Copyright 2011 Boise State Public Radio