On October 31st
In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share a frightful tale of a fundraising event gone wrong.
I decided to attend a high profile fundraising event as a guest with a good friend of mine. I was there as a guest because the organization had decided to use a volunteer auctioneer to ‘save money’. Upon arriving, we were immediately confronted by two ‘greeters’ who were selling raffle tickets. We were told we could buy one ticket for $5 or 3 tickets for $10 and once we purchased a ticket we’d receive a blinking light up pin so that no one would attempt to sell us any additional tickets. The scary part was the first impression. Instead of being greeted and seated, we were confronted and intensely encouraged to purchase these raffle tickets that were being sold for very low prices. This took away from the elegance and overall feel of the evening. We came out dressed in black tie attire ready to donate to a great cause but when we arrived it felt more like a fair when the game leaders are trying to get you to play their game; “3 tries for $5!”
Putting this aside, my friends and I found our table and sat down. The event décor was well done, with the exception of the centerpieces. We would’ve been seated to have a great view of the stage, but the centerpieces, though beautiful, were tall and bulky and obstructed the view for a few people at our table.
And then the live auction began. The volunteer auctioneer, I’m sure had the best of intentions by donating his time to be the auctioneer at this event. However, he had no auctioneer experience. The bidding for each item started off at $100, regardless of if it was a bottle of wine or a weekend get away. This caused the bidding to get stale quickly. There was even a point where someone bid $1,500 on a piece of art work and then called the auctioneer over to whisper in his ear. The auctioneer then announced that the current high bidder had resigned his bid, therefore the piece would sell for $1,400. We were within earshot of the person who bid $1,400 and she wasn’t happy. She felt if the other person has resigned their bids, she should get it at the price she bid before the resigned bids came into play. For the remainder of the night this guest did not raise her hand to bid again, nor did anyone at her table. The live auction had 7 items and took almost 2 hours. People seemed bored and not at all engaged.
The special appeal came next. As it began, people were raising their hands and pouring money into the need of the charity. But then, dessert was served; during the special appeal! Needless to say, the donations ceased because people were distracted by the wait staff and the delicious dessert in front of them. There was a lot of money left on the table because of a distracted audience.
These are just a few of the points that stuck out. So, please, unless you’re going for a frightening theme, remember these tips when hosting your next fundraising auction:
1. First impressions are important and set the tone for your event. When guests walk through the door, remind them why they are there and make them feel appreciated for attending.
2. Hiring a fundraising auction professional is a no brainer. In this case, the organization thought they were saving money by using a volunteer, but they left a huge amount of money on the table by not having someone who knew how to engage the crowd and effectively run the live auction and special appeal.
3. No distractions during fundraising. It is important, especially during the special appeal, to keep your audience engaged. Wait staff walking around and food being placed on tables is an easy way to loose your audiences’ attention fast.
Want more information on the do’s and don’t of fundraising auctions? Contact me and let’s discuss all the ways you can make your next event a great success!