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Archive for March, 2012

A FUNdraising FUNdamental

Posted by Scott On March 28th

A FUNdraising FUNdamental

One doesn’t often associate a benefit auction with a statistical equation, but I actually have one for you.  What percent of the guests who attend a benefit auction come for the fun?  Well the answer is high.  Very high.  92 percent to be exact.

There is no doubt your guests would not be there if they did not support your cause or want to donate generously.  But, research has shown they give more when they are surrounded by a fun environment.

This can be accomplished partially by creating a fun theme and then decorating the venue to coincide with the theme. Themes can be crucial to your success and can change as fast as Clark Kent in a telephone booth.

I have a long list of current theme ideas.  The list is too long to mention in a blog, but contact me and I’d be happy to share some ideas with you.

Your emcee or host is also crucial.  He or she must set the pace for the evening and keep the audience engaged and entertained.

And don’t forget to step up your “Fun Meter” every year.  Benefit auctions with the same basic theme year after year soon fail to raise the excitement level of attendees and that translates into falling donations.  Think fun and think fresh.

So, keep the fun in your FUNdraising FUNction.  It’s great for your bottom line. And 92 percent of your guests are there because of it.



Dozens of times throughout the course of the year I’m asked by benefit chairpersons across the country, “Why don’t people show up for charitable events?”  Then they go on to explain what they did to promote their once-a-year fundraiser.

They advertised in the local paper and social magazines.  They ran some free spots on the local radio.  They placed the information on their website, email blasts and other social media outlets.  And they passed out flyers at local businesses willing to tape a sheet of paper to their window or wall.

I’m quick to say that’s great.  But when I ask, “Did you cover the 3 C’s?”, they pause for a minute – the gears in their brains working overtime – trying to decipher what the heck are the 3 C’s.

Perhaps it will help if I list the Top 3 reasons people DO NOT attend fundraising events.

1)     They are not asked.

2)    They feel they won’t know anyone attending

3)    They think they won’t have any fun.

As for Number 1, the first C stands for Contact.  Sending out an invitation is great but personally contacting someone, especially friends, and asking them to attend more than doubles the chances they will. This is also a great opportunity for a 30-second pitch on the organization’s mission and why the funds are needed.

As for Number 2, the C stands for Camaraderie.  Assure invited guests they will be among friends.  And if they won’t know anyone attending, be sure to tell them you have friends and important community contacts you’d like for them to meet at the event and make the introductions.  This way they have something to look forward to. Everybody can use new friends.

And finally Number 3, the C stands for Celebration. Keep the event FUN & FRESH. Don’t be afraid to let all attendees know the program’s highlights and mention there will be a few surprises.  Keep the mood festive, the guests entertained and the event’s pace moving.  There should never be a dull moment.

Casey Kasem had his Top 40.  David Letterman has his Top 10.  I only have a Top 3.  But boy, what a difference they make.  Incorporate these Three C’s into your event planning and watch the C NOTES roll in.

Sharon her Wardrobe

Posted by Scott On March 13th

On occasion I like to divert from my normal blog and reflect upon the crazy things that occurred during a benefit auction.  That’s why the subtitle for this blog – and perhaps lesson – falls under the category, “Expect the Unexpected.”

On two occasions I had the opportunity to share the stage with actress Sharon Stone. She is one tough lady – knows exactly what she wants – and proceeds with a fiery passion. But during a major benefit auction in Fort Myers, Florida a few years back she did something I had never seen before from a Celebrity Co-Auctioneer.

During the course of the auction I received a slip of paper which basically stated an attendee would like to bid on Sharon’s shoes if she’d be willing to put them up.  After a little coaxing she did – and the shoes brought in about $6,000.

Soon after, another slip of paper arrived.  This time the attendees wanted to bid on Sharon’s purse.  She agreed and the purse sold for around $8,000.

Just when I thought Ms. Stone had run out of personal items to auction off a third note arrived – and you guessed it – they were inquiring about the dress she was wearing.  To my surprise Sharon agreed to auction it off and the dress sold for around $12,000.

Immediate following Sharon quipped, “I am going to leave here this evening barefoot and wearing a tablecloth.”

As Sharon’s assistant began the task of finding a replacement dress a fast-thinking guest wrote the words “Sharon Stone” on a white tablecloth and handed it up on stage for her to wear as comic relief.

Well, Sharon didn’t hesitate one bit.  As I held up one end of the tablecloth and a volunteer held the other end – to hide the “I-can’t-believe-what’s-about-to-happen” moment – Sharon took off the dress. She then swung it over the top of the “tablecloth wall” – like a scene from the opening credits from the TV show Petticoat Junction.  Of course, the crowd went wild.

We then wrapped Sharon in the tablecloth and I gave her my jacket to wear and hold everything in place as the dress was presented to the very happy winning bidder.  The auction proceeded with Sharon still on stage – wearing a tablecloth and formal jacket.

Eventually her assistant arrived with a new dress and Sharon departed briefly to make herself “attire whole” once again.

And then guess what happened?  We placed the tablecloth Sharon was wearing up for bid and it brought in close to $10,000.   

This true “Expect the Unexpected” story is one of the most treasured memories I have in my nearly 20 years as a professional benefit auctioneer.  Not only because we raised a record amount of money that night.  But, because I got to hold a tablecloth’s end.



Never Use this Word

Posted by Scott On March 6th

NEVER EVER Use This Word

There has been a great deal of attention lately to words being said on live television – that got past the 8-second delay system and the censors – that should have never been heard by the public.

The latest incident occurred during the live Academy Awards broadcast when Frenchman Jean Dujardin, who had just won the Oscar for Best Leading Actor for The Artist, said a word in his native language which made headlines for days after.

When it comes to benefit auctions, there is also one word that should NEVER EVER be used.  And it’s probably not what you think.

The word I’m talking about is “Economy.”  NEVER EVER use the word economy.  NEVER EVER mention the economy.   And NEVER EVER print the word economy on programs or other printed materials.

I’ve been a professional benefit auctioneer for almost 20 years several economic cycles. If there is one thing I learned it’s this; “Generous bidding at auctions is all about confidence.”  That includes confidence in the mission, confidence in the organization’s leadership and confidence in the economy.

It doesn’t matter if the economy is going up, staying flat or heading downhill faster than an extreme skier.  Those who have done well financially did not arrive there by accident.  They foresaw the future and responded accordingly. And they already know exactly what the economy is doing – and where it is predicted to go.


You should also keep in mind your attendees – and potential donors – are at your event to have a good time.  They want to forget about business for at least a couple of hours and simply have fun – all while helping out a very worthy cause.


So avoid the word “economy” no matter what direction it is heading. By doing so, your bottom line will surely improve.  And you’ll be rewarded with a soaring G.D.P.  Great. Donor. Participation.