Last week across the newswire, I read an article about an Idaho athletic booster auction fundraiser that was small in size, but not by design: Blackfoot Broncos Annual Fundraiser Attendance Falls.
The school’s Booster Club, located in Blackfoot, ID (population ~11,000) was raising money for athletic programs. The booster auction usually brings in several thousand dollars.
The Booster Club President suggests that the economy is to blame for the lower attendance and fewer donations, but a hazing controversy within the boys basketball program might have also darkened the event. In a video, the judge talks about the polarizing effect on the small community. That trial might have colored the mood of the auction fundraiser, especially as it was held to raise money for athletic programs.
So what do you do when you’re in a swirl of negativity and sense your event will feel the effects?
Here are some auction fundraiser ideas for when controversy comes:
- If lower attendance will be expected, plan accordingly and reduce the number of items for sale. We don’t want your event to become a garage sale with guests toting home bargain-basement deals. Keep it small and slick.
- Procure from donors not involved in the controversy. If Mr. Smith usually donates an item, but the controversy swirls around his family, give him a rest this year. Unless you really enjoy pushing the envelope, allowing some time to pass might be a smart decision.
- Offer items not related to the hot button. Last year I sold a week’s stay at a stunning vacation home along the beach. When there is no controversy, this is a top-selling item. But in this case, the home happened to be located on the Gulf, and the auction was during the height of the news coverage for the gushing oil spill. The controversy was regional, but it had a local effect.
- Call, call, call. Personal invitations to encourage people to attend your shindig can help mend fences.
Although it’s not easy conducting a gala amidst challenges, it can be done. Your event and efforts may be the shining beacon of light your community needs to get everyone rowing in sync once again.
Ann Rosato says
I run an auction for a small school in Los Angeles. We had our annual silent auction r=two weeks ago. We have had no controversy and still our attendance was way low this year! We offer music, food and the auction. We send out catalogs the week ahead so people can start looking and someone called every parent to invte them and still only about 30% of the current parents attended. What to do?!
Sherry Truhlar says
Have you read this post on auction surveys, Ann?
Consider expanding the survey to include last year’s supporters. Have a section that says, “If you didn’t attend, please share why.” Spend some time creating a subject line that will be opened. Maybe not this but something like: “Even if you weren’t there, we NEED your two-cents on our school auction.”
I also work with some clients who weave auction advertising into everything they do. (We cover marketing like this in my Profitable Auction Blueprint class, too.) It’s constant reinforcement.
Betsy Baker says
Sherry, great points! It still can be successful – just add a few twists.