One of the more dreaded activities of holding an auction fundraiser is managing registration and checkout — or, as I like to call it, “Guest Services.”
Even without auction software, Guest Services is not an impossible task for an auction committee to pull off, but it does require organization, speed, and — most importantly — an understanding of the entire process.
There are dozens of tasks that must be managed between when the guest arrives at the gala and when they leave at night’s end. A small mistake in one area can have a larger implication elsewhere.
The process lends itself to the adage: “The devil is in the details.”
In this video, I share one such detail. The tip? Your auctioneer should announce bid numbers individually during the paddle raiser / Fund a Need.
A la, announce “four-three-five” versus “four thirty-five.”
Announcing individual digits ensures the volunteer tasked with recording the donations makes fewer mistakes. It reduces inputting errors and improves recording speed.
How so? Because some numbers are tricky in the way we pronounce them in English.
Let’s consider two examples.
Assume the auctioneer sees bid number #219 and calls out “two nineteen.”
A. Using pen and paper: If the volunteer is using pen and paper to record donations, she might start to write “2 9” before realizing there is a “teen” on the end of the “nine.” She might scratch out the “2 9” and write “219” next to it.
Or she might squeeze a “1” between the “2 9” she already wrote.
Generally, recording pledges using paper and pen makes changes on-the-fly easier.
B. Inputting into auction software: In contrast, assume the volunteer is inputting donations directly into an auction software system. When the auctioneer announces “two nineteen,” a volunteer might type “2-9 ….” before realizing the number to be inputted is “2-1-9” — not “2-9-X”
Upon hearing the full word of “nineteen,” the volunteer must course correct. She needs to get a “1” in front of the “9.” She has to delete the “9” (“Where is that backspace key?!?”) and instead type “1-9.”
If she’s lacking in typing skills, it’s easy to fall behind. The auctioneer has moved on, calling out other pledges.
There are other numbers like this, too.
- Bid card #105 is easier to record when verbalized as “one-zero-five” instead of “one hundred five.”
- Bid card #1500 is easier to record when verbalized as “one-five-zero-zero” instead of “one thousand five hundred.”
- You get the idea.
My suggestion is to use paper and pen to record pledges, but sometimes entering pledges directly into the software is necessary.
For instance, maybe the client wants to display a donations thermometer on a screen for guests to see. Or maybe we need a fast-turnaround for checkout invoicing.
In full transparency, calling individual digits is a change I myself am working to enforce.
I’m better than I used to be, but sometimes I find myself getting sloppy and drifting into the “two nineteen” mode — especially if the event has a live auction and not only a paddle-raise.
(This tip isn’t as relevant for live auctions, for reasons I describe in the video.)
This is one reason it pays to hire a professional fundraising auctioneer. A knowledgeable pro takes care of these details automatically, likely without you realizing it.