Established auction committees tend to write lots of checks.
A budget for fundraising gala will vary by group (for instance, you might have access to a free venue; others might negotiate discounted printing), but when we look at the budgets of committees coast-to-coast, we see common expenses.
And it’s not uncommon to see costs shape up like the chart on the right.
So do you think that if you write the biggest check to the caterer or the venue or the band (pick a category), they are providing the greatest help to you in your mission?
Let’s consider some examples …
If the florist creates stunning centerpieces, will that help you raise money?
No. I’ve yet to see a guest stand up and donate $1000 because the centerpieces rocked.
What about the US Postal Service?
Will the mailman deliver your invitation in such a way that a new guest will decide to buy a ticket?
No. And having “extra cool programs” from a printer doesn’t gain you extra money, either.
Does a neat venue make you money?
Well …. sometimes. An unusual space might attract more guests, especially if it’s usually something “off-limits” to the public.
That said, the mission of the venue owner isn’t about helping you raise cash. His mission is to provide you a comfortable, safe venue. So don’t expect the venue’s owner to deliver a compelling speech that will inspire guests to donate.
What about a kick-ass band?
If you budget more money for a band and get someone REALLY good, will you raise more money?
If the entertainer’s name is Aerosmith, Billy Joel or something similar, you’ll sell more tickets and – yes – this could equate to more profit.
But if you’re spending a lot more to merely hire a local “better” band, save your money. A band’s focus is to entertain; not compel guests to give. You might have a more enjoyable listening experience, but that doesn’t mean you’ll raise more money.
Here’s the bottom line.
The ONLY vendor who shares your goal of raising money is the auctioneer.
Your auctioneer is a professional sales person with the singular goal of selling high!
To accomplish this goal, auctioneers use their personality, charisma and chant (it’s outside the scope of this post, but the “fast talk” makes you money).
They facilitate the event so it has momentum. They cajole and entertain.
And if you’re using a benefit auctioneer, you’ll also get additional ideas prior to the event that will improve your gala. The good ones will consult with you.
So when it comes to selecting vendors, where do you think your biggest decision lies?
Your biggest decision should be who to hire as your auctioneer. It’s the ONLY vendor sharing your mission.
If you’re going to screw up on hiring a vendor, don’t let it be the auctioneer. They’re the only vendor focused on fundraising.
They don’t care about making pretty invitations … they aren’t focused on serving the food at 7:30 PM … they aren’t trying to provide a danceable beat. They care about selling high.
Next week I’ll tell a personal story about how I learned the importance of vendor selection in my former corporate job.
Lisa Schaffer says
Do you have any suggestions for the following situation? Our club has had Chinese New Year Dinner Dance with Silent and Live Auction for 12 years. There are several of the more senior members of the club who insist of keeping the Chinese New Year theme. On the other hand, there are many younger members of the club who would like to keep the Silent and Live Auction part of the event, however change the Chinese New Year theme and possibly get away from the “Dance” part of the event. We generally have between 200-300 people attend the event….at best we have a dozen people get up and dance for a song or two. Many of us feel that money is being wasted on a band. However the older people feel that when people are paying $85 per person they “expect” live music. Part of the reason that many of us want to change the theme is because we receive multiple complaints about how “terrible” the food is. We hold the event in a hotel which holds many conferences, weddings, etc. If we change the theme, we feel that we would have a much better menu choice. We’ve also been told by many of the non-members who attend that they attend the event because they are friends and co-workers of the co-chairs and that part of the money raised goes to the local non-profit hospital that many of us work. This past year we managed to get them to allow us to try using “PayPal” (which was successful). We also created a central email address (the one above) in hopes that all of the requests, questions, communication, etc. goes to one place and is directed to the proper person from that one central email address. Also, the older members of the club are completely against spending any kind of money…this past year the new co-chairs spent approx. $70 to purchase necklace and bracelet displays. It was such a hurdle spending the money that the person who purchased them decided it was best to donate them to the club instead of fighting with people to be reimbursed $70. Thanking you in advancing for your suggestions.
Sherry Truhlar says
Wow! You’ve got a lot of questions tucked into this. Clearly you’ve got your hands full! The good news is that you’re not alone. This sort of resistance is pretty common.
In fact, you might find it fun to watch this video clip (below) shot at a school, immediately following their auction. For 10 years, this event raised $17k to $19k. A new Auction Chair took the reigns, did her homework, and made three big changes. 1) They moved from a potluck to a catered meal. 2) They bought software to help with registration and check-out. 3) They hired a professional auctioneer (me).
The committee approved the first two changes, but adamantly refused to pay my fee. So the Auction Chair stepped forward and paid for me herself.
At the end of the night, they’d raised $68,000 … a $50,000 gain IN ONE YEAR. Everyone was stunned, thrilled, gasping, etc. This video was shot as guests checked out. You’ll hear from one of the “naysayers” who had argued against spending any money on their auction.
Here’s the link https://www.redappleauctions.com/about-us/clients/orchard-house-school/
(Incidentally, at their next auction, they raised $82,000.)
Regarding the theme … I think you should change it for all the reasons you’ve identified, and others.
And for further help, consider investing in a consulting package. At this time, rates start at $260 … and there is a LOT we can cover in 75 minutes. Learn more here: https://www.redappleauctions.com/benefit-auction-consulting-and-training/benefit-auction-consulting/