My company has four auctions booked for Saturday, March 2, 2013. Last Friday, yet another school called asking if I had any auctioneers available on that date.
“We thought we had one,” she shared, “but apparently we don’t. And here it is November and I’m calling for a March auction …”
Her voice trailed off.
Yeah, she knew she was in trouble.
By my count of bookings and schools I’ve already declined, that is 9 Washington D.C.-area schools that *I* know of competing for donations for March 2. Given their charity auction date, they are also competing against all of the other schools hosting auctions in February, April, or any of those other uber-popular March dates, like March 8, 9, 15 and 16.
And of course, there are some very large fundraising gala auctions held by nonprofits in February and March, too. They’ll be tapping some of the same contacts for items.
Can you imagine all of the businesses being slammed with donation requests by these charities, starting now?
This is why I prefer fall auctions.
- Less competition for donations.
- Less competition for sponsorships.
- Less competition for attendees.
- A more giving “holiday spirit” mindset as opposed to the “I have to pay my taxes” spirit that prevails in March and April.
- Easier sale of items (because people buy with gifts in mind)
And to that last point, look at the photos on this page.
See how one of my Wisconsin school client’s smartly promotes their items? Virtually everything has a bow. “THIS IS A CHRISTMAS PRESENT,” the messaging not-so-subtly states.
Schools often set their spring auction date with two thoughts in mind. They usually run it counter to their annual fund, and they also believe they’ll have more time to assemble the volunteers needed to plan the auction, if they opt for a spring date instead.
To that, I say, “Phooey!!”
Am I missing something? Why not change the date of the annual fund? And why not reach out to volunteers at Back to School night (or better … in the late summer) to begin planning a winter auction?
Unlike many nonprofits, schools have a built-in volunteer force (parents) that are considerably easier to mobilize than the volunteer force of nonprofits.
(It’s true. The typical school has a much easier time running an auction on volunteers than the typical nonprofit.)
Consider the database. Schools have names of parents on file. Addresses. Phone numbers. Emails.
When a parent is turning the care of their child over to a school, the parent is happy to give the school any and all contact information.
“And in case of emergency, you can even call THIS number,” a parent will proffer to a school administrator.
Goodness, if they cared to, schools could work through that list of phone numbers, personally asking each parent to help with the auction. It wouldn’t be impossible to assemble a committee by late summer / early fall and get busy on winter auction activities.
It’s not like that in the nonprofit world. Most lack such a strong database.
The last two weekends I’ve overseen school auctions in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I’ll be working a school auction here in Washington, D.C. this coming Saturday. I think these schools wisely chose their dates.
And personally, if I was overseeing a fundraising auction, my first choice of a date would be November / December. Hands-down.
I want to work with the natural cycle of our lives. Not against it.
(It was a bit of a rant this week, but for other no B.S. advice on benefit auctions, you might like this resource, my Auction Item Guide™. I’ll be updating this within a few weeks and you won’t be able to get it, so grab while the grabbin’ is good! It’s the top 100 items I sold for over value in auctions last year.)
Scott Robertson says
You are spot on regarding that schools should strongly consider having their fundraising auction in the fall. Aside from the fact there is too much competition in the spring there is also the graduation factor. Parents of students who are leaving the school, in a few months, to pursue a higher degree are not nearly as motivated to participate. Their feeling is often “why raise money when my student will not have time to be a benefactor. Just one more reason that schools should have their fundraising auction in the fall of the year.
Sherry Truhlar says
Ah yes. There’s another great reason for fall auctions, Scott. Thanks for sharing.