One of my clients is scrambling as she looks at new charity auction venues.
Last year, she booked a restaurant for her nonprofit’s December luncheon fundraiser. Two weeks ago the restaurant called her, mortified. Due to a glitch in their new scheduling system, they inadvertently double-booked the space. Her group is no longer able to use the venue.
My client is now trying to find a new location. She’s also researching the implications and penalties which will affect her organization if she changes the date.
Her situation reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago, explaining that some shopping malls were offering nonprofits rent-free (or deeply discounted) space to avoid empty storefronts.
My thought: Could you host an auction in the shopping mall, in an empty retail space?
I’ve worked some unique venues for auctions, but I’ve yet to conduct one in a mall.
The article (which is no longer live or I’d share the link) discussed how some shopping centers were offering free or inexpensive space to nonprofits until a paying tenant could be found.
The shopping center management got some wins from the arrangement.
- It’s a chance for them to do something kind for a local charity.
- They avoid the awkwardness of an empty retail space.
- It also might be good for attracting new business.
- One of the interviewed property owners said that because the space is “open” to the public, prospective renters could walk in and poke around. Some asked leasing questions, inquiring about square footage.
The non-profits also enjoyed two key benefits.
- Free or deeply discounted rent.
- The visibility of being in the mall exposed their charity to thousands of people ambling by their new “storefront.” Those are potential donors who might otherwise have never heard of the organization.
If the space is leased, the nonprofit must pack-up and leave, usually on short notice.
- Hosting a charity auction in a vacant store in a mall would be a one-of-a-kind experience. You would only need the space for a day or two.
- The venue would have to be large enough to host your guests and allow for catering prep. (Maybe one of the mall’s own restaurants could be the caterer?) As I think about the size of a “typical” mall store in my area, it might be best suited for events with no sit down dinner (passed heavy hors d’oeuvres with desserts, perhaps) and on the smaller size, like 100 – 150 guests
- This can’t be a gala you plan months in advance because the space might be rented by the time you’re ready to use it. It would need to be planned within a short time frame. It might be best suited for “medical emergency” auctions (when someone is hurt, and friends pitch together to host an auction to help with expenses) or in response to a venue change, as in the case of my charity auction client.
Has anyone done this? Please share below, if you have. I’d love to hear about it.