The National Auctioneers Association recently sent a survey to fundraising auctioneers, asking them about “tough situations that might arise during a benefit auction.”
They listed possible situations that may occur. I’ve posted them below and expanded on the suggestions.
I don’t pretend to have seen it all, but I have seen a lot since becoming a fundraising auctioneer. And if you have experienced a minor set-back or even a catastrophe at your fundraiser, you’re not alone. This post may comfort you.
When a crisis strikes your event, you’ll appreciate having hired professionals who have “been through this before.”
Horrendous weather, like snow, hurricane, flooding
Here’s a lesson in relativity.
In 2018, a school in northern New York had a massive snowstorm on event day. All registered guests showed up.
A similar weather system hit a Washington, D.C. school nearly 10 years prior. That school re-scheduled its auction for the following weekend.
Same bad weather; two different responses.
Nobody shows up for the auction
In 2008, a school had significantly reduced attendance when three events — a rescheduled concert, a sports game final, and a bar mitzvah — were all scheduled on their event night.
The auction went forward, but the numbers were way down.
I’ve not yet experienced a long power outage.
But in 2018, I worked several events whereby the mobile bidding system failed to work. The power was on, but the wireless networks were a no-go. Contingency plans had to be used.
In 2018, a nonprofit’s live auction was interrupted by a fire alarm in the hotel. Hotel staff required everyone to leave — walking up four levels without the use of the escalators.
After 45 minutes and no fire, guests were allowed to return to the ballroom. By then, many had left.
In 2019, a social services nonprofit delayed its program by at least 30 minutes while a volunteer was treated for dehydration and whisked away by ambulance.
In 2014, a nonprofit’s gala chair was killed in a plane crash a few days prior to the event.
In 2017, a nonprofit’s gala co-chair passed from the very disease she was raising money to cure.
It put a different spin on each gala.
In 2015, the president of the board of directors took the microphone to vocally admonish guests for not giving more in the paddle raise.
The situation was made more awkward because the nonprofit ran a battered women’s shelter. His remarks were a verbal beating.
Within a few days, he was no longer on the board.
Buyers are too distracted to bid
This can be caused by several factors. Here are three.
Low-quality sound systems have made it difficult for guests to understand me. The volume was loud, but the clarity of the sound was poor. When that happens, guests start loud conversations so they can be heard. The problem compounds as other buyers become distracted by those talking.
Venues can also create problems. If guests perceive that one part of the venue is nicer than another part, you’ll have a hard time moving them to the less attractive area. We see this sometimes when guests resist leaving a pleasant outdoor area to go inside to the program.
And the wrong size of venue creates problems, too. In 2016, a school gym was much too large for the guest count. During the auction, guests spread into the corners, “hiding” (and talking) from the program, which was in the center of the gym.
Falling down on dance floor
In 2012 while working at a school auction, I walked across the dance floor to approach a bidder.
I made it halfway before slipping on the slick floor. I fell hard.
It’s another reason I despise dividing a room with a dance floor.
Strategically placed safety pins work wonders with clothing.
But an incident in 2017 involved my shoes. While walking onto the stage to start the live auction, the high heel snapped off my sandal.
Time was of essence, so I worked the live auction barefoot.
A few weeks ago, flights along the East coast were delayed again and again due to a weather system slowly moving north. I was unable to fly off Martha’s Vineyard island and return to Washington, D.C. where a second suitcase sat packed with the clothing I needed for my next two auctions.
I found alternative arrangements (a ferry and rental car) to make it to my next event. Scheduling was tight so shopping was not an option; I wore the same outfit to three events.
The outfit wasn’t a great transitional piece, but what I hated most was that my flips (which were fine for event #1) weren’t an ideal fit for events #2 and event #3.
Got your own story of drama? Share it below.
If you liked this post, you might also like reading the Swear Words of Estate Auctioneering.