Without a doubt, my pet peeve during this recession has been when the Executive Director, Auction Chair, or some other person of importance gets up to the microphone to say a few words at the benefit auction (e.g. thank sponsors and guests, etc.) and then — immediately before I walk onstage — pleads with the audience to “bid high, even though the economy is really bad right now.”
ARRRRGH! ARRRRGH! What are they doing?!
Ladies and gentlemen, remember this:
You will never, ever, ever get more money out of a group of people if you remind them of how bad they’ve got it.
And besides, who on earth are you talking to?
Consider your audience. There is no one sitting in your crowd who has it that bad.
Some of your guests just paid $50 .. or $100 .. or $250 … or $500 to attend your benefit auction. In the larger scheme of life, they aren’t doing badly.
Some of your guests are sitting at their employer’s sponsored table. In that case, we know they are employed. In the larger scheme of life, they aren’t doing badly.
Some of your guests are sitting at their friend’s table. Their friend paid for their ticket. If their friend can afford to buy multiple tickets, we will assume — by association — that everyone at that table is doing OK financially. In the larger scheme of life, they aren’t doing badly.
Every single person sitting in your benefit auction can afford to make a donation to your cause. And instead of asking them to give heartily, you’ve just reminded them to count their pennies.
Remind guests to count their blessings.
- Remind them of how they’ve got it made.
- Remind them that we have all become so accustomed to luxuries (clean water … cars … electricity) that we tend to forget that others around us might need a helping hand.
- Remind them of your mission.
- Remind them that they can be a hero to someone whom they’ll likely never meet, but will remember their generosity forever.
- Remind them that they have the power to change a life.
But do NOT remind them that “times are tough” … that “people are losing their jobs” … or that “it’s a difficult time to donate.”
Here’s a story …
A couple of weeks ago, I worked at a benefit auction in which the Executive Director and I had the “economy discussion” prior to her going on stage. She understood what I was saying, and took it to heart. She didn’t mention anything about the economy.
When the live auction ended, she and the Board President came onstage to introduce the special appeal. I handed them my microphone and stepped to the side. The Board President immediately made a comment about how surprised he was at how well the live auction had run “because the economy is so bad.”
The Executive Director whipped her head over in my direction and shot me a mortified glance that said “Oh-My-God-We-Didn’t-Tell-Him!”
With the energy in the room significantly lower than where it had been moments before, I conducted the appeal.
It has long been said that more millionaires were made during the Great Depression than in any other era in U.S. history. I blogged about this topic a few weeks ago. Forbes Magazine says 10 million millionaires will be created by the year 2016. In times of adversity, entrepreneurs understand that it’s a great time to start a business (start-up costs are low … labor is cheap … people are still spending money, but are just more selective … etc.).
Some of the guests sitting in your benefit auction are having their best financial year ever.
Even if you tend to be a pessimist, you will better serve your cause if you exude optimism. If you can’t speak optimistically … and your Executive Director can’t … and your Development Director can’t … and your Auction Chair can’t … than don’t let anyone speak, except the benefit auctioneer.
Don’t sabotage your gala before the auctioneer has a chance to work her magic.