Here’s a true story of how a benefit auctioneer can impact the quality of donations you receive in the months preceding your event.
As a recent gala was ending and the guests were chatting and checking out, I was visiting with one of the founders of the organization. While he congratulated me on the success of the night, a woman rushed up and interrupted.
She quickly thanked me and then turned to the founder, making enthusiastic gestures.
“Do you now understand why you should hire a professional auctioneer?!” she gushed, “This is why! Donors like me feel more comfortable donating when we know our donation will bring good money for the school.”
She passionately continued.
She told him that she donates a pricey $10k trip to another nonprofit in town, but has never donated it to his group. “I don’t want it to sell for a fraction of that here,” she said. “They [the other nonprofit] sell it for $12,000!”
As a high-end donor, she wanted to ensure her donations were properly marketed and sold. She was willing to give the school her better items if she trusted the auctioneer selling onstage.
“When I see vacation homes selling for good money, like we did here tonight,” she concluded, “then I feel better about donating my trip to you.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a donor say something like this, but it was the first time I’d heard a donor say it in front of someone of influence. At this event, that passionate woman made sure her remarks were heard by someone in power – the founder of the school. Smart gal.
If you have supporters with access to quality donations, but those supporters are hesitant to donate the nicest items to your auction, you should be asking yourself why they’re holding back.
- Are they unimpressed in your ability to market their items, or attract bidders?
- Do they lack confidence in the auctioneer you’ve hired to sell the packages?
- Do they believe you’ve shown poor judgment in your choices, and aren’t able to run a first-class event? (Savvy donors are a bit like parents who carefully dole out money to a child. If the child makes wise choices, the parents feel good about entrusting the child with more money. If your donors distrust your judgment, they aren’t going to give you their most prized possessions, like a week stay at their dream beach home.)
- Are they quietly observing, waiting for the day your gala shows some consistent quality? (Last year, one of my smallest clients had their most successful event ever. Guests raved! This year, the volunteer gala chair wants to change it all around. If I was the Executive Director of that nonprofit, I’d be having a serious conversation with that volunteer. Now that the group has the inkling of an event formula that works for them, they should be looking to solidify their success this year so any potential donors watching the event know that they can expect a consistently good product.)
It can take two to three years, but when you start to routinely demonstrate a high level of quality in your event, you’ll find it easier to procure donations.
And one of the most visible ways of demonstrating that you’re serious about your auction is to use an excellent auctioneer whom your guests and donors respect and enjoy.