Have you seen memes like this?
There are many variations referencing different professions.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a medical doctor at a fundraiser this summer.
I was working on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The doctor and I were talking about changes in her job. Patient consultations are different than just a few years ago.
To paraphrase, she said:
“People are more informed, but on the flip side, some think that spending a few hours in front of the computer makes them more knowledgeable than my 20 years of experience, training, and onsite observation. Yet they need to do what they believe is best, so sometimes that means they pursue their own treatment.”
The internet has made self-education readily available in all professions — including mine.
But with so much conflicting information, how do you know who to trust?
I’ve noticed that the quality of the information about benefit auctions varies widely.
Depending on which stakeholder you ask (benefit auctioneers, auction software companies, event management firms, consignors, etc.), you will hear different answers for these common benefit auction questions:
- Opening bids in the live auction — should the auctioneer start above value, at value, or below value?
- Ordering of items — should your first item be a low value “warm up” item or a strong competitive item?
- Where to put the fund a need — beginning, middle, or end of the live auction?
- What’s the best way to handle large gifts in the fund a need?
- Can you have more than one speaker testify during your paddle raiser?
- Are games appropriate to use in your paddle raiser?
- What’s the ideal length of a video used to influence giving?
- Should you use consignment items? Is it best to “require” that a generous donor buy the consigned item and “gift” it to the nonprofit?
- Should you reveal to guests which items are consigned, admitting that not all of the sale price will benefit the nonprofit?
Poke around online. You’ll find different answers for all these questions.
Who should you believe?
My suggestion is that whoever is responsible for executing the activity gets the final say.
Example 1: A school auction client called me earlier this fall to ask about nonprofit auction software.
The Development Director said, “The company we’re paying to run registration and checkout wants us to switch from auction software A to auction software B. They said auction software A is having customer service issues. They advise all clients to transition to this other auction software. What do YOU think?”
I said, “I’m not running checkout. They are. Listen to them; they’ll know best.”
Example 2: A new nonprofit client was considering different activities to include in their event.
The client was using one of my lead auctioneers. Because I wanted the fundraiser to be successful, I advised them to include certain activities that I knew would play to the strengths of that auctioneer.
It makes no sense to intentionally add a component into an event if it won’t be executed well.
Execution is everything, and not everyone executes the same way.
Example 3: Consider what you want the auctioneer to do and talk about it during the selection process.
During a sales call, the Auction Chair told me they had seen the paddle raise managed a certain way at another event. “We are thinking we should do that, too,” she said.
“Are you 100% committed to that approach?” I said. “I don’t like running it that way and will refer you to another auctioneer, if so.”
If you have any non-negotiable elements, share them with your benefit auctioneer BEFORE signing the agreement.
(It’s no different than selecting other professionals. If you want to renovate a mid-century modern home, you probably shouldn’t hire a designer known for his work on Victorian properties.)
In short, if you’re open to alternatives, opt for what your hired professionals suggest.
You’ll have a better event because of it.