Imagine the scenario …
You’ve agreed to chair the benefit auction for a charity in your hometown. The ball is rolling and in a few months, guests will all gather to your event.
You’ve got lots of ideas, but might feel overwhelmed. You’ve heard that many benefit auctioneers are booked months in advance, so you’ve decided to call a few today to get an idea of their services.
Don’t pick up the phone until you’re clear about one point. You’ll save yourself and the benefit auctioneer a lot of time if you know the answer to this question.
What is the primary reason this fundraiser is being held?
When an organization calls me to inquire about services, I have a series of questions I ask to better understand the event. If the person calling me is knowledgeable about the past benefit auctions, our talk takes around 40 minutes. One question I ask is why the group is conducting this event. “To raise money for XYZ,” is the common response, but a deeper dive into that response will reveal other reasons as to why an event is being held.
As a benefit auctioneer, I believe it is important to understand why the fundraiser is taking place because it will determine how I work with my client.
For instance, if the goal is first and foremost to raise $100,000, then a group is usually focused on implementing time-tested strategies to ensure they achieve their dollar goal. They will re-arrange the schedule, change the menu, and refuse to let anyone of importance on stage if they feel it detracts from raising that $100,000.
But if the goal is to honor a local hero, the auction proceeds are secondary.
At that point, I know that if I suggest anything which might be perceived to conflict with the hero ceremony, I’ll lose that point! At this gala, the goal is to honor the hero — not raise cash. The auction takes second billing. I’ll suggest appropriate ideas in relation to the event’s goal.
So what are the reasons for hosting a benefit auction?
In addition to raising money, here are some pints I’ve heard:
- Pressure from a donor – “We had one exceptionally nice item donated this year, and the donor refuses to let it be sold in a silent auction so we need to have a live auction.”
- Honor a local hero – “It is is important for us to honor our Volunteer of the Year, so we’re going to have 90 minutes of speeches honoring him, and then the live auction will follow at 10:30 PM.” (OMG, get me out of that room!)
- Tradition – “This is a social function. Any money raised is secondary. Our guests have donated a lot of money throughout the course of the year, so don’t beat it out of them on the stage.” (“Beat” it out of them? Is she talking about me?!?)
- Friendly function – “Auctions are fun, and we thought this would be a good way to raise a little money, meet others in our church, and have some entertainment.”
- Image – “Everybody in town attends this event. An auction has always been part of our evening so we always have it, but people will come whether there is a benefit auction or not.”
- Volunteer involvement – “The auction doesn’t make that much money, but the women really get into this. They get all kinds of items donated, and they like feeling that they are making a difference in our chapter.” B
Being honest with your benefit auctioneer as to the primary goal of your charity auction will go a long way in building your relationship. Your auctioneer will be able to suggest ideas appropriate to your gala and gracefully complement your mission.