As a fundraising consultant, sometimes I find it hard to attend fundraising events and watch “mistakes in action!” Lately, I’ve come to find that fundraising events that fall flat have three things in common:
1. Poor Silent Auction Items
Sometimes, event managers have trouble saying “no” to auction items that come in at the last minute and the silent auction is overcrowded with items that either a) should have been combined with others, or b) shouldn’t be there in the first place. Did three different small vintage figurines get donated at the last minute? Put them together and call them a “collection,” but only if they have some sort of value. Otherwise, save them for other purposes- like volunteer thank-you gifts. Try to keep your silent auction clean and upscale in the type and number of items you offer.
2. Poor Silent Auction Displays
Please don’t have a silent auction that is nothing but a “sea of gift certificates.” Ask the donor of the gift certificates to give you attractive items to go with a certificate whenever possible. Otherwise, create a small display of items you can put out with the certificate, or in a bag with nice tissue, to attract bids. It’s not difficult to go to a discount store and purchase items to pair with a gift certificate for a massage. For example, add some oils, soaps, and candles and make your own inexpensive basket with clear wrap and a nice big bow to go with the display of the certificate. Did you get a tour of a winery? Ask for a bottle of wine to display with the certificate! Don’t crowd items together on small tables, try to spread them out so the bid sheets are easy to access, and group similar items together. Remember, the visual is what draws the bidder to the item! Also, be sure to have large signs for each item in plastic frames so bidders don’t even have to get to close to see something interesting. Make it festive and visual!
3. Poor Live Auction Sound
I recently attended an event where the nonprofit leader was the auctioneer, and he had no auctioneering experience. He wasn’t able to capture the audience’s attention, and the crowd of hundreds just talked over him the whole time which was really heartbreaking to watch! In addition, the sound system was poor so that made matters worse. Luckily, the highest bidders were closer to the stage and in the end all of the live items sold at decent values. Invest in the proper sound system with someone experienced at producing quality sound at events, and if you can’t find a volunteer professional auctioneer, try finding a local celebrity who commands attention to be your auctioneer! Local television news personalities love to give back, and can not only enhance your attendance by mentioning them in the invitations and media advisories, but are often experienced at running a live auction and being the emcee for your event.
Spring event season is around the corner, so start planning early, and I wish you much success!