How to ruin your event in the final 48 hours!

You’ve worked so hard for the last 4-6 months and now, in the final moments, you start to panic.  It’s more common than you think, and you’re not alone.  They key is…don’t do anything to ruin your event in the final 48 hours!

Last month, I went to Salt Lake City, Utah to run in a half marathon. I prepared with a full sixteen week training plan and a goal of running under 1 hour and 40 minutes.  I will tell you, the last mile was painful, but I finished in 1:39:38 or a 7:37 mile pace for 13.1 miles.  Goal accomplished!  I always find parallels between my personal life and work.  They’re seemingly a constant presence.  This was no different.  Think about it…most events prepare for about four months (a sixteen week training plan) and just before the big event, many events, like many runners, ruin all of their hard work in the final 48 hours.  My running coach has a saying about the final two days before a big race, “At this point, you can’t do a whole lot to help your cause, but you can do a whole lot to ruin it”.  There is some truth to that in the world of fundraising too!

Great trip to Morocco at EcoFest earlier this month! Amazing!

Great trip to Morocco at EcoFest earlier this month! Amazing!

Scenario #1: In 48 hours, you ruin your silent auction.  Here’s how:

You have worked extremely hard procuring silent auction items for the previous four months. Then, in the final days you print up bid sheets with minimum bids and valuations, you decide to “save” $1,000 and not get a professional sound system, you print the item descriptions in a 12 pt font so nobody can read it, you turn down the lights to “set the mood” and nobody can see your descriptions (the 12 pt font just got more difficult to read) and last, the most common silent auction blunder the last 48 hours…you continued to add items and add items and add items, putting you well over the suggested number and you now have a garage sale instead of an auction.  All of that work from your staff and volunteers did not reach full potential.

One of our new clients, On River Time, knocked it out of the park with this trip to NYC!

One of our new clients, On River Time, knocked it out of the park with this trip to NYC!

Scenario #2: In 30 minutes, you cripple your live auction by ignoring the program and program protocol.  Here’s how:

You have your “Night of” timeline and program all buttoned up and you’re ready to go! But then the program starts and things start to go unscripted.  First, your speakers forget that they are not at a Kiwanis club lunch meeting and think that every spare minute of dinner service needs to be filled with constant talking and storytelling.  Your 4-5 minute scripted speech turns into a thank you party that lasts 25 minutes, essentially interrupting your guest’s nice dinner and time to chat.  Now we know why the Academy Awards have the music that comes on (cue Jeopardy music, now!).  Next, even though they were instructed otherwise, your table service crew forgets that tonight is not about the food and table service.  It’s about raising money.  They continue to walk around pouring water and tea during the live auction.  Last…You guessed it!  It’s all about that bass, ‘bout that bass!  A poor sound system means that no matter how good your items are, or how hard you have worked, if your guests can’t hear the live auction, they can’t bid.  Think about it this way…you have three profit centers the night of:  Silent Auction, Live Auction and Pledge.  Your sound system will cost approximately $1,000.  That’s $333 for each of the three profit centers.  In simple terms, that’s one or two silent auction items worth, one bid increment in the live auction or one lower end pledge.

We can’t predict how every auction will turn out, just like I can’t predict what my time will be in a race, because there are so many “x” factors we can’t control. BUT, we CAN prepare to be successful!  And, we CAN avoid ruining our potential in the final 48 hours!  Think of Granger Thagard as your personal event coach.  Think of us as your insurance policy.    Though each and every event this fall we have been associated with has broken an all time event record (no kidding, it’s been an amazing run), I can recall at least three that avoided monumental disasters because they had a professional steering the ship (something you don’t get when the weatherman does your auction). All you have to do is listen.  If your event did not break a record this fall, you may want to ask yourself why you’re still hosting amateur hour at your auction.  Spring is filling up and 7 events have already rebooked for next fall 2015…yes, it’s time!

Happy Bidding, Joey

Who’s YOUR Auctioneer?

Granger Thagard Auctioneers is proud to announce that our benefit auction guru, Joey Longoria, now holds the coveted resident auctioneer license with the State of Alabama.  Which brings us to the subject of this blog…Who is your next event Auctioneer? Is it someone who eats, lives and breathes fundraising?  Or, is it someone who thinks being a benefit auctioneer means getting up and chanting a few numbers without the knowledge behind successful fundraisers?

Image

The Granger Thagard Team!

As the Boss…why will you hire a real Auctioneer to help with your next event?  Quite simply, because we study the science behind benefit auctions and the profession in general.  AND, we know fundraising and benefit event marketing which translates to smooth, fun and profitable events for your group!  Making YOU look like the hero! Or, as the Boss, will you be asking for the services of a free/pretend auctioneer? Someone who might appear to know slightly more than you do about benefit auctions, but is really a danger to your event’s success?  Are you willing to take on that risk?  Don’t get “buffaloed” by someone whose heart is in the right place, but just doesn’t know how to guide you.Image

As the Boss, ask yourself these questions:

  • Question:  We’re having a fundraiser, where do we have it?

            Answer:  Maybe it’s at The Club, or Cahaba Grand or Iron City…either way, I’m hosting our event at a professional event venue.

  • Question:  We’re serving dinner for 400.  Who does the food?

            Answer:  The head chef at the venue!  Or, maybe a professional catering company is bringing the food in. A professional chef is doing the cooking.

  • Question:  We need a band that will be playing before and after the dinner and auction.  Who do we hire?

            Answer:  There are a number of good bands that can entertain our guests for the night, but I know they’re not free.  They are professional musicians.

  • Question: We have to raise “x” amount of money the night of our event. Those income streams are the silent auction, live auction and pledge.  Who will conduct our fundraising? Ahhh!  Wait. Who was that group that had the crowd in a bidding frenzy and entertained the whole room at the last event we attended?

            Answer: The free guy who is my accountant by day.

            Answer:  The free guy who missed being cast in his high school musical and still longs for the stage and attention

            Answer:  The company who started the benefit auction genre in Birmingham.  The company who is both entertaining and makes you money!  The only company with an auction staff and full event planning staff ready to work for you and your cause!  Granger Thagard Auctioneers!  Ding ding ding! You are correct.  They are professional auctioneers.

GTA action

At Granger Thagard Auctioneers, we work for you every day, because it’s our job!  Here are the words from two of our most recent clients:

“With expertise and professional delivery, Jack’s energy and skill at handling the crowd during the live auction pushed our net profit up beyond our wildest expectations! We are elated to have substantially increased our profits this year” – Denise Michard, Development Officer, Holy Family Cristo Rey High School 

“Feedback from our parents, teachers, et al has been extremely positive.  You guys did a fabulous job.  No going back to amateurs!!!! Thank You!” – Tery Young, Spring Valley School 

What are you waiting for?  Give us a call, as many have already for fall and spring, to see if we are available to work for you!

-Granger Thagard Auctioneers

GET YOUR BILLION BACK!

“Get Your Billion Back America!”

 

Joey Longoria working for YOUR billions!

Joey Longoria working for YOUR billions!

We’ve all heard the recent H&R Block commercial, “One Billion Dollars is left behind by people who do their own taxes.”
As we conclude black tie season in Birmingham, we’ve all been to a multitude of fundraisers. Ask yourself this: How much money did OUR group leave behind?
Birmingham is one of the most benevolent cities in the country and the event attendees are some of the most auction savvy people you’ll meet. Yet, so many groups subject their willing and able bidders to amateur hour when it comes to the most important part of the evening…the fundraising part of their fundraiser! Not only are you doing your event (and more importantly, your cause) a disservice, but you are subjecting your non-profit to fraud and illegal transactions by using someone who does not know the rules and regulations that protect your group. So many variables are present at any event, whether you’re planning a 200 person event for your local elementary school or a seated dinner, packed house of nearly 1,000. Having someone show you how to eliminate the variables and maximize your night of profits will allow you to focus on the FUN part of your fundraiser and allow you, as the Development Director or Executive Director the time needed to cultivate those corporate partnerships!

Jack Granger in full flight!

Jack Granger in full flight!

Think of this another way: Groups rarely, if ever, purchase event insurance…or do they? We work with some groups for as long as nine months on their total event design with a great concentration on their “night of” profit centers: silent auction, live auction and pledging. What these groups have indirectly done by hiring us, is purchase fundraising insurance!

The Granger Thagard staff is ready to roll!...SOLD!

The Granger Thagard staff is ready to roll!…SOLD!

Is it time for YOUR event to take the next step? Is your event already moving in the right direction and you want to see it continue to grow? Are ready to stop leaving dollars behind? Of course you are! Pick up the phone and call us now…our Fall Season is filling up quickly!
Happy Bidding,
Joseph Longoria

“Less is More” – A Guide to Silent Auction Success!

To help your patrons out, make sure the bid sheets are easily accessible!

To help your patrons out, make sure the bid sheets are easily accessible!

“Less is more”, is a phrase from the 1855 poem “Andrea del Sarto, called ‘The Faultless Painter'” by Robert Browning and adopted by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a precept for minimalist design. “Minimalist” is the word of the day. Digest it, and let it ring in your ears as you contemplate your Silent Auction Design.

A trend we have noticed as of late is the success groups are having when they reduce the number of their silent auction lots. Indeed, “Less is More.” Everybody reading this blog has undoubtedly heard me preach countless times to reduce reduce reduce that silent auction. It’s a big concept to grasp and requires a leap of faith. The best thing I can do is provide real life accounts with two events that did it! (And did it well)…
The 2013 Heart Ball with 850 patrons in attendance has historically provided 200+ items in their silent auction. With mostly couples attending, that means 425 households or “checkbooks” bidding. Knowing there are some coming solo, we can round that number to 500. Quick quiz…who remembers that silent auction formula? (Insert Jeopardy music). Ok, yes! You’re right! 20%! That means 100 items, which is what they had. The result…they had their most successful silent auction in 26 years of doing this event. Can you imagine the time they saved procuring 100 fewer items? Less work, more money, big smiles! The trifecta for auction and event success!

The 2013 Service Guild Gala followed the same formula, and perhaps even more so. There were approximately 500 patrons and a 45 item silent auction. Do we dare guess at their results? Of course we do, for we are a daring lot of type “A” personalities! Their silent auction produced nearly twice what it did the previous year with fewer than HALF the number of items! The items, because of the reduced number, were all top quality and all received very competitive bidding with some items (in a silent auction mind you) going in excess of $600.

Methinks there is something to this “Less is More” philosophy! How would YOU like to work half as hard and produce twice as much? I’m thinking this falls into the “no brainer” category, which is good, because I qualify for this at times! (Please no response from the peanut gallery!)

This silent auction philosophy doesn’t just help your silent auction bottom line either! In my next blog we’ll talk about pledging and how the less is more silent auction helps your pledging. “Clark, it’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year”…but, this is way better than the jelly of the month club! Happy Bidding!
-Joey

Spring Fever!

Jack Granger in full flight!

Jack Granger in full flight!

Well folks, Birmingham’s Gala Season has come and gone!  We are still catching our breath.  Granger Thagard Auctioneers has been blessed this year to have worked with so many wonderful groups and play an integral role in well executed and successful events.  Some new trends are moving in for 2013 and some are still tried and true.  One thing is certain…the events that consider all of the components of their night, that have a TEAM concept, rather than a bunch of individual parts, are enjoying seamless, fun and financially successful events.decor 

I’d love to tell you that Granger Thagard Auctioneers are SO good that we can show up the night of your event, work our magic, and leave your guests mesmerized and your event with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But, alas, we are not magicians…and will leave the prestidigitation to David Copperfield.  We are, however, very knowledgeable about how to make your event successful. 
Sooo, what you want to know is what’s still working and what is something new, right?  Well, what still holds true, much like the last 12-18 months, is having trips and great dining packages in your live auction.  People are spending more these days and I’d tell you that leaning a little heavier on the trips, both in the US and abroad, is a good idea.  Some of you are still hell bent on having personal property items (artwork, jewelry, fur coat) in your live auction (against my professional suggestion) and have to hear the dreaded “I told ya so” afterward.  I promise I don’t like having to use that line.  Your live auction is not a time to “Let’s see how it does”.  Those slots, let’s call them live auction real estate, are far too valuable.  We did an event for The Service Guild with approximately 500 in attendance. The live auction had 10 items (all travel and dining…Yippee) and each item was simple and with few components.  What happened was highly competitive bidding, an auction that did not drag on and on and a whole lot of fun!

Happy winners at the Heart Ball

Happy winners at the Heart Ball

  Fun + $$ = Success.  Sounds simple right?  In a way it is…though, the ladies behind this event’s success will show you a binder with 6 months worth of notes.  If you do the work leading up to the night of, you will enjoy the benefits of your labor.  So, what’s a new trend?  It has to do with your Silent Auction and for that, you will have to tune in to our next blog.  Hint:  it will be titled “Less is More”

2012: A Year in Review

2012 was a phenomenal year for so many of Granger Thagard’s clients! It seemed that every time we turned around a new auction record or overall event record was being set. There was rejuvenation in bidder excitement during live auctions and overall better execution with event logistics. Perhaps our clients just listened better this year? I mean, eventually, one realizes it’s easier to roller skate down the sidewalk with a proven blueprint, instead of hacking thru a forest trying to find your way. I say that a little tongue and cheek of course. The truth of the matter is, the more prepared a group is, the better chance you have for success the night of…and that includes us too. However, what comes with great success is great expectation. You will all have the challenge of “How do we top this one?” to answer. If you went from a $50,000 event to a $75,000 event, you should be dreaming of $100K and you should already be thinking about how to do it. 2013 in my opinion will continue to see a drop off in corporate sponsorships or at best level giving. However, much like 2012, I would anticipate that those who do come to your event will indeed spend! Our 2012 season ended with a great event on November 15th and we start 2013 with the first of nine events in a five week span on February 8th. I thought I would end the year with a “Best of”…Top five great auction moments, and top five not-so-great auction moments of 2012. Names have been removed to protect the innocent:
Top five great moments:
5. While conducting the pledge portion of an event this past spring, we knew we were starting at the $10,000 level (knowing that we had one person in the room willing to start at that amount). What we didn’t know was there would be three additional $10,000 pledges in the room! Bam! $40,000 in hand in about 20 seconds! Lesson: always do a pledge after your live auction, because you just never know.
4. While conducting the live auction portion of an event this fall, we were selling four tickets to any Yankees game during the 2013 season, in the players and family section with field passes. Pretty cool, right? Well, while Jack was in the middle of a bidding war, a gentleman motioned to me. He was the owner of the Hugo Boss in New York City, and on the spot added hotel stay for the week for four, clothing for all four for the week, Giants tickets and Knicks tickets! Yes, sometimes my mouth drops too. Lesson: always invite really important people to your event…and have them drink a little wine before the auction. Just a little.
3. During a silent auction this fall, as I was closing down a section (I believe I had just given the one minute warning), I see an elderly woman remove the pen from a bid sheet and put it in her purse as a way to protect the pink tricycle she was bidding on, and walk away! Seriously, I could not make this stuff up. I promptly gave the competing bidder MY pen (see, we are always looking out for you!), and a young mother became the owner of the pink tricycle. I got a little ovation for that maneuver. Lesson: always bring your own pen to a silent auction, just in case an old lady wants your item!
2. This one happened not at an event, but at an unofficial “auction boot camp” I was conducting. After I had given my speech and gone over my do’s and don’ts as all of you have surely heard once or twice, this one particular Executive Director says “I feel like you’re trying to sell me a Kia, when I know a Kia sucks” (yes, that is a 100% accurate quote) to which my surprisingly immediate response was “Really? Because what I thought I was selling you was a chance to ride in a Lamborghini when you’ve never even been in one”. Needless to say, this Executive Director was one of the very best clients, listeners, had the utmost faith in what we said and had a hugely successful event. I secretly wanted to sell a Kia in the live auction though! Lesson: I work with Jack…I have a comeback for almost any comment.
1. This happened on at least two occasions (to my knowledge)…it happened during the pledge in both events where I saw a gala coordinator in one instance and an executive director in another get teared up, presumably because they were overwhelmed with the outpouring of giving and support for something THEY had built. That’s why we do what we do…for those moments.
Now…drum roll please…the not-so-great moments of 2012:
5. Early spring, an event coordinator elected to not adhere to our “best auction practices” and list not only values on silent auction bid sheets, but minimums as well (high minimums at that)…the double whammy kiss of death. Needless to say, of the 100 or so silent auction items, about 25 of them never received bids. What a shame. We are not doing their event in 2013. “Sorry, we’re already booked that date”
4. Mid-spring, a group decided to not have a reputable A/V company provide sound for their event of nearly 300. In-ceiling sound systems DO NOT WORK. It’s in our contract for a reason. I can’t imagine how much money was left on the table that night because the sound was cracking all night and guests could not hear us. We also don’t enjoy not being able to speak for two days after an event because we had to shout all night into a microphone that is less powerful than my five year old daughter’s karaoke machine.
3. Fall event…silent auction set-up…somebody decided it would be cute to have these tiered step-like stands for the silent auction items, the lowest of them being about 18” off the ground. Imagine you are standing, walking around and you have to reach nearly to the floor in order to bid! To compound matters…yep, you guessed it; this group surprised us night of with values and minimum bids in the silent auction. Epic Fail.
2. This one is a generalization of sorts. We have the luxury of doing events in just about every venue in town. There is a reason we don’t recommend some and praise others. Trust me; we are looking out for your best interest and your ability to raise money in a fun environment. If at some point we strongly suggest against using a certain venue…do yourself a favor, and listen. The very best events start about 10 months out (shortly after you have hired us, right?) with a consultation of which venue is most appropriate for your event. You wouldn’t buy a set of tires first and then figure out which car to get to match would you?
1. This one is classic, and easily my #1…easily! So, at an event in late fall, I am closing down the last section of the silent auction and had just given a 2 minute warning when the lights go out. All of them. I said jokingly, “OK, let’s get the lights back up please” thinking someone had accidently hit the wrong switch or something. But, no…not the case. The next thing I hear is the director of this particular non-profit announce “I have had made an executive decision to show this video right now” (by the way, this was his third, THIRD, video of the night and we were not even through the silent auction yet). I can’t tell you what was going thru my head. Needless to say, I had to go to confession the next morning. So after this four minute worthless video plays, he gives me the “go ahead” to conclude the silent auction, and there were about four people still standing around the items, and one of them was me. I think I’ll let Jack handle this one next year…I might have a beach trip planned.
I hoped you all got a little laugh out of this, and maybe learned a few things. More importantly, I hope you all have a great Christmas holiday season, a prosperous New Year and a successful 2013 in all of your endeavors.
Happy Bidding!
Joey

Selecting an Honoree

When it comes time to plan your benefit event, many groups like to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to their cause.  However, what happens all too often, is that this one aspect is done in a manner that actually hurts your event rather than helping it.  Here’s what can happen:

John Smith is being honored at your event.  While the entrees are being served, there is a presentation being made where the person making the introduction decides that this is his 15 minutes of fame and stays on the microphone for 10 minutes giving the credentials of John Smith.  Once John Smith gets on the microphone, he decides this is an opportunity to make his Academy Awards speech and thanks half of the room, essentially turning your lively money making fundraiser into a banquet or Rotary Club meeting.  By the time he is finished, your crowd is sitting on their hands and unattentive…and now you’re starting the biggest moneymaking part of your evening…the live auction – with a disinterested crowd.  What a bummer!

So, back to the question of who do we choose and how do we integrate them into the evening?  Here you go:

Years ago, it was en vogue to have a powerful CEO or president of a company act as the honoree for an event in order to give the event some validation.  Most of the time, this individual did little to help the event or the actual fundraising.  However, every now and then, a group realized that the way to make the honoree wok for them was to give them the duty of recruiting their colleagues to attend, other deep pocketed individuals who would come and spend and show off for their friend.  Then, the economy bottomed out and CEOs and presidents of companies saw the honoree roll (showing off) to be in poor taste and a negative image for their company.

Enter….the Corporate Honoree!  A beautiful concept that we coach in our auction bootcamp.  The corporate honoree does a number of things positive for your event, here are a few:

  1. Unlike the individual honoree, it is actually a good thing for a company to show recent financial success.  Recent success shows strength during adversity, and being a corporate honoree is a tasteful way and philanthropic way for them to do it.
  2. When you name a corporate honoree, what you get are other companies (not just individuals) who want to write a check for your organization and buy a table, if for no other reason than to show support for your corporate honoree.  Their check will often be much larger than that of an individual supporter and you have just added more patrons to your event.  Often times these NEW corporate donors will remain supporters of your cause because they had such a great time at your event!
  3. Last, when a company is being honored, they want to make sure your event is successful.  They are usually quick to lend a signature or letter of support that you can use in corporate and donor recruitment.  Often times they will go above and beyond what they usually do for your organization.  We were at an event recently where Merdedes-Benz USI was honored and their president decided to donate an extra vehicle, on the spot, to this group’s transportation fleet!

My final suggestion is to have this presentation happen after the live auction…people still think they are accepting their Academy Award, but this way, it won’t kill the mood in the room right before you raise a ton of money!

Happy Bidding! – Joey