Your Fundraising Insurance

The calm before the heat wave hit the room. (Notice how the low table decorations allow you to see from one end of the room to the other. A huge plus that will help your live auction)

What do professional auctioneers and insurance have in common?  Actually, everything.  You buy car insurance, flood insurance and maybe even travel insurance.  In fact, you buy insurance for most anything that you can’t afford to go bad.  How about your $50,000.00 fundraiser?  Your $150,000.00 fundraiser?  Or your $300,000.00 fundraiser?  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 a fundraising professional is purchase fundraising insurance.

Here’s a very recent story.  About three weeks ago we were doing an event for the Auburn University Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  There were five hundred and fifty attendees, including Coach Gene Chizik, Auburn players and big supporters of Auburn athletics.  The scene:  patrons arrived, mingled and were seated for dinner.  The program began and speakers did a tremendous job…but ran over their scheduled time.  It is now 7:50pm and coach Chizik has the player’s buses leaving back to Auburn at 8:30pm…and we have 14 items to auction…and, the air conditioner (or lack thereof) has the entire crowd fanning themselves all at once (imagine catching bids while an entire room is waving their white auction program over their face)!  We did 14 items in 35 minutes…brought the schedule back on time, got the players off on time and as Coach Chizik and Mrs. Chizik were leaving they said “Wow, you guys are amazing” (not a bad vote of confidence from a guy that just won a BCS national championship).  The fourteen item total: $97,350.00 or $2781.00 per MINUTE.  Imagine if a non-professional auctioneer with volunteer bid assistants had the task of performing that live auction.  Right…it would have been a train wreck.

Do yourself a favor…hire a professional auction company as your insurance policy.  This story is a lead-in to a multi-part series on maximizing your live auction…stay tuned!

Happy Bidding!



The Not-So-Silent Auction (Part Two)

In our last installment we discussed the evil twins, minimum bids and valuations.  In this blog, as promised, we’ll talk about closeout and appropriate number of items…and boy, was I given a great lead in from Friday’s Birmingham News.  Here’s what I read, “The silent auction with more than 230 items…generated lots of excitement among the 130 guests”.  Those of you who have attended our auction seminars and boot camps know what I’m about to say, and those that haven’t, pay attention.  If you take away anything from this week’s blog, it’s this:  Quantity does not equal quality.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret formula when it comes to number of items, and it holds true whether your event has 100 attendees or 1,000 (better yet, this is based on 450+ benefit events that we have done…how’s that for research?  And you get it for free).  Ok, here we go…only 20% of your crowd will ever put pen to paper in a silent auction.  If you have 300 attendees, that means 60 items is the magic number to create the demand factor and still have enough items for your patrons to bid on, otherwise, you are oversupplying your demand factor.  In a future blog, we’ll discuss live auction numbers…but for now, let that silent auction percentage be etched in your brain.  Anybody who tries to steer you otherwise, simply doesn’t understand the psychology that goes into a successful benefit auction (though, they might be someone who could help you with your next garage sale).  Moving on…closeout.  It’s almost dinner time and time to close out the silent auction.  “3-2-1 volunteers, pick up those bid sheets, the silent auction is officially over!”  Right?  Not exactly.  A shotgun close of 60 items does not give you the greatest chance for success in your silent auction. 

Notice the four pods set up. The event had just opened, and already there are patrons clustering around the first closeout table on the far side!

Remember that percentage above?  Well, rest assured that your patrons who are playing in the silent auction are bidding on multiple items, so you need to give them a chance to “protect them” and bid them up.  The secret is, you close out in sections.  For 60 items, you would close in 4 sections of 15 with a 5-minute countdown to each section, and it works like magic.  When Jack and I are on the microphone closing out the silent tables, we are still amazed at how the crowds congregate around the section about to close, it’s a thing of beauty.  A great majority of bidding is jumped in the last 90 seconds before each section closeout creating a bidding frenzy for many of the items (what we are doing is creating a live auction atmosphere in the silent auction…how fun is that?).  Successful bidders are happy and back-up bidders…well, guess what, “We have another section, the YELLOW SECTION closing in 5 minutes!”.  Yes, sometimes, there are second chances in life.  And you have just created another opportunity to have financial success for your silent auction and your event.  Four sections takes only 15 minutes to close-out, and you will have maximized your silent auction dollars and perhaps most importantly, you have started to make the bidding ego driven “One man wants, what another man wants…when…another man wants it” – and that my friend, is how you set up the makings of a potentially great LIVE auction, which is coming up during dinner in about 30 minutes.