How to Prevent Scary Benefit Auction Accidents

Could these frightening situations happen to you?

Take my Benefit Auction Quiz:foot-banana

    1. Huge scaffold crashes on stage
    2. Gourmet buffet forces hour delay
    3. Bid paddle loses thousands
    4. Auction committee parties on and on…
    5. Fire blazes on sponsor table

Do you think these five fundraising auction stories are TRUE OR FALSE?

#1 Stage scaffold crashes
leapingThe live auction is in full swing. On stage volunteers hold up auction items as the auctioneer conducts lively bidding. The crowd hears crack, groan, and a big boom. The set behind the stage, including all the scaffolding and all audio equipment crashes down inches from volunteers and auctioneer. The auctioneer and volunteers jump off the stage within inches of life-threatening injuries. The auctioneer keeps on selling, doesn’t miss a single bid and sells it for a record amount.

#2 Gourmet buffet steals the show
At a high-end auction gala, guests are invited to dinner. They stand in single line for a stunning gourmet buffet. Seven chefs prepare delicacies, including a steamship round of beef carving station, a cook-to-order pasta station and many specialties including lobster. The crowd of 500 clogged the buffet line and waited for an hour. Since it took so long, half the guests left right after they ate their meal. The Live Auction and Fund A Need occurred with quite disappointing results. Unfortunately, there was no way to recover the untold thousands of dollars that literally walked out of the door.

#3 Creative bid paddle fans loss of money
A lovely Asian problem-solving-signtheme added to the auction excitement. The auction committee created ornate Asian style folding fans to be used as bidder cards, writing bid numbers onto each fan. The auctioneer could not read bid numbers. Plus the fanning guests made it impossible to decipher who was actually bidding. This added confusion and a very costly time delay as bidding slowed to a crawl with loss of revenue.

#4 Blazing Sponsor Table
During bidding frenzy for a multi-thousand dollar trip, the auctioneer notices flames shooting from the sponsor’s table. Guests stared in awe at the fire rapidly growing out of their centerpiece. The auctioneer calmly moved to their table, in one hand a microphone and in the other – a pitcher of beer, doused the fire, and kept the bidding and auction moving keeping up the auction action and profit.

#5 Party on and on…
The Gala Auction Committees worked tirelessly for months on auction pre-planning. But on auction night, committee members turned into super guests and liberally enjoyed festivities and adult beverages. This left no one in charge, volunteers were not trained and did not know their jobs, and the timeline ran 45 minutes late. Regrettably, the Live Auction and Fund a Need – key revenue streams with the highest potential to raise significant dollars, fell to the end of the night with quite dismal results.

What’s your guess? Ok, here’s the spookiest thing: if you said all of them, you’re correct. These are all true stories that actually happened to me as the auctioneer.

Remember anything can occur at your auction. While some situations are unforeseen or even overlooked, most benefit auctions are absolutely predictable.

But you must be more strategic!

Sign up *FREE* for Benefit Auction Myth Busters II on November 12. Join me and Michael Upp of Mitch Stuart Destinations of Excellence. Michael and I will debunk common fundraising misconceptions (and have fun too) so you can raise more money and engage more donors!

Tips to prepare for potentially daunting situations:

  • Stay away from traditional buffets; sit down dinners or dinner food stations are best.
  • Create big white bid cards with giant numbers for greatest visibility.
  • Retain an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer to maximize your fundraising efforts.
  • Appoint an “Auction Night Chief” to keep you on time and manage volunteers.

Kathy-consultingBonus Tip to Prevent Charity Auction Problems:
Here’s my favorite problem-solving strategy (from my college track coach days working with both sighted and visually impaired athletes) Create a three-person “Problems Committee” to deal with any unexpected circumstances. Call on this hands-on group. They’ll be ready to handle any problems immediately on the spot.

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