It’s finally spring, which fondly reminds me of track season!
You see, I started my career as a college coach in track, basketball, and volleyball at my alma mater and Saint Louis University.
In 1983, I was invited to volunteer as a coach for blind and visually impaired athletes representing Missouri at the national championships for United States Association for Blind Athletes USABA. The next year, I was honored to direct these national championships in St. Louis and served on the USABA national board of directors. Helping athletes reach their full potential was incredibly rewarding. I gained invaluable lessons about communication, team building and running a huge national athletic event. Today, I deeply rely on those incredible strategies, insights and techniques.
Now, I’m honored to coach nonprofit executives, development professionals, board members, sponsors, staff and volunteers on how to raise more funds and how to engage donors with their strategic benefit auctions.
So what’s the connection?
Run your benefit auction like a track meet!
Here are my top strategies to increase speed and guest engagement to keep those bid cards waiving!
Here’s my challenge. Take your mark and try out these specific momentum-builder techniques. Add them to your master planning agenda. Teach these ideas to your auction committee and staff. Then, give it a go at your next auction fundraiser. See what works best for you. Get back to me and let me know.
Optimize Your Speed
Your guests expect to attend a fun, upbeat, lively event. You expect momentum and a profitable night! Attention spans are short, so keep things moving. Your organization cannot make money if the guests are gone. If guests are bored or there’s been too much lag time, their attention will go somewhere else. We want to keep them focused on your mission and why they should support you generously at the auction.
Use Your Stopwatch
The first thing a track coach needs is a stopwatch, and you need one too! It’s very important to time out every single element of the event. Write up a minute by minute show flow detailing every single action on and off stage. Time out every element with your stopwatch. Stick to it!
Get “On Deck”
In a track competition, the next runner is “on deck” and the one behind her is “in the hole.” The same lineup works for benefit auctions. At the beginning of your event, the chairperson, board president, or executive director makes the welcome and thank you remarks. Immediately following those remarks, go right into the montage about the transformational aspects of your nonprofit organization. Set this up so that you have speakers “on deck” and “in the hole.” Put six or seven chairs on the side of the stage and insist that everyone who is making any kind of remarks is seated in chairs 10 minutes in advance of when they are speaking and line up in order of stage appearance.
Add a Manager
One of the best ways to maintain control of your strategically designed show flow is to engage a dedicated stage manager. In a track meet, that person is called the clerk of the course. She oversees the timeline, queues up the competitors, and ensures that everything happens on time. Get one.
At your event, add specific volunteers called “speaker handlers” to bring speakers right from their tables and escort them to their chairs by the stage before it’s time to make remarks. Your speakers are often beloved to your organization, and your guests want to visit with them. But that s l o w s down your timeline. Assign one handler for each speaker to escort the speaker to the side of the stage, wait in the chairs, stay with him until it’s time to speak, and then escort the speaker from the stage back to his table following the remarks. When all of your speakers are seated and “on deck” lined up ready to go, your speed and momentum and bid cards will soar.
Kathy Kingston Try Outs!
Here’s my challenge. Take your mark and try out these specific momentum-builder techniques. Add them to your master planning agenda. Teach these ideas to your auction committee and staff. Then, give it a go at your next auction fundraiser. See what works best for you.
Please let me know how these strategies and techniques work for you.
I’d love to hear from you, please contact me with questions and ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org 603-235-1196