Meeting with a benefit auctioneer


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September 16, 2016 What Do I DO?

I was recently visiting a laundromat to wash our pups’ bedding.  It has been years since I’ve been in one.  No, wait – I’ve honestly never been in a laundry mat!  So I was at a bit of a disadvantage, info-wise.  Was I supposed to take my own laundry detergent?  How much money would I need to wash and dry?  Is there a way to change my bills into coins? With all these questions swirling in my head, I set out last Sunday with the items I planned to wash.

When I entered the laundromat, I spotted one young man but no one else.  While I had never done this before, I figured “How hard can it be?”  I walked in and approached the washing machine expecting instructions to be clearly spelled out for this rookie. I already knew I needed detergent and money.  How much money?  I have no idea because there’s nothing posted about the cost to wash on the machines. And I use Tide Pods detergent at home and that apparently isn’t going to work here – these machines have nothing in common with any I’ve seen before. I do see an area on top of the washer to pour in powdered detergent.  Okay, so know I know I need powdered detergent.  I’m making progress here.  I see a bank of machines on the wall with detergents and fabric softeners available for purchase.  I get what I need and then use the change machine to turn $4.00 into coins.

I loaded my pups’ bedding into the washing machine and closed the door.  I still had no idea how much it cost to wash the load. Not didn’t want to sound stupid but I was forced to ask the young man in there with my how much it cost to wash a load. He responds “I think $2.75”. You THINK? So I insert my money and voila, the washing machine begins filling with water.  Victory! One down, one more to go – the dryer.  While the bedding is washing, I walk over to the dryers with the intention of informing myself of their use.  Here we go again…no instructions are to be found anywhere on the machines. Really?

After 20 minutes, the washing machine finishes its cycle and I transfer the bedding to the dryer.  As I begin inserting coins into the dryer I notice the machine is adding time with each coin I deposit. So that’s how it works!

I tell this story to illustrate how frustrating it can be when you don’t understand what is going on with something.  Ask yourself if the guests at your fundraising event could be experiencing this kind of frustration. Do they understand what is going on?  How to participate in the silent auction?  How much it costs to participate in the various revenue generating activities at your event?  Do they know how to bid in the live auction? The answer is probably, yes, they do, in most cases.  But how do you prevent this frustration for the guests who don’t understand?

The answers are easy.

At most events, the check-in area is the first point of contact for the guests. Here they provide their contact information, get a bid number and program and may swipe a credit card for ease of payment in their purchases in support of your nonprofit.  Once they leave this check-in area I suggest you have a “staging” area where the hosts hang out, greet the guests as they arrive, inform them where the silent auction, revenue-generating activities and the bar/food are located and answer any questions they may have. This is also a great opportunity to personally thank them for their support of your organization.

If your event features assigned seating during the program be sure to have hosts at the ballroom doors to assist guests in finding their seats.

Signage should be in place at each revenue generating activity area that makes it clear what the activity is.  Having a volunteer at the station to share the details and answer questions about the activity is important.

Don’t assume your guests understand what is going on.  Not everyone has been to a fundraising auction event previously so this may be their first rodeo. Keeping your guests informed about the different aspects of your event will make them comfortable and as a result they will feel appreciated and spend more money in support of your mission.

Make every minute a revenue generating minute!


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