Tonight is the night. After months of planning, months of meeting, and months of detailing, it’s auction time! Everything has come together: the volunteers, the items, and the guests. Now all that’s left to do is start the bidding and collect the money.

You are finally dressed for the evening, everyone’s in place, people are enjoying themselves, and you take a deep breath. This is fun!

You decide to take a stroll and check out the bid sheets. You are curious to see how high that certificate to the day spa has climbed. Surely, its face value has been surpassed by now. You had a feeling that this item was bound to go high.

But, wait! The bid sheet for the day spa is empty! How is this possible? You look at your watch. There’s only twenty more minutes until this table closes. No one seems to be interested. They’re walking back and forth, seemingly oblivious to this absolutely fantastic item!

Then a sneaky part of you thinks, “Hmmm, maybe I could get this for a song!” But, just as quickly, you banish that that thought from your head. “This is for CHARITY!” You remind yourself. “BID HIGH!” Your pulse is quickening. We…must…move…this…item!

You know that every dollar counts in a non-profit organization. People are depending on you. You’ve got a clock ticking. What can you do? How can we send this thing through the roof?

Advice from a Seasoned Auction Planner

“Your job as auction chair is not done until the last thank-you notes are sent out, well after the night of the event,” comments Kris Gahm of Gaylord, Michigan. Kris has chaired several auctions for the Otsego Christian School and has dealt with a variety of mid-event fiascos.

“You definitely have to have a plan for what to do if an item isn’t living up to what you had hoped.”

The first proactive step Kris recommends is to assign a volunteer to monitor all of the items open for bid at any one time. “This person has to have a tremendous vision and the ability to focus. He or she will be actively looking for items that need instant promotion.”

On a side note, Kris cautions, “I would also instruct the bid sheet monitor to look out for problems or inconsistencies on individual bid sheets. People have the tendency to ignore the instructions, like bidding in increments. By spotting these problems early, you will avoid sticky situations after the auction has closed.”

Kris additionally suggests that a second volunteer, possibly even the emcee, have a portable microphone and travel with the bid sheet monitor. “When an item is underachieving, the emcee can let out with a ‘Ladies and gentlemen, may I draw your attention for a moment to this unbelievable item here at table 21.’ He can enthusiastically and creatively describe it, maybe engage a guest on the mic, and have some fun. This is sure to attract a crowd and generate some bidding.”

“Another option to consider is lowering the starting bid price,” Kris states. “Even though you think an item is valuable, and you don’t want to let it go for a fraction of its worth, you must trust in human nature’s desire to find a deal. I like to have low starting bids, because they encourage bidding wars. Chances are, that item you started out at 99 cents will soar past its face value, just because somebody is hoping to come away with a steal, and they don’t want to lose it to anybody else. This kind of enthusiasm can carry over into other auctions and can result in a very profitable evening.”

Kris adds, “You should feel comfortable in revising these starting bids, even during the course of the auction. As long as no one has made an opening bid, go ahead and slash it. Then get your emcee on the mic and tell everybody that the ‘find of the night’ is currently up for grabs.”

Chairing an auction is a massive undertaking. The opportunities to make money for your organization appear and disappear all evening long. Make sure you are taking a proactive stance to eliminate potential loses before they become actual ones.

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Posted on 05 March 2007

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