A successful auction consists of many moving parts: registration logistics, set up, pre-event marketing, software management, and much more. However, the most important aspect (and the most time consuming) is securing valuable, one-of-a-kind auction items that will attract the highest possible bids. Soliciting items is not a one-person job and requires a solid committee to help plan and execute. Here are some tips for creating or building upon your existing auction committee:
1. Pick the right committee members.
Great committee members are not only eager and willing to get involved, but they are also able to be effective and contribute. This may seem obvious, but not everyone who wants to help is necessarily able. When screening potential committee members, evaluate their personal and professional networks. If they don’t have many connections, are they willing to put effort into reaching out to cold prospects? You’ll want to ensure that everyone can pull their weight and be successful.
Aside from access to donors, great committee members must be willing to put forth the time and effort that it takes to solicit and/or make introductions to donors. You may know a high level executive with tons of amazing contacts, but if they are unwilling or unable to spend the time needed to solicit items, then they may not be a fit for the committee. Ask if they are comfortable appointing someone close to them (perhaps a colleague or administrative assistant) who has access to their contacts and is able to devote a bit more time.
2. Educate them beforehand.
Remember that your committee members are reaching out to potential donors on your behalf, and unless you are able to be present for every single ask, they are acting as representatives and ambassadors of your organization. Make sure they are well-versed on your mission and the general details of the event before they begin.
People tend to work harder when there is a clear and attainable goal, so make sure that your members are also aware of your auction goals including revenue, number of items, and average item value. This will help them feel accountable and motivated throughout the entire process.
Consider giving committee members a cheat sheet that has this information on it, so they have an easy reference tool.
3. Help them brainstorm.
Take the time to sit down with each committee member and help them brainstorm potential asks. Many folks forget how many contacts they have until someone jogs their memory. Ask about their company, partner companies and vendors, places they frequently shop, dine, and travel, tickets and events they can access, and where their friends and family members work. All of these are potential donation sources. Do some preliminary research beforehand so you can provide some specific examples of asks you know they can make.
If this isn’t their first year on the committee, be sure to reflect on what they obtained last year and how it performed in the auction. Were there popular items that garnered tons of bids? Were there any that didn’t sell at all? This will help guide what they should focus on for this year.
4. Check in regularly.
People love goals, remember? Continue to send regular updates to the committee about your progress toward your goals and give shout-outs to celebrate big wins and keep energy high. Consider keeping a master auction list so everyone in the committee can see which asks/items are still pending and which are confirmed. This will help hold people accountable as well, since other committee members will be able to see who is going after which items. If possible, schedule quick check-ins to continue brainstorming as a group, answer questions, and provide updates.
5. Thank them and keep them involved.
This should go without saying, but be sure to adequately thank and recognize your auction committee members at the event and afterwards. This could be as simple as putting a “special thanks” in the program, or as elaborate as a post-event group celebration.
Make sure the event/auction isn’t the only time throughout the year that they hear from you. Keep them engaged by sending exciting programmatic updates that are made possible because of the revenue they helped generate, or invite them to attend other events you host. A little additional and continued appreciation goes a long way.
Your job isn’t done when the auction ends. Use this Silent Auction Acknowledgement / Thank You Letter Template to get started with good event follow-up.