Make Your Show Flow at Your Benefit Auction

There’s a hidden contest happening inside your fundraiser event. The contestants are time, money, and the attention spans of your guests. We want money to win every time—but you must be strategic!

Make Every Minute a Revenue Minute

When you design a benefit auction event, one of the most commonly overlooked mistakes by auction and event planners is creating the wrong timeline. Instead, make every minute a revenue minute by strategically sequencing and pacing the silent auction, the live auction, and the fund-a-need special appeal. Benefit auctions have myriad event details, and getting this “show flow” right is critical to maximizing every single dollar and creating an environment that will build audience engagement for future events.

Say “Sold” During Salad

To optimize the most profitable time for fundraising, don’t wait! Conduct your fundraising early in your event.  A top trend is to conduct your Live Auction and Fund A Need special appeal right away during salad. Remember, less is more, and your guests are tending to leave earlier than ever. Position your fundraising activities as early as possible. Never conduct your Live Auction and Fund a Need at the end of your event.

Run Your Auction Like a Track Meet

My experience as a college athletic director and coach for volleyball and track for blind runners has helped me tremendously as a consultant and fundraising auctioneer. Think about organizing and running your benefit auction like a track meet. 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.

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 Stage Manager and Speaker Handlers

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.

At your event, have volunteers to bring speakers right to their tables and escort them to the stage before it’s time to make remarks. These people are beloved to your organization, and your guests want to visit with them. But that slows down your timeline. You may want to have one handler for each speaker to escort the speaker to the side of the stage, wait with him until it’s time to speak, and then escort the speaker from the stage back to his table following the remarks. It’s also a good idea to have backup people who stay with the speakers in the queue so that they don’t scoot away. Sometimes speakers request to stay at their tables until it’s their turns to speak. Unless there is a really compelling reason why they cannot sit with the rest of the speakers in the queue (for example, they experience a disability) it’s critical that all of the speakers are on the side of the stage ready to go. It helps the momentum and the physical flow of the event to have everyone who is making remarks lined up and ready to go with your stage manager right there.

Make your Show Flow! Focus on what matters. Design your benefit auction, gala, soiree and fundraising event to engage more donors and to maximize fundraising.

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