I MC'd a Gala for a non profit this past weekend and agreed to help with pumping up the silent auction items periodically as well. Actually, I agreed to help with the auction and then found out I was also MCing, but was glad to help out another non profit with a great cause.
Beautiful place for the Gala. GREAT food. Wonderful jazz entertainment. Nice crowd. And.....the silent auction.
Every non profit seems to have one. Folks donate items that are lined up around the room, or in the hallway so that everyone can browse during the Gala and bid on the items that they want.
This weekend there were fabulous donated trips and experiences. Big ticket items from a 5 day trip to Tuscany valued at $6000 to a trip to a diamond cutter. From an African Safari and a party at your home for 25 people.
These silent auctions used to work so well. Folks would try to outbid each other because they knew that was what they were at a Gala of a non profit to do. Raise money for the non profit.
Can I tell you that every Gala I have been to in the last few years complains about their silent auctions not making the money they used to. Every single one. But they keep doing them. And they keep complaining afterwards. A Tuscany vacation in a villa for 15 friends going for only around $3000? Well it was donated so the money is net profit for the NPO, but still.....$3000?
It's not the fault of the Gala goer. Now when they browse they are looking with different eyes. They are looking for a bargain. We all are. I don't care if you are in Costco or at a Gala. The mentality is the same. Our minds don't magically change when we walk into a Gala from the rest of our week when we are shopping for the best deals.
In addition we have all those auction sites now on the Internet. Ebay, QVC, and thousands of other places that we go through the same process of bidding and waiting to see if we are going to get the best "deal". These didn't exist years ago when the Silent Auction idea was created. Our every day experience has changed but the silent auction experience hasn't.
Yes, you want to have folks with money to invite to your Galas. But even those folks are being choosey with what they support because they are getting Gala invites every singel week to something else. "But they should help us because we have a great cause". Yea, I understand your thinking...but how is that working for you?
My thought is, keep doing the silent auction items. Fine. It brings in a little extra money anyway. But offer your Gala goers something unique at the Gala. Something that sets apart your Gala from all the other "dress up and eat and drink well" Galas. Something that tickles them. Excites them to put on their fancy duds and come out on an evening where they could be with their families. It does require creativity and thought and preparation. It may require the help of another group or person brainstorming with new people. I am always happy to brainstorm ideas for free with any non profit that needs my help. Let's figure this out gang, cause the road we are traveling has been paved over and needs a redirect.
Give you Gala goers something that is less typical and maybe they will give you something less than the norm as well.