Successful charity auctions require high quality auction items. Step one: assembling your procurement team.
Like any legendary group of heroes - think Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Super Friends - your committee is faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. To succeed, you'll need driven, creative people who demonstrate tenacity and come from all different backgrounds. Most importantly, they must be willing to step up for your cause when it counts.
Read on for 6 strategies and insights to assemble the ultimate team of procurers. Learn when to start procurement; the importance of a well-connected leader; how Development Directors can get involved without getting overwhelmed, and more.
1. Appoint a Leader with Connections
Hosting fundraising auctions is undoubtedly a team effort, but your Procurement League will need their own Superman - a point person guiding the way.
Who would make a great leader? There are many qualities you'll want to look for. Drive, persistence, and a personal connection to your cause are just a few that top the list.
Today we'll focus on one quality that will revolutionize your auction offerings: finding a leader with connections and strong relationships in the community.
A typical scenario: You find a top resourceful person - whether it’s the real estate agent that knows everybody, or the entrepreneur that has all the resources or that person who takes 15 glorious vacations a year - and then let that person build a committee around them.
Well-connected people are able to access low-hanging fruit: friends, colleagues and partners that own vacation homes, or maybe they’re big in the arts industries, or maybe they’re big in the sports industries. Whatever it is, these friends-of-a-friend connections are key to being able to come up with creative, high quality auction items that electrify the live auction.
2. Assemble the Team Early
"When I first begin prospecting a new client, I love to know who’s in charge," shares Heath Hale, benefit auctioneer of Cowboy Auctioneers based in Austin, Texas. "That's because procurement can take a long time, and as the auctioneer, I want to work with the team to come up with big-ticket, creative packages."
Aim to have the committee recruited and starting the process well in advance: ideally from more than 6 months to a year before your event.
3. Focus on One Mission
For the most part, procurement should be the team's only objective when it comes to the event. That way the team is free to work with the auctioneer and their connections to build an auction.
Let's face it: The months before the auction tend to vanish as more and more to-do's pile up. So you want to empower the procurement leader to devote as much time and energy as possible to the live auction.
"Live auctions bring in the majority of event revenue, and you have the ability to make a ton of money in a short amount of time if you build out the auction correctly and strategically," Hale emphasizes. "In my experience, that's more likely to happen if you have one person zeroed in on the live auction."
In other words: Let the person running your live auction, run your live auction.
(Now, if the chair is a powerhouse of a person and up to the task, sure, an exception can be made. They might also sell tickets and promote the event. But whenever you can put someone in charge of an auction that doesn’t have a lot of other responsibilities and they can truly focus on that, the fewer distractions come up.)
4. It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's a Development Director!
I know we have a lot of Development Directors in the Winspire News audience who are in charge of the event as a whole. You’re selling tables, you’re filling seats, you’re tasting desserts. You’re putting together slide shows and invite lists and hiring valet parking and handlign all of these important details. It's no secret that you have a lot on your plate.
Our advice to those of you attempting to tackle procurement on your own: Choose a lead point person instead.
"I like to have an auction chair, and then let that chair put together a live committee," says Hale. "Give those people direction, and give them procurement strategies. You can learn of the chair’s resources, and once you understand that they’re friends with the people that have resources to X, Y, and Z, you can help them brainstorm big ideas. And sure, the committee might ask you to drop in and talk to a potential donor when putting together a homerun package.
"But for the most part, you'll want to step back and let the team run with it."
If you're thinking, That would be nice! - it is nice. You end up getting items that you didn’t know you could have.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the responsibility level of Development Directors is all over the board. Some of you are extremely well connected, have been in the industry for years and can put together a great live auction. If you are going to lead the procurement efforts, we suggest managing and, most importantly, delegating out some of those other tasks to people.
5. Go Above and Beyond
Finding a well-connected point person is especially critical for any Development Director that is stepping into this role for the first time. Fact is, putting together a live auction isn't the hardest part - we can all probably scrape together enough items to get by.
But you don’t want just a 'live auction'.
You want a live auction where your audience walks away going, "Oh, my gosh, that was amazing! Did they just sell a puppy for $30,000? Did they just sell a trip for $40,000?
Having a creative, well-connected and focused commitee empowers your charity to offer one-of-a-kind auction items that fetch high bids and generate huge excitement at your event.
6. Last-Minute Procurement
We mentioned that procurement should begin at least 6 months out from the event.
However, if you have an event in 30 days and you’re trying to find auction items, that’s okay. There’s a solution for you, too.
One of the biggest benefits of using no-risk consignment items (like Winspire travel packages) are that these items take minutes to reserve. While our trips do best when you have time to promote it, they can still be used to fill any last-minute gaps - and end up being the bestsellers of the night.
Once you've got this year's auction squared away, you're free to start focusing on next year's event.