Auction Tips

Silent Auction Tips from the Trenches Tip 4 - Handling Issues

Managing issues at your silent auction
Managing issues at your silent auction

Look... fundraising is hard work and you should be commended for jumping in and taking on this responsibility. However, it doesn't need to be nearly that stressful if you take the right approach and perspective. In previous blogs, we discussed tactical tips such as "Treating your Auction like a business", embracing "product merchandising for your displays", and implementing "pre-bidding". In this blog, we are going to step away from tactics and focus on psychology.


Portrait of a casual pretty woman meditating on the floor on gray background

 Handling issues at your silent auction

To get straight to the point, our fourth tip is, "RELAX". Events are stressful and most of the time we are just focused on "getting through them." We often hear, "I can't wait until the day after this event is over!" We understand what these folks mean. After all, we all want the stress to go away. But what is causing all of this stress?

In most cases, we find that "fear" is the main cause. Related to auctions & events, what are we afraid of?

  • We are afraid that an important guest will complain
  • We are afraid that lines will be too long
  • We are afraid that the technology we plan to use will fail
  • We are afraid that we won't reach our goal
  • We are afraid people won't have a good time

We could go on. We have heard a ton of fearful expectations from event managers (fear of power outages, storms of the century, etc.). However, in almost all of these cases, these things are outside of your control. While you must manage them, you can't control them.

In other words, plan for "something" to go wrong because it will.

So how do you manage that? Here are some steps you can take, which we also covered in a previous blog post titled "When the Unexpected Happens at Your Fundraising Event":

  • Step 1 - RELAX. Yes, we said it, take a deep breath. After all, you can't address an issue if you are all worked up.
  • Step 2 - GET IT IN PERSPECTIVE. For as bad as it may seem, convince yourself that it could be worse. In most cases, it definitely could be worse. We aren't suggesting that you trivialize the situation at hand. We just believe that you will do much better at addressing the issue if you realize that you aren't dealing with a national tragedy.

Will an import guest complain? Maybe. Does this guest always complain? Maybe.

Will you have long lines? Maybe. If you are inviting 800 people to your event and asking them to all show up at 6pm, expect some lines. Unless of course you have them all pre-registered or have a massive number of check-in stations.

Will the technology fail? Probably not. However, any good technology provider can help you plan around most tech issues.

Afraid you won't reach your goal? First, make sure your goal is realistic. That is often the first thing we notice. In other words, don't expect to raise $20,000 in your silent auction with $12,000 in auction items. It could happen, but make those occurrences an "awesome surprise."

  • Step 3 - DELEGATE THE SOLUTION. While you may not think this is the time to pass the buck, you need to have a designated person to address your problems. Know who your escalation point is for a variety of issues. Problem with the food? Have your catering lead deal with it. Technology issue? Hand that off to your tech lead (or mobile bidding provider). Angry VIP or Board member? Who on your Board is a diplomat and an ally that can step in there? By planning ahead and having a support team in place for a variety of issues, it will take the stress of you during the event. 
  • Step 4 - SOLVE IT EFFICIENTLY AND QUICKLY. There is no time for a committee meeting on this. You and your escalation point (the person you delegated the solution to in Step 3) need to act quickly to resolve the issue and move on. Run out of wine? Head to the local liquor store. WIFI problems? Pull out the Hotspots. Name Tags slowing down registration? Ditch them. We see so many event managers paralyzed because they don't feel authorized to make a decision or feel they need to get backing. Beg for forgiveness later.
  • Step 5 - Recap AFTER the event. After Step 4 is complete, move on with the event. We had a customer once that came up during checkout and wanted to talk about ways to make the retrieval of items better for guests checking out (their checkout team did not know where most of the items were to retrieve them). We had a lot of suggestions, but it was not the time to discuss them. We stepped in and made some quick "game time" decisions to get things out to winning bidders faster; and, we saved the analysis and suggestions for a post-event recap we did earlier the week after.

 Don't be afraid. Something will go wrong and it probably won't be as bad as you fear it will be. It is all a matter of the perspective you take.

Finally, we don't want you to assume we are trivializing the problems you may face. We understand the importance of these events to your budgets and organizational objectives. We also fundraise for our own charities in addition to attending dozens upon dozens of events for clients.

All we are saying is that you will need to "roll with it". You will get through it and it is often not that bad in the end.

Have comments or questions about this blog? Please leave them here - we want to hear from you.

Otherwise, you can eagerly wait for the next installment - where we get more tactical again!