Your event could be a total success from start to finish: Your first impressions wowed your guests, your program was flawless, and you might have raised more money than ever. But there’s one thing that could make or break the overall impression of your event: Checkout. If people are waiting in a long line to pick up their auction items or pay their pledged donations at the end of the night, you could send them home feeling frustrated. Have a detailed plan for your checkout process, from start to finish, so you can keep things running smoothly until the last guest leaves. Don’t let a long or disorganized checkout dampen all your hard work and the success of the evening.
We’re describing some best practices for your event checkout process, so you can have less stress and get your guests out the door with all their purchased items and a smile on their faces.
NUMBER YOUR AUCTION ITEMS
We’ve discussed categorizing your auction, but coding your items by type or location will help your checkout process by leaps and bounds. For example, if your gift certificates start with the number three, the staff and volunteers will know where to look when a guest shows that they have won item #312. Physical items could have a specific code, and packages that involve multiple items could also have a particular numbering system. Systematically numbering your items will help you organize your auction display and relieve stress when the time comes to send the items home with their winning bidders.
Find auction software that will allow you to be creative with your item codes and organization.
PLACE CHECKOUT IN A CONVENIENT LOCATION
The location of the checkout area at your event plays one of the most significant roles in a flawless checkout process. Set up your checkout table away from event activities like live entertainment and clusters of people. You want the ability to communicate with guests and volunteers with little distraction or opportunity for misunderstanding.
A separate room for checkout is optimal, but if this isn’t possible, consider converting your check-in table into the checkout table once all your guests have arrived and checked in. Allow for plenty of space, and think where the “flow of traffic” will go. Just like with check-in, you don’t want a bottleneck of people creating long lines or blocking entrances and exits.
Lastly, try to have your checkout table as close to your auction items as possible. Your venue will be a factor in this setup, but the less distance you or your volunteers have to go to find the items for your guests, the faster the process will be.
Tune into the podcast episode above to hear Jeff and Lori describe the time they had to run up and down three separate floors to retrieve auction items!
HAVE TRAINED VOLUNTEERS
Whatever you do, ensure enough people are available to cover the checkout process at the end of the evening. The last thing you want is to have one lone person taking payment and retrieving auction items, creating inefficiencies for all involved. We recommend having one checkout person for every ten auction items.
Train your volunteers on how to take payment, process invoices and receipts, and tell them how all the auction items are organized so they can find them easily. Have a dedicated volunteer retrieve gift certificates and gift cards. You can keep these items in a binder or file folder, and having one person rifling through to find them is more efficient.
HAVE A DETAILED PLAN TO PROCESS AND RECEIVE PAYMENTS
Don’t forget why you’re doing this whole event: to raise more money for your organization. Have a plan and a process to receive payments, so you don’t have to chase money down for weeks after your bidders have left the venue.
The best way to process payments for your auction items and other donations during your event is to use mobile bidding software that allows guests to keep a credit card on file. Your software should also be able to alert bidders that they’ve won an item once the auction closes. Then, they can pay for their items from the convenience of their phone. If your software allows you to text your bidders, notify them that their auction items are ready to be picked up. You’ve just cut your guests’ checkout time in half!
All in all, the most important thing is to consider your guest’s experience. How can it be the best for them? With these checkout best practices, you’re sure to finish your event just as awesome as you started it!