Long before smelling the beautiful blooms of springtime flowers, I knew a seed had been planted. Somewhere. But even before that, someone had to dig and turn the soil ahead of time. Once the seeds are planted, you have to water on a frequent basis so they can grow strong roots. Keeping out those pesky weeds is just another part of maintaining a flower garden. Planting seeds in a garden is the same analogy I like to use when talking to organizations about their benefit auctions. To reap the most benefits, in order to grow the most beautiful flowers, the planning and planting needs to start months before the event, sometimes as long as 12 months out.
Another exhilarating benefit auction season is over. I see the money continuing to flow, as donors were very generous in their bidding and giving. During the live auction, I do a “cash call” or a direct request for donations to the cause. This may also be called “Fund a Need”, “Paddles Up” or “Bid to Give,”with the purpose of gathering as many donations as possible from all of the donors who have attended the fundraiser. I see the highest level in the cash call that starts at $10,000, whereas even two or three years ago, gala organizers were cautious and fearful about even starting at $2,500 or $1,000. This year however, there were no awkward moments when starting the appeal at $10,000, and it wasn’t just one person putting up their bidder paddle. Often there would be two and sometimes three paddles in the air.
Each benefit auction was unique in its own right, just as the different types of organizations were unique. I had the honor to raise money for local and national children’s research hospitals; breast cancer, the deaf and hard of hearing, a children’s museum, education foundations, private schools, and catholic schools, abused and neglected children; and to help keep families together during a child’s illness.
Over the past seventeen weeks of the spring gala season, while raising a total of $1,300,000 during the live auction and Fund-a-Need, these became some of my favorite highlights from January 28 to May 15, 2012:
► A bidding frenzy that erupted among kindergarten parents over a class cookbook, which sold for $6,400
► Selling an outdoor kitchen, design, and dinner for 20 prepared by a Top Chef winner for $25,000
► Strategizing with two organizations on how to reach a $100,000 goal for a Fund-a-Need and then beating the goal, and
► Strategizing with two organizations on how to continue to raise over $100,000 in Fund-a-Need and then beating the goal!
► Best Dressed Themes: Beatles (tangerine go-go boots are groovy!), 50’s, Futuristic, Pink, and Cowboy Bling, and traditional black-tie and cocktail dress
► Best prop: shocking pink gloves
► Large audiences ranging from 150 to 1,200
► Working in the big venue that is the Austin Convention Center
► Number of bid spotters trained per event raning from 2 to 28
► Sharing the stage with deaf interpreters during a live auction for an audience composed of 50% deaf and where the deaf Culinary Arts students prepared the 4-course dinner with the Hilton chef
► Meeting a 14-month old patient of a children’s research hospital prior to the live auction
Big News, or Alert the Media!
► The announcement of a $1 million gift to a capital campaign for a private school, and
► Announcing a $12 million capital campaign to start the groundbreaking of new building–with a fireworks finale!
I’m gearing up for another big Fall gala season and have already been actively engaged with those organizations for many, many months by doing the benefit auction consulting. Just like the gardener, we are preparing the soil now so we can have an amazing benefit auction in the fall.
Watch for the blog and photos coming soon about the medical mission trip from June 10 -16 to El Salvador with Austin Smiles so I can see their work in action.
Have a great summer!
PS: For more photos of this amazing year, visit me on Flickr.