Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reconnaissance mission

Tonight I volunteered at the 31st Annual Auction for Reach Canada. Reach is a “cross-disability lawyer referral organization” that provides legal assistance to people with disabilities. The organization is a non-profit charity that raises almost all its own funds through a variety of special events.

I was there because I woman I greatly respect recommended I get connected with Reach – but also to learn how successful fundraising events work. I’m partly responsible for organizing a fundraising event next week which will include live music, wine-tasting and a silent auction. Having never organized such an event before, I’m a little nervous. Tonight was a great opportunity to learn from the pros.

Tonight’s event was both a live and a silent auction. Items up for the live auction included VIP box tickets for the Senators, round trip flights, dinner packages and – the item I most coveted – a Leonard Cohen painting! I asked the organizer if she got to talk to Leonard Cohen, but she said sadly it was just to someone who works for him.

The silent auction had a large range of items like paintings, prints, jewellery, wine, books and multiple gift certificates. I was working at some of the silent auction tables and also walked around the room selling 50/50 tickets.

There were bidding sheets for each item – with indications of the retail value for each item, the minimum bid and the increments at which people had to increase their bid. That I think could have been done better since there were a few people whose bids were disqualified just because they didn’t notice that and/or didn’t do the correct math.

The closing of the silent auction tables was staggered – some closed at 8:30, others at 9:00, others at 9:30. This can be helpful in that it prevents a massive rush at the cash handling table – and it also might encourage more people to bid on the later tables if they were out bid on some of the early ones.

But I learned tonight that it is really important to clearly indicate when each table closes since there were many people disappointed that they couldn’t bid – which ultimately means less revenue for the hosting organization.

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