What to Do and Expect as a First Time Auction Chair

Auction Chair

So this is your first time as auction chair this year. Congratulations! It’s a big job, but you’ve got resources to help you. First, though, here’s some food for thought.

Yes, your auction needs to make money so you can keep your programs going. But once in a while, it’s important to take a step back from the details and view the project from the 30,000 foot level: Why are we doing all this in the first place? In a word—service.

Money is the result, the reward, for focusing on service. When you focus on the money, people feel it and pull back. But when you focus on being of service, people are drawn to your organization because they know they’ll be part of something greater than themselves.

Three important areas of service come to mind:

Your Constituents

Whether it’s animals, children or people battling a crippling disease, take some time to focus on who your organization is serving. What are your successes? What impact are you having? How are people’s lives different as a result of your work? Spend some time with the participants in your programs and get to know them. It will fire up your energy for raising funds so you can do more for them.

Your Donors

Who are the people who come to your auction? What are they looking for? Maybe you already know some of them personally. Talk to them and find out what helps them connect with your cause. What inspires them to participate?

Yes, your auction has great entertainment value and you want to procure items that appeal to your audience. But at a deeper level, what connects your guests to the people your programs serve? Maybe a slide show of your success helps tell the story. Maybe one of your auction items is a field trip to see your programs in action. Ask your donors what moves them.

Your Staff and Volunteers

These folks work hard for your cause. What do they need? Yes, it’s essential to make sure they have the tools to do the job. But also look at the intangibles that make the job worth doing. What makes your organization a fun place to work? How can you make praise and recognition an everyday practice? How does your team create a culture of collaboration and mutual support? The age-old business adage applies here too: “Treat your people well and they’ll treat your customers well.” In this case, your customers are your constituents and your donors.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the pressing details of putting on an auction. But if you take time to focus on why you are doing all this, you’ll be able to help yourself, and everyone around you, see the bigger picture. It’s like adding oil to a complex machine—everything just works more smoothly. And in the end, it makes your job easier.

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