For the past several years the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) has put on the Benefit Auction Summit, where fundraising auctioneer professionals come together to talk through client challenges, share best practices, exchange ideas and brainstorm on dynamic new ways to help customers raise more money and achieve other non-financial goals. More than 130 colleagues attended the 2016 summit.
One question that we unfortunately did not have time to explore was, “Which comes first, venue or auctioneer?”
While there are several key considerations when planning a fundraising event, many event chairs and development teams reasonably think venue first, because finding the right space is certainly important to the overall guest experience. As much as I love and appreciate hotel ballrooms, civic halls, marquees and school gymnasiums, and I’ve seen a lot of them, I would suggest that retaining the right professional fundraising auctioneer talent is the single most important decision event leadership can make when planning the annual gala.
Some might say, “Well of course he thinks that, he’s an auctioneer!” The reality is, if you waved the magic wand of truth over most people, they would likely think venue first, too. But I offer that the NAA Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) should be your first call for several reasons, not the least of which are:
- According to the NAA, BAS auctioneers can increase fundraising event returns by 30-40% (unless the venue is wallpapered in $100 bills, unlikely the room is going to move the meter like the auctioneer).
- The fundraising auctioneer pro can help guide clients to find an appropriate venue, one that strikes the right balance between guest experience and budget (when was the last time a room offered consulting services?).
- Venues are empty vessels where program, guests, board, donors, mission and energy come together to create magic and the fundraising auctioneer professional is at the center of all that.
- Some of the most successful fundraising events in the country are held in marquees (tents), reinforcing the notion that what’s going on in the space is more important that what the venue actually look like).
- An auction professional is dynamic and can grow with client needs, most rooms are static and reach a capacity once the last bi-fold wall has been opened.
As you can see, the answer to the question, “Which comes first, auctioneer or venue?” is one worth careful consideration. The reality is that it is shortsighted to make either decision without exploring availability of both auctioneer and the venue. Before plunking down a retainer for the room or professional talent, be sure to reach out to the other to assess availability, including alternatives near the preferred date.
While I cannot speak for my fellow fundraising auctioneer sisters and brothers, I can say that it is disappointing when prospects and clients inquire with an absolute hard date set in stone, no matter what (because that’s the date the hotel had available).
One of the consistent messages at the 2016 NAA Benefit Auction Summit is that there are so many wonderful organizations – over 1.5 million in North America alone – that need help with fundraising events. The professional auctioneer wants to help! We are problem solvers at heart. So help us help you. Contact a qualified and dedicated fundraising auction professional first. We’ll help sort through the myriad challenges, including which venue is just right for your organization. And if for some reason the fit isn’t just right, we know plenty of professional auctioneers with whom we can refer you.