Procurement. Love it or hate it, it’s part of the auction process. And, if you’re like most groups you may find that it’s hard to keep your volunteers and committee members motivated to keep procuring items for your event - especially the closer it comes to crunch time. What’s an auction chair to do when all of sudden your team stops attending meetings, stops replying to emails, and they always seem too busy when you call! What can you do to make sure your committee members are happy and engaged, focused, energized, and fired up to fundraise all while building the success you need for an amazing auction with items your guests want to bid on.
First, make it fun and social
Many groups have success with making the meetings actual procurement parties. Think wine, food, a little socializing, and then pull out the laptops and get to sending those emails and making phone calls right on the spot.
Doing this together in real time makes a difference and you all feel a sense of team building and accomplishment. Sometimes people lack motivation and having the atmosphere of others involved makes it more fun for them (and gets you the results you want).
Make it cozy
Often groups will have their meetings at bars and restaurants. Those types of venues can be hard to hear in and also distracting for some. Think about venues where you can minimize distractions and where people can be more easily looped into conversations. Many groups have success at hosting procurement meetings and parties at personal homes, sometimes local businesses or nonprofits or even churches have conference rooms you can use for cheap or free.
Make it accessible
Choose a central location, with easy access to parking and public transportation. Have the option for remote attendance by adding zoom or google chat for people who can't attend in person. If folks can't attend or join remotely, ask them to weigh in on any major pieces you need feedback on, and also ask them to provide you a status on what they have procured to date.
Be strategic with your silent auction
Always be sure to review previous years data (I suggest at least 3 years if possible). Identify trends and go after items that traditionally have sold well. Let go of items that consistently underperform.
If you have not done so, be sure to poll your donors and ask them what they want to see in the line up this year. What would they love to bid on? Need help developing a donor survey? I can help!
If you don’t know how to begin building packages, start with building silent auction packages off of a single centerpiece item. For example, if you have a nice dinner at a downtown restaurant, pair that with tickets to a theater show or dance performance and a night at a downtown hotel and call the package downtown date night. Or if you have 4 passes to a family amusement park, pair that with ice cream or dinner for a family summer fun package. Or gift card for massage and mani-pedi could be pamper package. Dog store gift card and dog walking could be pamper your pet, etc.. Limit your silent auction "packaging" to 3-5 items per package. Anything more can be overwhelming and could lose value.
Remember, single items in the silent auction should be reserved for higher value items. And single gift cards can be used for things like mystery grabs, punch walls, grab and go, and more. Reach out for ideas on how to use gift cards!
Keep it organized
No one likes to be asked multiple times to give you a donation. Have a gatekeeper who manages your central spreadsheet. I recommend google sheets as it’s a real time sheet that everyone can access. Make sure processes are in place to track your data for requests out, received, and denied. Be sure to know who is the lead. And make sure for any requests that are pending that you have a follow up plan in place until you get a yes or a no and that you have a plan in place to obtain the item once you have a yes.
Make your requests easy and manageable.
As the procurement chair you hold the big vision and strategy. Most folks get overwhelmed by that. So break things down for the folks in limited volunteer capacities. How?
Get super specific with what you ask folks to procure. For example, break things down into manageable pieces for folks, like "Jane, your first procurement project is securing gift cards from these 10 restaurants before the next meeting. We'll have another project for you by then.” Or, “Kate, your mission if you choose to accept it is to help build the wellness for a year package/basket. Here's what we need for it” and then give them the businesses/leads to approach, etc. It helps folks feel successful to accomplish something and then makes them more eager to keep going as compared to the overwhelm that a whole spreadsheet can create. Or, “Jen, your next task is to secure two dinners and one entertainment in Seaside to round out our live auction package in Seaside--here are a few leads.”
Give people sample emails, leads, and coach them on how to proceed. Be sure to always check in with folks by the agreed upon deadline to see if they need support. It takes a lot for most people to actually follow through on sending things out. And, it takes a lot of follow up to get to a yes from donors. If you notice that in the spreadsheet there is only one touch on an ask and it was never followed up on--make sure to follow up and ask again until you either get a yes or a no.
Live auction procurement
Live auction item procurement is a big topic that I’ll cover in another blog post. However, when thinking about live auction enhancements especially for trips, don't limit yourself to enhancements just in that region. For example, if you have a Palm Springs trip you can enhance it with local experiences like gift cards to a swimwear place and tanning, etc..
People love to feel special and they like incentives. So, anytime something cool comes in, celebrate it. Maybe you send a weekly summary/celebration email out to folks that highlights what came in and who procured it. Maybe the person who procures the most each month gets to choose a treat that gets shared at the next meeting, and then it creates fun for everyone. When folks see things coming in it motivates them to keep going and it can even spark their own creativity and help them identify even more items to go after.
Procurement doesn’t have to be a drag. Let’s explore how you can get great items while keeping it motivating and fun for your team. Reach out today!
Michael Faith Benefit Auctioneer and fundraising professional