In the spring of 2019 I decided that I was going to take a sabbatical from my work as a Benefit Auctioneer so that I could spend some time plotting out an adventure of a lifetime with my husband. We were going to explore Europe in the spring of 2020 with the purpose of determining if we could move there. It was an exciting time for us as we considered the possibilities. Little did we know that the world was going to change dramatically with COVID-19 in the spring of 2020.
As the fall rolled around in 2019, I began to tell my clients that I would not be available for their events in 2020. It was a time of mixed emotions for me. On one hand I was excited about the epic journey we were going to take and the possible new life that awaited us in Europe. And on the other hand I was seriously going to miss all the amazing nonprofits that I got to work with and being a part of the magic that can happen when people join together to do good.
As 2020 began and the world quickly changed, I had what was going to be my last series of events on the first weekend of March - a week later COVID-19 would be declared a pandemic.
Organizations that had events planned after that were left with few options at the time. Large gatherings had been banned, and the ability to pivot to virtual events had not yet been developed at the scale needed for many organizations. So my sabbatical began sooner than I had anticipated. However, my plans to travel to Europe were abruptly canceled as travel as we knew it at the time simply ended.
I had already decided that I was done for the time being with fundraising events, but my colleagues powered on and developed ways to keep events going virtually. I’m amazed at all the wonderful auctioneers, event planners, development directors, and AV professionals who paved a way forward for events to live on in some way during the pandemic. Through trial and error these fundraising mavericks made it possible for so many nonprofits to continue to raise money - often with record breaking results - during a pandemic.
I loved cheering my team at Marquam Auction Agency on from afar. While I missed being a part of those events - even virtually - I was glad that I didn’t commit to any events for the fall of 2020 or beyond. My own life took so many new twists and turns and had I been committed to anything I would not have had the space or capacity to fully explore the new opportunities.
And so while a move to Europe did not happen for us - a move to Colorado did. And in the space between being a fundraising professional working at events every weekend - I helped my husband grow his business, I cooked more, I volunteered, I helped take care of our friend’s kids, and we helped move my partner’s mother from Texas to CO to live with us. It’s been a full life since the world changed forever.
In the time between I kept in touch with my friends and colleagues from Marquam. They were the best team anyone could ever ask for. They were loyal, supportive, creative, fun, and just some of the most warm and genuine people I had ever known or worked with. I missed them. I missed the experience of being a part of a team like that.
I came back to Portland, OR in the spring of 2021 to visit my friends at Marquam and had the opportunity to see some of the virtual magic they were creating behind the scenes in their studio. I was so impressed with how they made the pivot to virtual so seamless for so many and how the joy of events could still be felt even through the virtual screen. It was powerful to see how virtual events also opened the door to greater accessibility and expanded the reach of nonprofits to tell their story to a wider audience.
In the spring of 2022 I was able to join and assist with a few live events with my colleague Christine DeCastro (who is an amazing auctioneer). After almost two years of not being able to come together in person it was thrilling to see the events come back. For all the amazing opportunities that virtual events provided during the time - it really is striking to see the joy of connection that can happen with live events.
There is a palpable feeling that can electrify a room when people join together to create change. And being present to that experience can remind you that there is still good in the world. That people are still choosing love, compassion, and generosity. In a world that seems at times to be falling apart there are those who are on the front lines trying their best to bring it together again.
For me, I have missed this experience. I miss the joy of connection. I missed supporting the folks who every day chose to do more good. I miss the feeling of love and connection at the end of the night when an organization has exceeded their goals. I miss tearing up and having my heart opened after hearing the stories of change and transformation that happen from the work of a mission centered organization. Most of all, I miss the experience of community where people join together to create a better world.
We need each other more than ever. We need the joy of connection. The reminder that yes there is still good in the world and that each and every one of us is connected to one another. And it’s this connection that makes the world work.
I feel this more now than ever and so after much contemplation I decided that it was time to come back to this work of connection. I am excited to be in service and collaboration with others choosing to do more good. I am thrilled to be stepping back into my role as a fundraising ambassador, benefit auctioneer, and community builder with nonprofits and other change agents.
I hope we can work together in 2023 and beyond to do more good. Together.
Michael Faith Benefit Auctioneer and fundraising professional