Last Friday night we had an auction with a long-term client, who had told me last year that the event would be skipping a year. The big annual gala had taken its toll on everyone and they all felt burnt out. This isn't actually uncommon. If you were someone who had spent the past decade with the same board, volunteers, sponsors and patrons; you might feel fatigued too. Like any relationship that has run its course, it was time to move on from the good, old annual benefit. Though taking your annual event off the calendar may cause loyal donors and patrons to replace you and your event with some other organization's cause. There is so much competition in the non-profit world that you have to take care of maintaining and grooming the support that you have. Like any good relationship, you have to keep things interesting.
My original recommendation was to consider a paddle-raise special appeal for the off-year instead of doing nothing at all. I didn't hear back for a few months, so I assumed they had decided to take a break from the big auction. But then an email eventually arrived confirming that an auction had been scheduled.
It turned out to be a small audience of only 100 people. Though they were the same core group from the organization's original big annual benefit. We ended up with a combination of holding a raffle, selling a few homemade desserts, auctioning live four larger items, then ended with the special appeal. Their mini Friday night event ended up exceeding their goal-raising expectations by nearly double. Most importantly though, everyone remained engaged in the cause. Even better still, they're all the more excited for the big event next year.