My last school fundraiser of the season before summer break came up out of the blue. A friend and fellow auctioneer's father died suddenly and he needed a hand to cover a previously booked event. I assured him that I would take care of everything and that he wouldn't have to worry. But what about the auction chair? Was she okay with it? So I called her and she seemed fine with my stepping in. Plus it turned out that this was to be this particular school's first ever auction. Perfect, I thought. A couple of phone calls and emails later, we had her auction sorted out, and its program ready to go to print. I also brought up the idea of including a special appeal. The chair was unsure at first. She wasn't sure if her audience would participate in an appeal. This was a school in a not very high income area. But the auction was raising money towards the remodel of a playground. I thought I could easily sell that idea!
The night quickly arrived. I found myself in a brightly lit multipurpose room. In it was a small stage, a squeaky sound system and a group of excited, young parents enjoying a Saturday night away from the kids. It instantly took me back to where I had originally started my auction career all those years ago. Evenly spaced throughout the room was kids' artwork. That was what I would be auctioning off tonight. It was a total departure from the formal, high society, big ticket events that I've become accustomed to doing. While the majority of the evening's auction items sold for less than $400; with the amount and level of hype and buzz in the room, you would have thought they were going for more like $4,000! When we arrived at the halfway point of the night, I explained how the special appeal would work and how every single dollar raised would get them closer to that new playground for their kids. We started at the modest amount of $250, and worked our way down to $25. In the end, we nearly raised $3,000 in under 10 minutes amongst the less than fifty couples in the room!
The total for the night was around $10,000, which may not sound like a lot to a more established, better-funded school. But everyone in the room that night left feeling like together we raised a million dollars.