Charity Auction Economics in Tough Times

This has been a tough time for fundraising everywhere.  When a report from The Center of Philanthropy says...

"Charities Report Some Giving Remains Steady, but Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University Study Shows Deepening Concern over Economic Effects" & "Nonprofits Say Overall Climate For Charitable Fundraising Worst Since 1998"  

You really can't ignore the situation.  But it may not be as bad in our little corner of the benefit auction fundraising world.

Here's what we are seeing over the past 6 months.

  • Attendance is off an average of 20%.
  • Bottom line swings 10% either way from 2008.
  • As a sector, Education is doing better than most.
  • International travel is tougher sell in 2009.
  • "Casual" events continue to gain popularity.
  • Corporate table sponsorships are flat.
  • Ticket prices are flat for most events. Some of these fancy soirees are actually lowering them to fill the house.

Don't get me wrong, if your event has been lacking guidance and leadership for a few years, this economic downturn may be the final nail for your auction. But for those who are serious about their auction fund raisers, things are looking pretty good as the weak events fall to the sidelines.

Here are some things you can do to weather the storm and increase your net at this years event.

  • Keep things moving at your event. Stay on schedule.
  • Avoid anything in the live auction that may not sell. Tends to support the perception that people are not spending.
  • Address any perceived need to have a lower "ask" during the event. (A $20 instead of a. $50 raffle)
  • Include online ad placement as a value added perk for sponsors.
  • Resist talking about the economy in speeches. They know.
  • Reduce printing costs by "Going Green" this year. 
  • Focus on the "face" of your organization. Remind donors why they are there.
  • Show them you are financially responsible with their money. Open the books from last year. Break out some charts.
  • Make sure you get core donors in the room. Consider comping a few tickets to heavy hitters. Rule #1: If they are not in the room, they will not be spending any money that night.
  • Publish your date for next year at THIS years event. Be confident you will survive. Good luck.