The Silent Auction Made Us Do It

This past month, we used gift certificates for (1) a cabin that sleeps 11-13 (2) a complete outfitting package for wilderness canoeing and camping and (3) an upscale oyster bar and French restaurant. Because they were about to expire. This odd collection of experiences can all be traced back to silent auctions during previous fall non-profit fund-raising seasons, and our propensity to bid, bid, bid!

I suppose it is possible to peruse silent auction items with the purpose of getting a deal. The minimum bid prevents the bar from being set too low, but one can sometimes pick up (ahem) a membership to the science museum for a fraction of the cost. But that’s not the point. Raising funds to support the organization is the stated purpose, so we are asked to be generous. On boards I have been a part of, we have wondered if the payout is worth the effort of hustling around to area businesses for all these items. I think it is, even if not from a financial standpoint. The secondary effect of silent auction items to justify giving may be even more crucial than the funds: prodding action, which deepens our connection to the organization and its mission.

We attend fund-raisers for organizations we are prepared to support, and presumably have some funds we are willing to give to it. The funny collection of items invite imagination:

Could we round up enough happy campers to justify a cabin for 13?

Could I be the kind of person who enjoys a 3 course Chef’s Menu?

Are we really willing to take our 4 and 9 year-olds into the Boundary Waters?

What if it is all for a good cause? It is like a quest, to figure out how we will fit this fun challenge into our lives (while supporting a great organization)!

Especially when those gift certificates are for an experience instead of physical items, I find myself engaging on a different level with the organization that brought this experience into my life. I want to ‘hashtag’ them on social media and repeat to everyone who will listen how we got to this place. I explicitly thank and reiterate to the business that we are there because they donated to our organization, strengthening that tie. And doing something always creates stronger memories than just saying something. The gift lives on, quite a bit more than when we simply write a check.

I guess what I’m saying is, my imagination is open and receptive. Bring on the fall fund-raiser season!

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