Non-profit Leadership - Charity Auction Fundraising

Leading is for the strong. Influencing change is for the wise. Convincing people to get involved is for the determined. Changing the world is about commitment. Anyone involved with event planning, fundraising and the non-profit fundraising world will agree.

Those of us in the business of influencing change know that the most important way to getting into someone’s head is through their emotions. Anger is behind every injustice. Without anger few are motivated to get involved. The other important emotion is compassion. Once we see the injustice visited upon a person our compassion causes us to want to give, volunteer or create a vehicle for change. Anger without compassion does nothing. Compassion keeps us going. Compassion awakens our talents. Compassion makes us feel better about ourselves. Unlike anger, compassion is rarely criticized. Outside politics, we can wear our compassion on you sleeve with pride.

Serving the non-profit community as an auctioneer and advisor puts me squarely in front of community leaders, politicians, community organizers, founders, celebrities, activists and victims of every kind of inequality, cruelty and injustice. They are my teachers. I know what real courage can accomplish and how fear unravels the best intentions. I often sit-in on board and PTA meetings and regularly meet with development officers, volunteer committees, event planners and employees each with a different role to play in the execution of an auction.  As the outsider I feel attitudes, read body language, and listen to opinions and comments that prick the sensitivities and thwart the desire to participate fully. While many can avoid responsibilities, another will be judged on the grand total and another’s job will be in jeopardy over a minor slight. And some deflect responsibility so well that another will suffer humiliation. I have witnessed poor leadership and competent and talented support by all categories of players and been elated by the camaraderie and wise use of talents.  I know of Principals who allow the volunteers the freedom and expenditures to pull off a profitable and memorable event and Executive Directors who hobble and dictate an event to misery. Few of us are good leaders and few of us are good followers. How wonderful we are aware of the need for both.

I am cut from the whole cloth of my clients. I am the founder of Whisker City Cat Rescue. I started the cat rescue with the notion that I would be caring for cats and finding forever homes. As long as it was just me, life was great. When others began joining me in saving lives, my life became complicated and stressful. I was not prepared to carry the burdens of so many people. Little did I know that those who adopt and those who relinquish pets come with completely different problems and needs. I also learned that volunteers are very different than founders and it would take nearly 2 decades for me to learn how to hands-off manage all of players I am surrounded with. The road has been tough but the classroom rewarding.

I began my idea for Charity Auction World the same day I decided to devote my life to animal rescue. At the time my plan was to sell donated items out of my back yard or a small parking lot and raise money for an on-line dialup pet rescue Bulletin Board I called Animal Bytes. The Internet was not in wide use in 1992 and BBS connected people computer to computer.  Within a year the Internet caught on and websites were the newest thing turning Animal Bytes into an expensive failure. I changed the strategy to connecting shelters in print still wanting more pets would find their way back home and for breed specific adopters to find just the right pet. The Adopt-a-Pet brochure circled throughout Washington State for years. Pet Finder is my idea on steroids.

It’s not enough to have great ideas. It takes people with the skills to make life happen.  I barely have decent computer skills today and I possessed zero 27 years ago but I finally found a way to serve.  My idea to save animals has morphed many times until it became the shelter I envisioned with the kind of people I can depend on, who are compassionate and hold just enough anger to save a life. They have the courage to say the words and take the actions and contribute their talents to Whisker City. Animal rescue isn’t for wimps.

These lessons are true for all of us. Lead the way with collaboration and develop a kind open mind. Choose vendors and volunteers who want share in your success then trust them to do the job. Of course it is important to take the pulse of all the players on a regular basis, but once the ideas are in play call lead and follow. It takes money with the sweetness of compassion to put an end to the injustices that anger us.