The Dessert Dash - Everything You Need to Know by April Brown
The Dessert Dash is a race that encourages your guests to interact with one another during the live auction timeline. Guests seated at each dining table decide individually how much money they are willing to pool together for the right to run and grab a dessert from the dessert dash table. They write that amount on the Dessert Dash Bid Sheet. The bid sheets are picked up, tallied and the table raising the largest amount of money is in first position when the dash begins. The auctioneer calls out the tables in ascending order until the last table has made a run for it.
The Dessert Dash is held about an hour into the live auction (sometimes later) and acts as an energy boost following the Paddle Raise portion of the live auction. Guests often feel a psychological and physical crash after The Paddle Raise/Fund-need and the Dessert Dash is the perfect pick-me-up. Reward everyone with a fun, lively, fast paced and comical return to the auction block. Everyone loves the Dessert Dash.
The Dessert Dash is a big money maker. For that reason alone, it is worth doing the Dessert Dash even if all the desserts are purchased from local eateries. I can recall years ago getting a frantic call from an auction chair who arrived at the venue only to discover that a volunteer failed to gather the desserts for the dash. I advised a volunteer to rush to Costco and purchase a variety of desserts and then stop at Safeway and buy flaked chocolate, fresh fruit and berries and a rich whipping cream. She arrived back at the venue and other volunteers applied their artistic and culinary touch to each dessert before the crowd arrived. Those 21 desserts raised $3200. The cost - under $300.
Dessert Dash can be developed around delectable desserts created by celebrity chefs and gourmet restaurants or home made by volunteers and supporters or purchased or a combination of each. It is important to have a good dessert for every table. Sometimes a plate of Twinkies is included as a booby prize for the cheapskates who feign dieting. The inclusion of the plate of Twinkies is suppose to make people put in more money so they don’t get stuck with the junk food. Since everyone paid the same ticket price and wants and expects dessert the only proper thing to do is deliver a delicious dessert and graciously thank even the cheapskates. Never do anything that bathes a guest in a negative feeling. The Dessert Dash, like every activity should create a feeling of inclusion not exclusion.
The Tools of The Dash
- Dessert Dash bid form
- Dessert Dash flag
- Dessert display
- Dessert Dash display sign
- Service plates, utensils, and tableware
The Dessert Dash display is designed to show off the bakers and tempt your guests. Lighting, mirrors, and mini fans are excellent for luring guests to the Dessert Dash preview. The display can consist of a simple draped table, or possess the look of a fancy bakery or take on the theme of the evening. My favorite is to create a replica of a giant tiered cake. Do this by stacking and draping a standard round dining table with smaller round risers and decorate the sides of the fake cake with strands of ribbon or lights simulating frosting. Place the Dessert Dash sign on the top tier along with lighting. Inexpensive laser and blinking lights and small personal battery operated fans can hidden in the decorations. Approximately 35 – 40 desserts can be displayed in this footprint, depending on the circumference of the tiers.
Mechanics of the Dessert Dash
- Procure one dessert for every table plus 2-4 extra desserts.
- Confirm the name of bakers and locations of desserts.
- Ask the bakers to print the chef’s name (include photo if possible) and an ingredients card and/or the recipe on a 3”x5” card.
- Make a big sign that says “Dessert Dash” and place conspicuously on the table.
- Make 3 signs that describe the Dessert Dash Process and place those around the display.
- Arrange for pickup and deliveries from the donors on day of auction.
- Coordinate refrigeration with kitchen and/or catering personnel.
- Assign a number to each dessert and tape it to the plate facing the viewer.
- Create Dash Flags from bamboo skewers with the table number in large type on the flag.
- Arrange with venue lead for the arrangement and placement of display table.
- Print one Dessert Dash bid form for each table plus 2 extras. Fold form and clasp a pen to each form.
- Place Dessert Dash Display sign on Dessert Display table.
- Place Dash Flag near or in the centerpiece on each dining table. The Dash Flag’s number should match the dining table number.
- Place Dessert Dash form and pen on each table near centerpiece.
- Place dessert dishes and forks on the other side of the centerpiece OR set standard dessert plate service.
- Assign a volunteer to pick up completed Dash Forms during the live auction. The forms should be picked up after a specific item number rather than at a specific time.
- Create a notation in the auctioneer’s copy of the catalog for the auctioneer and master of ceremonies to mention the Dessert Dash at least 3 times before the forms are picked up.
- Pick up completed Dessert Dash forms from each table after about 7 live items have sold.
- Total each form and arrange from highest amount to lowest amount by table number.
- Ideally the bid number and amount each bidder is contributing is transferred to a tally sheet from the individual table forms. The totals are then given to the auctioneer immediately following the Paddle Raise.
- Give forms to clerks for recording bid numbers and amounts into database.
- The auctioneer calls the audience to attention and begins calling the table numbers and inviting guests to run and choose a dessert quickly.
- One designated runner from each table grabs the Dessert Dash Flag and runs to the Dessert Display table and sticks the flag in the dessert of choice and returns to the table without the dessert.
It is critical the volunteers understand that the DD form represents uncollected cash. This form may be the only hard copy resource for recording the transactions, collecting the money and reconciling post auction. NEVER throw this form away!!!! Once the numbers have been entered into the software, rubber band the stack and place a sticky note under the rubber band with the words “Dessert Dash Forms Entered” and place the forms in the reconciliation tray. Do not put the forms in an envelope and seal the envelope, ever.
Serving the dessert
The catering staff cuts individual slices of each dessert. The entire dessert is delivered to the table along with a serving instrument. Guests serve themselves using pre-set plates. The leftover dessert remains on the dining table.
The catering staff cuts individual slices, place those individual servings on dessert plates and serves each guest. Left over desserts are later delivered to the tables by the waiter.
The runner grabs the uncut dessert, takes it back to the table and the dessert is cut by someone at the dining table. This method is fun yet can be awkward and time-consuming and distract from the final segment of the auction. For some reason when guests cut their own cake, they begin trading it from table to table and sometimes interrupt the auction by offering the leftovers up for bid. Although seemingly a good idea on the surface, it rare that leftover cake has more value than the planned live auction lineup.
Auction Powerhouse Tip: The live auction should not proceed until most every guest is seated and enjoying dessert and coffee.
Auction Powerhouse Tip: The Dessert Dash should not be perceived as “taking a break from the auction”. All personnel, including sound techs, the auctioneer, the master of ceremonies, and the volunteers need to be alert and working during this process. The audience needs to see that the auction team is waiting for them to settle down and get back down to the business of raising money.
Auction Powerhouse Tip: Play silly music. Music makes the dessert dash more fun and cues the audience to something exciting going on in the house.
Auction Powerhouse Tip: The Dessert Dash is often sponsored by a business, like a bakery, hotel, or a social club. The Dessert Dash has 10 points of exposure for business and you can charge a fee for this opportunity. The Dessert Dash is then referred to by that sponsors name as in “Point B Solutions Dessert Dash”.
Auction Powerhouse Tip: One of my favorite parties is The Dessert Dash baking party. This party is held the week before the auction at the volunteer’s house in charge of the auction. Desserts are baked and prepared and then frozen. This same committee then meets the day of the auction and assembles all the desserts over brunch and prepares the transport. The Dessert Dash Baking Committee is all about fun, food and friendship.