What to Bring to The Auction – Administration Committee

Posted in Running A Non-profit Auction, Uncategorized at 11:19 am

(Out of order, but I just ran an auction so it’s fresh in my mind.)

Auction Item Set-up

(the period before the auction when you fill the room with auction items)


 the pile of bid sheets (NOT on clipboards),

at least 3 labels for each item with the item number and title typed on – these will be placed on items that have mysteriously lost their number and on all associated packing materials that are hidden under the tables during the auction.

pens or pencils for bidding,

 the computer, printer. cables, paper, extra ink,


A  box with items for the evening:

staplers (roughly one for every 40 items)

marker pens (3-10, depending on the size of the event and how bad you are at holding on to things)

Cashier sign, money box

Help desk sign

Payment labels for those who have left their credit card on file (Thanks them for pre-registering credit cards and directs them to go directly to item pickup)

Payment labels with cash, check and accepted credit card company boxes and space for number, expiration date and signature.

If you have more than 75 items and they are not arranged in numeric order around the room plan on rearranging them while the results of the bidding are being processed. Bring signs for where you will move items to. (For instance Items 1-30, Items 31-60, etc.)

Shopping bags for those items that can be reasonably be packed.

Table seating/Registration Support

Walk-in registration sheets – for some reason there are always a few people that come to a formal event without a reservation – frequently someone’s Aunt Mary who dropped by unexpectedly. Even if they are just appearing for 1/2 an hour during the cocktail hour to show support, it is imperative that you capture their name and address and assign them a bidding number so that they can buy somthing if the spirit moves them and you can get their item to them if they leave early.

Don’t Let Your Computer Consort With Spammers

Posted in Just A Thought at 11:11 am

I don’t use a spam filtering service because the people I want to communicate with use Hi in the subject line, use multiple exclamations and capitals and even sometimes commit a double entendre to writing – all of which get their emails tagged as spam. (Don’t even get me started on how I was suppose to figure out that someone previously unknown to me wanted me to officiate at a swim meet with “Cool Lap” in the title – & neglected to say swim anywhere in the subject line.) So I get spam.

 Lately some of the mail has openned on one click (no doubt doing something on my computer), has sent out confirmations as soon as it’s openned so the spammer knows they have a valid address , and sending out a message when I permantly delete the message.

How do I stop spammers from knowing that my email is being monitored by a live person (hopefully)? After getting a batch of spam, I’ve taken to unplugging from the internet while I delete the spam and then empty the deleted items folder.  I then go to the outbox and delete it again and reempty the deleted items folder.

 Is it really worth the hassle? Hard to say but it seems like a get a big spike in spam after I watch a confirmation that goes out on a spam message.


Life Lessons of a Military Wife Carnival 8 Up

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:36 am

There’s a newish carnival that’s up for Military Wives.  The collection’s a bit scattered so there’s something for everyone. (VMW – Veteran Military Wife was kind enough to post my submission on Educating Kids/Military Budgets.) Enjoy!


Military Budget Solution

Posted in Just A Thought at 9:48 am

There is a very real problem with any military budget reform that each branch gets a constant share of the total military budget pie.  This agreement was forged for very real benefits (We really would prefer that our military spend their time thinking about fighting someone else, not each other).  We are in a war that is driving up costs for our land forces.  Per force, expenses for our other military branches go up.

Recruitment is also a major headache for our volunteer military.  We are lowering the educational standards of our recruits and getting more lax about allowing criminals to enter our military. New recruits don’t have the skills to fight in today’s military. This isn’t good.

What to do? Task the Navy and Air Force with developing free magnet schools.  Let them do all the recruiting they want. (Courses studying Greek war heroes, why the constitution was worth fighting for, etc.) Just make sure that they turn out graduates that can function at a high level in today’s society.  Target those performing in the bottom 40% of our population who have aptitude test scores that indicate significantly greater performance is possible. Enlistment should be voluntary on graduation.

 Not only does this have the obvious benefit of reliving some pressure on school systems, more subtle benefits may develop. It can create a career path for vets. Teachers and teacher’s aides qualified to run extras like the rifle club or sports activities will be needed.  The full range of support services needed to run a modern school can be enlarged to accommodate any staff needs. That is, vets employed will have a support structure and the facilities can be used, after hours,  for all vets in the area.

  Troubled youth crime may be cut – not only are successful students less likely to lash out in frustration – make it an attendance requirement that the students stay clean.

The military has an honored tradition of raising standards of their recruits. Let’s apply this skill to our children, to everyone’s benefit.

Just a Thought.


Are Internet Professional Reviews Useful or Just Vehicles For Slander?

Posted in Just A Thought at 7:50 am

I looked up my dentist’s phone number on the Internet a while back and saw with great surprise that there was a review that claimed she rushed through her patients, held them down and ran an office with numerous children crying in it.  (It was so bad that I was looking for the line where the receptionist rattled chains just to frighten children.) The review author claimed such a litany of problems on her supposed visit that you knew it was a fake.

I complained to the site that they had a fake review and they came back with a letter saying it didn’t violate their policies so they wouldn’t remove it. They were right! It didn’t matter how obviously false a review was – if a competitor doesn’t sign it, it would be fine. 

GREAT Policy – & a real winner for making sure your site reviews are useful.

Of course I cruised a number of dentist review sites. There must be a whole cabal of dentists that are officers in their local dentist associations and run their practices to terrorize children. Little Shop of Horrors must have had it right about dentists. Not only that, most dentists have no activity at all and then  5 really good reviews in a 3-day period.  No collusion I’m sure.

Don’t believe everything you read is getting more true every day.

&FYI – I found my dentist because the dentist most frequently mentioned as the best in  NYC in Upper Eastside and Upper Westside playgrounds was someone with a tiny waiting room in lower Manhattan.  Fifteen years and three kids later I can say I heard a child sniveling twice.  Once was after a young man had the bad sense to have a skateboard accident the Friday afternoon of a major holiday weekend and Dr. Jackson was the only dentist that would squeeze in the hour plus visit. (Just the day everyone in the waiting room wanted to be late – but all I could think about was how glad I was that it wasn’t my kid in the chair and at least I wasn’t going to hunt all over the city when we had an emergency.)  The other time, a parent, clearly very fearful of dentists, brought in her child for their first visit.  The child was obviously terrorized & the parent made it worse every time  she opened her mouth.  Jackson played with the child the whole visit (4-8 minutes) – the walls are covered in cool toys – and never took out dental equipment.  The child left, without her dental exam, but with a bag of loot and memories of a dental visit that will make it much easier the next time.

Dr. Jackson is just a very caring person that wants to kids to have the best possible dental care without charging the highest prices in NYC. (She’s not cheap but she by no means is the most expensive.) She certainly doesn’t deserve to be slandered by a false review.


Computers & The Internet

Posted in Just A Thought at 4:13 pm

 Best answer will get a prize. (I have to figure out a good one. – suggestions taken.)

Which is more important? Why?

 Never use another’s account and never share your password.

NEVER have food or drink around computers.

Never give out personal information  about you or anyone you know like: name, phone number, address or school.

Does the acceptable use policy apply to kids, grownups or both?


Why Isn’t Spying On Americans to Catch Terrorists Good?

Posted in Just A Thought at 7:41 pm

It sounds so reasonable.  Just let the government tap our phones or analyze what we read and they’ll stop the next terrorist attack. It seems like a very small price to pay to stop another 911 and it would be.

No one objects to stopping the next 911.  The problem occurs when those with the information stop the next level of activity. What happens when someone breaks the law to expose illegal coorporate behavior? Do we want to give up our civil liberties to stop this person?

Most people who seek power intend to use it to create good. Sometimes the good they dream of may be at the expense of some minority. For instance, a developer can convince a town to condemn a ghetto.  With the power of eminent domain he can make everyone move out, he can tear down their old, unattractive houses and put up beautiful homes or shops that will let the town raise much more in taxes than they otherwise would have.  He of course will make a lot of money but it’s not really relevent to the situation.  He has turned a nasty old area into a bright new wonderful place.

The residents don’t see it that way.  They like their homes, don’t really want to move and always think that the developer is underpaying just to make a bigger buck.  They want to protest and check out books and talk with their neighbors on the phone.  Do we want a town politician, who can see the glory of the developers vision, to be able to stop the neighbors in their tracks because they fall afoul of some law? (If your life is put under the microscope it is almost impossible not to break some law – especially if you are trying to work out some way to save yourself under extreme pressure.)

The danger of giving up civil liberties is not the prevention of horrible acts. It is the power you give to a select few to stop any act that they deem (decide is)  horrible.


If you didn’t quite understand this, talk about it at dinner with your parents or leave a comment.


Auction Committees

Posted in Running A Non-profit Auction at 8:53 am

You’re planning an auction for this year (hopefully the spring) and you’re not sure where to start.

With luck you’ve already booked the locale and any entertainment you need.  If it’s a school auction, you reminded people to keep an eye out for auction items over the summer. You’ve set the theme. Now what?

The are several major area you need to keep track of. If you can get people to be responsible for each area your life will be simpler and more people will be emotionally committed to making your event a success. Not every auction will have every area but don’t realize that you need one after the last week you could have done something about it.

1. Auction Journal – raises money through ads, thanks the items donors through an acknowledgment of their gifts and prepares attendees to spend on the items. The Auction Committee should be focusing in the Fall on getting ads for the journal. This push should be virtually finished by December 1 with a cut-off in early January to accommodate those that make donations at the end of the year.

2. Getting attendees to the event – This group should handle invitation design, printing, addressing and table assignments.  While this group has to be nimble enough to handle the 25% of responders that RSVP in the week before the event most of their work should be done long before it is needed. A procrastinator in this job is really bad.

3. Auction Items – this is a three-four committee job.

  • There is the tremendous job of getting donations through the door. These are people with the connections to get significant cooperate donations, patronize local establishments frequently and are not so involved in other community activities that shop owners hide when they see them coming.  These should not be people with the idea of going door-to-door in town to ask for things from shops they have never patronized. Virtually all merchants give a certain amount to charity. They will be much more generous to your cause if you are a regular client.
  •  There is the very large administrative job of keeping track of the items, grouping and preparing things for the journal, thanking donors, and preparing the paperwork for the night of the auction (bid sheets, item labels, etc.).  This committee should include someone compulsive, a good writer and a good proof reader.
  • There is the brief but intense preparing items for presentation at the event. This ranges from preparing beautiful baskets , to getting appropriate props to making sure the venue looks its best during the event. Since this takes an artistic soul, giving them complete dominion over the look of the event is not a bad idea if you’ve chosen well. They should be able to work closely and happily with the administrative person.
  • Finally you need someone to run the process the night of the event. This can be the administrative person but the group needs to be able not to chat during the crucial time between closing items and delivering packed items to bidders. (If you can strike a deal with a neighboring school to staff their auction & they staff yours you are way ahead of the game.)

4. Other Money-raiser – Secondary money raisers can add interest to the event and insure that you ‘don’t leave money on the table’ – that is, you make sure that everyone that came to the event with the intention of spending x leaves having spent x. They can also be a palatable way to handle donations that are too small to warrant inclusion in a silent auction as a stand-alone item. These may include

  • live auction  (8-12 fabulous items with extensive publicity & elaborate presentation)
  • a wish-list auction (pledge drive),
  • 50/50 raffle,
  • balloon bazaar ,or
  • tricky tray (Multiple items are presented, each with a box. People buy raffle tickets and put in a box for a drawing at the event.)

This will need a separate committee responsible for this area. If you chose to have a live auction, tricky tray or balloon bazaar this committee must be prepared to solicit their own items without asking donors that have already given and work closely with the silent auction people to get suitable items from the general donations. While tact is a great asset in all committee chairs, in this position it is especially useful.


Family Legends

Posted in Family Legends at 10:21 am

I went to a beautiful engagement party recently where the father of the groom stood up and made a lovely tribute to the couple and their extended families.  He included many touching details including the thought that he appreciated that as his wife had moved from the protection of her father’s house to his house in the seventies, his soon-to-be-daughter-in-law would move from the protection of her father’s house to his son’s. (Aside from the modest catcall that the groom might need protection from his red-headed wife, everyone smiled happily and bought in.)

No one thought too hard about the five years after high school graduation when the bride went to college in New York City  (where she met her finance).  All the youngsters no doubt left with the vague impression that their aunt or uncle were virtuously observing their religious upbringing and everyone was happy.

 Our family legends were somewhat different.  On my father’s side we had my father as chief legend spinner.  He had rather an aggressive sense of humor and had no trouble telling his children things like his grandfather had been the son in a wealthy family and had run off with the maid.  I remembered hazy details about the family going to Italy to have my grandfather and readopting hiim back into the family.  All these stories of life in the old world made perfect sense to his American-born children. After my father’s death I talked about the story to my aunt – the oldest sibling, with presumably the best grasp of family history. She was horrified.  The family came from a long line of solidly middleclass shopkeepers and she had the pictures to prove it.  So a legend bit the dust.

A few legends were social fictions – I learned when young that my grandfather had died of his war wounds – only when I was well into my forties did I learn that he had died in the ’50s after having served in WWI.  The injury to his leg was a much more palatable explanation than the prostate cancer that was the more proximate cause of death. Fortuantely my aunt chose to debunk this legend and broach the taboo after her husband also succumbed to prostate cancer. Despite the mortification she felt (& she did) she was more concerned that my brothers and son know their family medical history and therefore survive the family ‘curse.’

I treasure these legends – real and created. Now all I have to do is remember to pass them down.


How Bad Can an Auction Be? – Lose Sanity and Money on an Auction

Posted in Running A Non-profit Auction at 11:31 am

Most charity auctions are events that can be extremely wearing on volunteers but are worth it because they raise large amounts of cash.  Most does not mean all.

I was recently (6 weeks before the event) asked to help with an event for an extremely worthy charity. They knew they didn’t quite have it down because last year they never collected the payments for the items that were auctioned. As I listened to their tale of woe it became clear that they had unconsciously assumed the massive goodwill they had would help them glide over any of their failures in running an event.

Lesson 1 – People who care about your cause enough to shell out a significant amount for a lunch or dinner will not give you infinite slack. 

Item winners at the ill-fated auction were not clear on which basket they won and many apparently took the wrong basket. This was exacerbated because some winners took the correct basket, on closer inspection decided it was not really what they wanted, and took another. Those going home with the ‘wrong’ basket refused to pay when contacted later.

Lesson 2 Clarity is Key – Descriptions must be clear and bid sheets must be clearly tied to an item. Even if you deliver the basket won and immediately collect for a poorly presented item, the bad will created is awful.

At another auction I helped a friend with, the descriptions for vacation homes were confusing. In most cases people just moved on to items they could figure out and didn’t bid. In one case, several active bidders were under the impression that they were bidding on the house for a prime season period. In reality, and accurately stated, the house was for the off-season.  Saying that the house was available from Labor Day to Memorial Day was too close in wording to a summer rental from Memorial to Labor Day.  Switching to actual date availability and playing up the use of the house for a special Thanksgiving retreat for an extended family made it much more popular.

Lesson 3 – Process is Key – Find a compulsive person to run the administrative chores during the event. This person (and their team) needs to have in mind how the auction will end, how items will be billed, how items will be delivered to the winner, how payment will be collected and how unsold items will be handled.

Auctions don’t have to be nightmares. Keep on track and plan to have a very successful event.