On Saturday night, I left my house in a kickass black silk Elie Tahari skirt, hellfire red patent leather Guess pumps and a credit card. After meeting up with the effervescent Ms. Lisa Hempel, we strolled over to the Denver Studio Complex for the biennial ARTMA event, graciously invited by Jim Thomas of sponsoring law firm Minor & Brown.
I’ll start off with a little snark: I didn’t expect much. I’ve been to waaaaaay to many charity events that were time sucks and time wasted that I can’t get back. Poor planning, horrific organization, silent auctions filled with crap that no one wants…I was looking at this as a night out of the house and figuring that if Jim invited me, there was something I needed to see.
Capital O.M.G. – Jim was right.
Simply stated and without sounding like I’m blowing smoke up ARTMA’s ass, every charity event I attend from here on out will have to rise to the bar they’ve set. I won three pieces throughout the evening’s silent auctions, and while I lost the brilliant piece depicting three eggs in a nest, I did win a mid-century modernesque wood sculpture that I can’t wait to hang. I’m going to give you a rundown on the successes and a few places where the 2012 event can excel even beyond 2010’s:
Visually Stunning: Whether you’re attending a conference or a charity event, people want to be wowed. It doesn’t take much, just some attention to detail and the understanding of what does and does not matter visually. The event was about the art, and the art auctions raised money for the foundation. When I arrived, I felt glad I’d put on some killer heels and a skirt – and if I hadn’t, I would have wished I had.
Remarkable Layout: Charity events and conferences alike are challenged with “fitting everything in.” ARTMA delivered in spades. Check-in, get your auction booklet, go to coat check and then you’re off to a wonderland of art. I have to share how they did this:
Comp bar inside the exhibition hall between two prominent live auction paintings
The room was comprised of silent auction galleries, beginning on your right hand side. The galleries closed at evenly spaced intervals (7:20, 7:40, 8:00, etc.) and in a counter-clockwise fashion around the exhibit hall. This kept the sense of urgency up to bid, kept people MOVING around the hall and allowed volunteers to quickly clear a closed auction gallery and send pieces off for packing and pickup ASAP.
Food was all the way at the back of the room and just enough to tide you over. The selection was brilliant, especially in the eyes of two gluten-free guests (though I did indulge in a lollicake from Simple Sugar, which I hereby dub the WIN of the evening in the food section).
Seating in the middle – limited, but enough to take a load off for a girl in 4 inch heels (hey – I’m 5′3″ on a GOOD day! I need all the help I can get…)
Cashiers – Ready to go? No sweat. Just give your auction booklet number to the volunteers, they give you a total, run your card. Within minutes, they’ve delivered each and every piece you won – bubblewrapped and complete with a receipt that clearly shows your tax deduction (wow).
The Right Size: All too often, we go to events that are overcrowded or make you feel like you’re a tadpole in an ocean. The event had 1000 guests (sold out!) and while the galleries were crowded, you could always navigate your way around the room. Kudos on this – it’s a difficult task.
Thoughts for 2012:
Second Chance Gallery – LOVED the fact that you took any piece that didn’t receive a minimum bid and placed it in a second chance gallery…but let me give you money! I tried to outbid someone on a piece I wanted desperately and was told “sorry.” Sad face for this redhead. How about 20 minutes of bidding and then before the next closed gallery’s pieces come in, you change the color of the bid sheet which makes it a “last chance” piece for minimum bid?
Eye Level – The pieces on tables between the galleries were often overlooked (I know – I got one for a song). Raise the display tables on these up to above waist level and you’ll have more eyes and more bids, I’ll bet.
Children’s Gallery – While I didn’t win any of the pieces created by the children (dangit), I did love that you had them in a separate area. Make this area in a featured location next year – like the entryway between those two large paintings and the first bar. After all – they’re the reason we were all invited.
Gallery Closings – Upon close, have volunteers go around and immediately highlight the winning bid. I’m pretty sure I lost 2 pieces from after-the-close bidders. While I’m delighted that it raised more funds, it’d be a way to even the score and keep things fair.
Anyone working with a nonprofit, on the board of one or organizing an event that’s designed to be a conference or a fundraiser, you could learn a thing or two from the Morgan Adams Foundation’s website and strategies above. There’s a reason they only do this every two years, and it shows. Simply splendid, I say. And if you can bring in 1000 people, I can’t wait until 2012 when my friend Lisa and I will attend again and see what you’ve done with 2000 people. I have no doubt that’s where you’re headed.
My peeps – what makes an event a success in YOUR book? I was surprised this weekend…tell me how you’ve been surprised.