Benefit Auctions are Like a Cattle Drive…

Historically the beef that fed our nation was moved by large cattle drives from the ranch to the railroad.  Your benefit auction has many similarities.  Both start with a gathering of individuals and a need to bring in a year’s bounty by means of the shortest route possible.  Both have a need to keep the herd calm, together, and moving in the same direction.  Both can have unexpected events along the way.  Both need dedicated help and a ramrod to solve problems and keep everything moving.

Have you ever been to a benefit auction where everything drags and individuals are moseying away from the herd?  You probably wondered if they’ll ever get to the railhead where pay day occurs.  Two things are most likely missing—a well-planned, detailed schedule of the evening and someone to serve as “ramrod” to keep the event on the trail.


Before you’ve gathered the herd for the evening, start with listing everything that needs to happen during the event.  Include announcements that need to be made, when, and by whom.  Figure in your time vacuums like moving the herd from cocktails to their tables.   Conduct your silent auction closings before the meal.  Decide at what point in your meal you will make introductions and move into the auction.  Be ready for the caterer that was spot on last year, being somewhere over a neighboring hill this year.  Be ready for a stampede to the checkout. Once you’ve got everything listed that needs to happen and in order, develop a detailed timeline for the evening.

Now you need a ramrod.  This person’s role is to keep the event moving, on time, and adjusting the timeline to meet challenges along the way.  They must be someone who stays on task throughout the event, not afraid to motivate others, and step in where needed. They need to work with the emcee, auctioneer, event chair, and others to insure the evening goes as planned.

Done well, no individuals were left in the dust, the corrals are full, and all the money possible was gotten from the herd.