Last night my nonprofit had several event-based fundraisers running simultaneously, one of which was a massive silent auction. In an attempt to be as fair as possible we set a firm time for the auction to close, and as the countdown went under the five minute mark, I was ecstatic to see crowds of people peering at the bid sheets with pens in hand.
At the end of the auction, I went and marked all of the final bids in sharpie and declared the winners. What I didn’t know was that the final bid on an item was lower than the previous bid. In my flurry of finalizing all of the auction items, I missed this mistake (partially because the bid sheets were facing the audience and I was marking them upside down), and declared the lower bid the winner. Needless to say Mr. High bidder wasn’t a fan of mine.
It is a terrible feeling: that you’ve shorted the charity out of money, that a charity supporter is now itemless and upset, and that you did everything you could to avoid a situation like this and despite your best efforts, problems arose.
Sometimes it is tough not to take it personally, but I try to remember that I’m not going to make everyone happy. There is no supernonprofit that does everything exactly how the donors and board and staff would like, and there is no fundraising event that goes off perfectly without at least a little glitch here and there. Charities are often understaffed and overworked, and remembering that even the behemoth international organizations face issues, makes me feel better about my tiny npo and all we have accomplished.
In the end, we were able to accommodate both bidders on the item, and while they weren’t 100% satisfied with the outcome, they both still donated to the cause and went home with items. The evening's fundraisers were successful, and a lot of good will come as a result of the funds raised.
When I'm feeling down about a situation like the auction glitch, I stop and glance over thank-you letters from beneficiaries or I look at last year's community report. When you step back from the moment and look at the big picture, it makes the hiccups seem insignificant in the light of all the charity will accomplish.
You’re not going to make everyone happy, and that’s okay.