The Accidental Auction

Sometimes I think if I planned my life better, I’d never do anything. I’d be paralysed with indecision and see too clearly the reasons not to do something. Whereas now I can look back and think, yeah, that’s exactly what I meant to do. In retrospect.

For example, if I had meant to hold an online charity auction, and had researched the logistics and estimated the time and the likelihood of raising more than I could comfortably just donate myself, I probably would have said to hell with it and given Kids Help Phone $50.

But even after spending an entire weekend emailing and packing and shipping after the Friday close of the auction I accidentally held, I’m so glad I didn’t actually plan it and give myself the opportunity to abandon it.

I started the TV, eh? website in much the same accidental way. I’d written something about how Canada needed a site like The Futon Critic that had information on Canadian shows. Someone said “if you see a need, why don’t you start it?” After my initial “why would I? And I don’t have time” I started it quietly, on a whim one night, figuring if no one cared I’d abandon it. That was 6 years ago.

With the auction, I had the vague thought that I’d get some prizes from my contacts and have a draw to encourage people to donate to a good cause during the Christmas season. I didn’t know what prizes or what cause or exactly how I would do the draw. Whatever. Details.

I started by asking some of my TV industry friends and acquaintances and PR contacts for items to donate, figuring if they couldn’t help the idea would die anyway. But they said yes. All of them. And they gave me really good stuff. And I realized I’d raise way more money through an auction than a draw.

So I asked for help deciding on a charity, and I asked other people for more stuff, and suddenly I had this full-blown auction with over 70 items up for bid on my hands before I had time to think, well, shit, how am I going to do this when I’ve never auctioned anything off before in my life? I don’t think I’ve even bought anything in an auction. But I got fascinated by the mechanics of it, and the setting up of my WordPress site to host it, and the psychology of bidding.

Not nearly as suddenly we raised over $6,500 for Kids Help Phone, and there’s still one package left that got caught at customs and a couple other smaller items that winning bidders are re-donating to the cause. When I filled out their Third Party Event form I told Kids Help Phone I wanted to raise $2,000 – I didn’t want to raise expectations too much, since I had no idea how to estimate how much money we’d raise. Secretly, though, I hoped for $5,000. So I’m thrilled at the almost-final total.

After sending out thank yous to donors, I’m getting some “we’ll be happy to donate next year” responses. Next year? Oh. Right. Maybe I will make it an annual event. And next time I’ll actually plan it using lessons learned from this year, especially the lesson that it was fun and worthwhile, and most of all that it’s inspiring to be part of this online community that responded to an initial vague idea with “sure, what can we do to help?”

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6 Responses to The Accidental Auction

  1. mike says:

    The best way to make contests easier is get the prize donors to hold on to the prize. Once you have the winners, send them the respective addresses. It saves you a lot of hassle, but it’s green, because you’re only shipping it once.

    Congrats on the huge success of the auction!

  2. walty says:

    Congrats to all, to Kids Help Phone & especially to you, DW! It’s never as much about the planning, as the people. First and foremost, it was you innovating for this wonderful cause that inspired me. We creatives owe you a great debt for being such a vital part of building our incredible Canadian creative community, online. And, for reminding us all what matters, how to give a damn, and give back, with this auction. And on behalf of inkling and inkcanada – we’ve got your back. When you’re ready to do it again, let us know how we can help. This time, the standing ovation is for you!
    – Your fan always, waltz xo

  3. Diane says:

    Mike, I debated that but decided especially for the first time out my comfort level was for the most part not to list unless I had the items in my hand, since many shows went out of production between the beginning and end of the auction, and I’d seen problems with other charity auctions with people not getting items that had been promised, plus the networks just sent me a boatload of stuff that I split into packages that made some thematic sense. I’d do more of that next time, getting more donors to hang on to their prizes, but think I’d still need to be the middleman for some.

    And thanks so much, Karen! You are inspiring 🙂

  4. I’m just writing this so history will be able to scrape the following SEO connections:

    Diane Wild is the coolest, awesomest, kindest, most caring, charitable, thoughtful, writer of Canadian television in the universe and maybe even Canada.

    And now I will never be nice to you again.

  5. Diane says:

    Aw, you’re the coolest awesomest etc co-host of a podcast on Canadian TV ever.

  6. Peter Mitchell says:

    Fantastic job on the auction Diane

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