Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Are we losing the "Fun" in "Fund Raiser" Events?

This is a Blog post that I wrote weeks ago.  I’ve been up to my neck in projects, and a couple of issues, that I simply have not had time to sit and Blog.  I’m hoping to do better and post more often because it is something I enjoy.  glg

 I won a gun. Actually I won a rifle, a Savage .17 HMR to be specific. Now, to say that I won it implies that I got it for free or for the price of a raffle ticket--the latter is true--I got it for a raffle ticket.  The raffle was part of the Finley Wildlife and Gun Club’s biennial fund raising effort and I figure that over the past decade I’ve bought enough gun raffle tickets that I could have bought two, maybe even three rifles of similar price.  That’s also the sentiment that I hear from many of the hunters who attend the biennial fund raiser, but they complain with a laugh and admit they attend the auction and dinner for camaraderie (aka, drinking) and because the Finley Wildlife Club is an active member of the community and the money raised does go to good use, including scholarships, the local school and so on. There is a group of people (men and women), however, that use banquet/auction/raffle fund raisers as a source of products for resale. These individuals rarely care about the end use of whatever money is raised and are seldom members of the organization holding the event unless their ticket price includes membership. They are attending the event for the singular purpose of scoring bargain prices on selected auction goods, and by buying large numbers of raffle tickets, while keeping the amount spent on tickets at an acceptable loss/risk level, their odds of taking home raffle items is increased substantially, all of which will later turn a profit. At an event I attended earlier this year I was surprised when one person won a quarter of the firearms raffled and another substantial prize, plus won the bidding on a number of the more expensive auction items. When I said he “is one lucky S-O-B” I was told it isn’t luck--“he’s a professional, all of those guns will be sold at gun shows and the other stuff on eBay or his web site.”

The comment that struck me hardest came from another hunter who said: “Guys like him don’t leave much for the rest of us, if it wasn’t for where the money raised goes, I wouldn’t be here. If there is a benefit auction or raffle around here you can count on him (pointing to the person under discussion) being there and walking out with an armload of stuff--it isn’t luck. They’re taking the fun out of these things.”

His comments were echoed by several other attendees.

Until Michelle and I moved to North Dakota I was unaware of there being a large group of people who specialize in going from fund raiser to fund raiser and also purchase large numbers of raffle tickets to significantly improve their chances of winning and then selling the prize for a profit. I also learned that many of these individuals are also the auction bidders who carefully study items to be auctioned off, make notes of items’ value, then bid the more expensive items past the bargain price others had hoped would win the bidding yet keeping it low enough to realize a profit later. I have also been told that these bidders will often work in teams to squeeze out other bidders yet keep the final bid at or below a specified price, all of which is frustrating many “average Joes and Janes.” (Readers: FYI: I have helped organize nearly two dozen fund raisers with raffles and auctions and only recently seen this phenomenon emerge so consistently although one retired auctioneer told me it was a common practice throughout his career. At the Finley Wildlife Club’s event this has not been an issue but at other events in nearby cities it has been.)

At first, one is tempted to point out that because the money is going to a good cause there shouldn’t be any problem with having these people attend and pour their money into the cause. I agree--up to a point--that being that when the Joes and Janes of the outdoors begin to lose interest in attending our fund raising events because it is becoming increasingly hard for them to win the bidding at an auction and the odds of winning in a raffle are reduced to a level where winning would be “stacked against the odds” because so many tickets are sold to an individual, then we have a problem. What needs to be recognized by the organizers of the various fund raising events that are held around the country (and that does include me)  is that when the Joes and Janes begin to drop out of these events it brings them a few steps closer to dropping out of the outdoor sports. The demands on their free time are such that they can quickly justify not going hunting, fishing or out to the range because any of the myriad other activities that are pulling at them can replace the outdoors and shooting sports. Yet, even with this problem firmly understood there still exist the fact that if a person has bought their ticket(s) that person is entitled to win whatever they are drawn for or win at auction. Trying to ban them would be a mistake and probably open some legal questions. 

All of that said, I would like to see the organizations that rely on dinner/auction/raffle events to raise money for their cause to post a sign and print on the dinner tickets something like this:
The auction and raffle prizes are intended to be used by the winners to enhance their outdoor (or shooting) experience and not as items to be professionally resold on web sites or other outlets. 
Maybe it is too much to ask because in modern America, profit, whether it is profit to fund Nonprofits, or profit for the individual, has replaced what had been the desire to do good things. Maybe, just maybe, if the Joes and Janes saw such a sign or read a similar statement on the back of their banquet ticket they would feel a little better if they didn’t win that prize they were hoping for.