Benefit Auctions and Stone Soup

June 30, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Online Auction

While working a live benefit auction this week, a nonprofit organization was selling a book that was signed by the author. Since the value of the book was insignificant and the author was unknown, it was not appropriate for a live auction. It was just a book. However, the organization requested that I sell it anyway. 

As the book was brought to the podium, I recalled another book I had read in school as a child called “Stone Soup”. It is an old fairy tale about travelers who come to a village with only a pot. They are hungry and need a place to stay but the village is poor and no one wants to share the small amount of food they have with the travelers. Without a place to stay, the travelers put a stone in their pot, fill it with water, and start to heat it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and comes to enquire about the food in the pot. The travelers tell him that they are making “stone soup” which will be delicious except for an ingredient that they are missing. The villager is willing to share a small amount of garnish if it will help to make a tasty soup. Another villager does the same, sharing a pinch of seasoning, and then another with a carrot or two, and so on until the soup truly becomes a meal fit for a king. When it is done, the traveler shares it with all of the villagers. Everyone contributed such a small amount but the combined effort increased the value of the meal.

With the book in my hand, I had the stone for my “stone soup”. I collected the initial bids, and when the expected lull came, I added more ingredients. I tapped into the resources I knew were in the room. The author of the book was in the audience and offered the winning bidder a day at his home in England; the bids increased. Then another guest in the audience included a tour of his work at the Lincoln Cathedral; the bids climbed higher. Another guest in the audience worked at the Edinburgh Castle and added a tour also; the bids soared. Suddenly, our soup was fit for a king. It was the highest sold item at the charity auction that day.

The small things that were offered by donors were easy for them to give but held great value to the bidders and ultimately to the whole nonprofit organization that reaped the revenues. The items you collect from donors may seem of little worth. Adding items to make a package will increase the value. 

Don’t underestimate the value of a professional benefit auctioneer. He can make “stone soup” out of a plain old book.

If need help transforming your “stones” into “stone soup”, contact Kevin Rutter, president of Hot Auctioneering, a professional auctioneer, speaker & writer. Kevin is ready to ignite the excitement at your next auction or event! Please visit his website at

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