Negotiating a Hotel Contract – Three Points Benefit Auction Organizers Should Discuss With the Venue

With the economy being in a slump, many groups have canceled or scaled back their events. Hotels are working to entice organizations to sign contracts, but before silent auction gift ideas you sign on the bottom line, negotiate! If you are one of the many groups holding a benefit auction in a hotel, consider these negotiation points with your respective venue.

* Ask for discounts on food and drink (F&B in the vernacular of the trade). F&B is often the largest expense of any fundraising auction, so any discounts are savings straight to the bottom line.

* Ask if committing to a minimum room block will grant you a deeper discount. If the hotel is interested (and they will be), don’t be afraid to commit to, say, a 10-room minimum as it might be worth it to commit. Here’s how you can use those rooms:

One of my clients uses four rooms for staff. After they’ve set up the auction, worked the event, and tore down the party, it’s often 1 AM and staff are “rewarded” by getting to sleep upstairs in a hotel room instead of driving home in exhaustion. You might even offer a room to last year’s top bidders.

Market sleeping rooms to your guest list in advance of the event to help sell the room block. Couples can enjoy making a weekend of the party … even if the party isn’t on a weekend. Remind them that if they book a room, they can attend the auction and drink as much wine as they’d like, because they won’t be driving home until the following day. (And who doesn’t love breakfast at hotels?)

Auctions celebrating a milestone (“It’s our 25th anniversary!”) should market their gala to founders and alumni who launched the organization oh-so-long-ago. Select a Friday or Saturday night to make the date more appealing to out-of-towners. They’ll want to support the group (especially if you are honoring them during the evening) and will often need a room.

* Ask to eliminate penalties for rescheduling and drop any no-show fees. Planners usually secure critical functions well in advance (e.g. venues, auctioneers, bands), but specific schedules are often not determined until dates near. Your group might secure the venue nine to twelve months in advance, but the Board of Directors might decide to reschedule the auction date two or three months before the event (I’ve seen it happen.). Avoiding rescheduling or similar penalties is a good way to play it safe in uncertain economic times.