SPOTLIGHT’ S ON APRIL BROWN
Low Income Housing Institute, Saint Mary School, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Mitochondrial Research Foundation, the NOAH Center… laudable organizations that have experienced the skill, dedication, creativity and passion of Seattle charity Auctioneer April Brown.
In her words, “The day I held my first auction I knew I had found my career”.
Brown entered the professional world of auctioneering in 1992 for the sole purpose of raising money for a neighborhood animal shelter she dreamed of. She held her first auction in her back yard and sold off her treasured glass and pottery collection along with donations from family and friends. Within a few years her dream shelter became a reality as Whisker City Cat Rescue along with a successful estate and commercial liquidation service West Coast liquidations. For more than two decades she’s specialized in fundraising charity auction galas.
As the founder and Executive Director of Whisker City…
April has a grassroots understanding of the fluctuating financial needs of an organization and the importance of developing a realistic fundraising plan.
“I can appreciate that some people throw money at a charity some of the time but most people have to be reminded all of the time and an engaging event does that.”
Because an auction offers multiple opportunities to tempt donors and guests, the auction method of fundraising is a solid way to message supporters before during and after a gala. Auctions offer more ways to participate in giving, buying and sponsoring that any other event model. Games, raffles, live auction and a thoughtfully messaged Ask are the fundamentals of a well-played auction.
She is also adamant about reducing the activities that drain the time and energy of staff.
“We began moving away from large silent auctions with multiple closings more than a decade ago replacing that labor intensive activity with more profitable options.”
She simplified the production process, reconciliation procedures and created an auction model called the Over Easy Auction, popular with business organizations and small clubs and meet ups.
She entered the profession at a time when there were very few auctioneers or women auctioneers. It took some convincing to break away from being a novelty and solidifying a career as an expert. In time her ideas and innovations were tried and proven and are part of nearly every auction gala. The Dessert Dash, Heads or Tails, Lucky Squares, One Bid Board, Magic Paddle and many more. Organization leadership and event planners saw the value of those ideas and those results translate into loyal clients for nearly two decades.
“I work best with people who like to collaborate and have a willingness to build the event around what we know to be true about the makeup of their audience”.
Planners often over look the number one reason events don’t live up to expectations — lack of audience comfort, citing that the event environment must feel comfortable to guests while stimulating a reaction from all the players. When guests, volunteers, board members, paid staff and vendors feel honored and appreciated they come back to play year after year.
“My clients are the on the front end of many of the ideas that later become profitable trends.”
Trends, like adding interactive games to the silent and live auction and even the paddle raise or ASK. Most auction games are a solution to a constraint. Space, allotted time, the venue’s amenities and layout and the buying power of guests. We can turn those obstacles into profit generators by adding a clever interactive game. This is when experience and creativity is queen.
Consignment travel plays a major role in her clients monetary goal.
She partnered with Julian Palmer owner of Red Briks in Cortona, Italy. Together they offer vacation properties in Italy along with traditional local experiences off-the-beaten-path. Julian is a lifelong resident and travel tourism is his passion.
“I believe world peace will come through travel. Travel teaches that we have more in common than we realize.”
Red Briks is a family owned business and many of the tourist adventures are hosted by Julian’s friends and relatives who also have careers in tourism, real estate and culinary arts. His aunt is a popular Tuscan Mama and owns an agriturismo in a truffle forest on a Cortona hillside. She created an exclusive truffle hunting trek and cooking class for guests who stay at her villa. His good friend is a beekeeper and Julian arranges for interested guests to visit and taste honey and learn about the Italian honeybee.
Like April, Julian and his girlfriend are foodies and her parents own Cortona’s most popular pizzeria. Every Thursday night guests can experience the art of making authentic Tuscan pizza after hours in the kitchen.
In 2013 she added the highly regulated trek to view endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in Uganda. One of her clients, Kris Asleson founder of TruthXVision, approached her with an idea for a guided tour in the Ugandan countryside where he teaches locals how to increase their food supply with the Farm in a Barrel program. A The excursion includes a trek to view endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
“We are saving lives and improving the quality of life for orphaned children as well as the endangered mountain gorilla.”
Proceeds from the “Gorillas in the Mist” expedition help support a local orphanage with school supplies and sustenance. The trek includes lodging, food and car service. Another popular excursion is the African Spirit Photo Safari in Zulu Natal South Africa also exclusive to Charity Getaways.
With all that she has going on it’s hard to believe she has any free time but she insists she does. Brown is unapologetic about binge watching or her constant chatter about recipes and cooking shows.“
“I get some of my best money making ideas when I’m cooking and sampling wine and spirits.”