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GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation – Idea Auction

May 10, 2012

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
— George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever had an idea, one that you believed in even though you didn’t know exactly how it would work? That’s the case for me with the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation Idea Auction.

The GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation is relatively new, and we’re just getting started in our fundraising campaign. The foundation will be supporting innovation and education in sustainable meetings and events. As a trustee on the Foundation, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how typically foundations focus on donors that can make those major 6 or 7 digit dollar donations. Something that I, as a small business owner, can’t do (unless that lottery ticket comes in). I can’t help thinking though that I do have things of value that I can contribute, but they’re not financial contributions. They’re ideas. And you know what, I think ideas are valuable.

So I decided to try something new – an idea auction.

I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out, but I wanted a way of gathering ideas from sustainable event practitioners – something that we can all share. A way for “the little kids to play” even if we don’t have deep pockets. These ideas would then be somehow made available by donation to the foundation. A key part that would be different than most auctions was the idea that since ideas can be shared, there wouldn’t be just one winner. In fact, the more the ideas are shared, the more we all win collectively from the dissemination of ideas on sustainable events. I’m grateful for the support from the board, including Chair Mitchell Beer and the Foundation’s Executive Director, Tamara Kennedy-Hill.

So… how do we implement this?

It all sounded great in principle, but we needed to figure out the logistics.

Our goals were as follows:

  • Make it easy for people to donate ideas and for us to make them available for people to access by donation to the foundation
  • Capture the excitement of a live auction format
  • Generate interest in donating and in participating in the auction
  • Help people to recognize the value of their own ideas

How did we do it?

It’s been a bit of a figure it out as we go along process. Some of the basics of the system were:

  • We created an online form for people to donate ideas. We included both a teaser and the full idea description. The full description would be only available to people who donate to the auction, and the teaser would be used to generate interest in the idea.
  • We promoted the auction at the GMIC Conference in Montreal, and encouraged participants to donate ideas.
  • We introduced a “carding” system, where people would give someone a playing card when they heard a great idea during the conference to encourage people to donate the idea to the auction. This was part of our process for helping people to recognize the value of their own ideas.
  • The highlight was the online top idea selection system at the conference. I’m thrilled that Richard Aaron, President of BizBash (and foundation Vice-Chair), agreed to be our auctioneer for this phase. We benefited from his talents as a former Broadway actor, and his singing really brought the event to life. We divided the ideas into categories (people, planet, profit and wild card). And we used a body voting system introduced to use by Adrian Segar.
  • Once the top ideas in each category (selected based on innovation and triple-bottom-line impact) were selected, we created an online store for the ideas. We compiled all the ideas into an idea book as well that includes not only the top ideas, but all the other contributions as well. There are some true gems in those as well, proving that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover or an idea by it’s teaser.
  • We introduced a three-tiered pricing structure (honor system) that allows people to self-select the price category that best allows them to support the foundation and participate in the auction. We made recommendations for each price category, but left them open to anyone. Prices range from $5 to $25 for an individual idea or $25 to $150 for the idea book. All proceeds go to the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation.

For more information on our planning process, check out our video:

 

How you can participate

Right now, we’re in the ideas by donation phase, and only for another day (so there is still time to participate!). To receive ideas (either individuals ones, or the idea book – my recommendation), you can make a donation online here. Check out our second video that explains the donation process below.

 

Future plans

Well, as with all new ventures, we’re seeing ways to improve it for next time. Definitely some things to keep, including the live aspects. Some adjustments would help on the technological side, and I have some ideas on how to make it work better. In the meantime, I hope you’ll help make the idea auction vision come true.

Thanks

In addition to Mitchell Beer, Richard Aaron, and Tamara Kennedy-Hill, there are many people to thank for their help in putting this together. Amanda Ulbrich, Vanessa Adelmann and Jessica Nelson were instrumental in getting the technical aspects to work. Elizabeth Henderson and Judy Kucharuk were amazing onsite getting things to work. And, of course, an idea auction wouldn’t be possible without the idea donors – thank you for sharing your experiences, creativity and wisdom.

MM

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