Lydia Fenet, a passionate philanthropist, and charity auctioneer, Managing Director, Christie’s
MANY CHARITIES RELY ON SIGNATURE ANNUAL EVENTS TO FINANCIALLY SUPPORT THEIR MISSION-DRIVEN WORK. OFTEN, THE ANNUAL GALA FEATURES A BOTH LIVE AND SILENT AUCTIONS THAT IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FUND-RAISING EVENT OF THE YEAR. THE CHARITY SOLICITS DONATIONS FROM INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES. NOW IN THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES, THE GENEROSITY AND SUPPORT OF DONORS MATTERS ALL THE MORE.
LYDIA FENET IS BEST KNOWN IN HER ROLE AT CHRISTIE’S, GLOBAL HEAD OF STRATEGIC PLANNING, A CONCEPT SHE INVENTED AND ESTABLISHED FOR THE AUCTION HOUSE AFTER THE CRASH OF 2008. EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO HER AND TO ALL THOSE SHE HELPS IS HER VERY PROMINENT AND DEMANDING SECOND CAREER AS ONE OF THE WORLD-WIDE LEADING CHARITY AUCTIONEERS. EVEN WITH THE JOYS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF A FAMILY OF THREE YOUNG CHILDREN, LYDIA MAINTAINS AN EXHAUSTING SCHEDULE OF EVENING CHARITY AUCTIONS AFTER FULL WORKING DAYS AT CHRISTIE’S.
Are you looking to exceed your fundraising goals? Elevate your auction to the next level? Leave your guests entertained, inspired, and with considerably less money following your auction? Look no further than the woman who has raised over half a billion dollars for non-profits globally: Lydia Fenet. Using her charisma, humor, and uncanny ability to connect meaningfully with audiences of 100 and 3,000 (and everything in between), Ms. Fenet commands every stage effortlessly without leaving a dollar in the room.
Since leading her first auction in 2001, Lydia has taken over a thousand auctions, and is recognized as the top performer in her field.
Over the past fifteen years, Lydia has taken between 70 – 100 auctions a year. Her recent auctions have benefitted Tipping Point, AMFAR, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, New Yorkers for Children and the Naples Winter Wine Festival.
THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO HAVE LYDIA BACK TO SHARE HER INSIDER’S VIEW ON THE CHARITY AUCTION WORLD.
LYDIA, WHO WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN YOUR TWENTIES? HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH YOUR SENSE OF SELF AND VALUE HAVE DEVELOPED IN YOUR THIRTIES?
In my twenties, I was very focused on pleasing everyone around me. An unkind word or a comment could upset for days. In my thirties, I realized that ultimately it has nothing to do with what people around me think. If I am living in my truth, acting with respect and kindness to those around me, I can be proud of who I am.
YOU ARE THE LEADING CHARITY AUCTIONEER SPENDING 70 TO 80 NIGHTS A YEAR ON STAGE. HOW DID THAT ROLE EVOLVE?
When I first started taking auctions I would take any auction that I was asked to take. Because I spent so much time onstage, I was able to develop a style that felt very authentic and comfortable. As my auctioneering career evolved, I starting taking less auctions so that I could focus my energy on raising money for causes that I care deeply about in addition to the ones I do for Christie’s.
HOW DO CHARITY AUCTIONS DIFFER FROM AUCTIONS AT CHRISTIE’S? AT AUCTION, THE FOCUS IS ON THE OBJECT, BE IT A RARE BOTTLE OF WINE OR A PICASSO. CAN YOU GENERALIZE AS TO THE LOTS THAT REALIZE THE MOST AT A CHARITY AUCTION?
Without a doubt, charity auctions should focus on experiences, not art or items with an actual value. When something is considered “priceless” there really is no limit to what people will give.
DO THE NON-PROFITS APPROACH YOU OR DO YOU WORK THROUGH CHRISTIE’S TO DECIDE WHICH AUCTIONS TO LEAD. HOW DID YOU ENTER INTO THE AUCTION WORLD AND HOW HAS YOUR APPROACH TO A SUCCESSFUL AUCTION DIFFERED FROM WHEN YOU STARTED AND HOW HAS IT REMAINED THE SAME?
It works both ways. If an auction goes well, I usually receive 2 or 3 requests from people in the audience asking if I will take their auction. In addition, I also receive a number of requests through Christie’s which are always interesting. I took a charity auction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in June which was absolutely amazing. Christie’s is such a storied brand that the experiences I have had as an auctioneer for the firm have been truly amazing.
YOU TEACH A PROGRAM IN AUCTIONEERING AT CHRISTIE’S. DO YOU FIND THAT THE PROPORTION OF WOMEN TO MEN HAS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
Definitely. I have had a number of women over the years tell me that they tried out because they saw me onstage and felt like a woman could do it too.
DO WOMEN HAVE A DIFFERENT AUCTION STYLE OR DO YOU COACH EACH PERSON IN THE COURSE TO IDENTIFY AND REFLECT THEIR OWN PERSONALITY?
Without a doubt it is according to their personality. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table – in the class I try to figure out what that is and help them bring it into their performance.
YOUR RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOK, THE MOST POWERFUL WOMAN IN THE ROOM IS YOU, COMES AT A TIME WHEN INCLUSION, EQUAL PAY AND FAIR TREATMENT ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF OUR POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONCERNS. WHAT WAS YOUR PURPOSE IN WRITING THE BOOK?
I wanted women to understand that all the power they need is already inside of them – they just need to start believing in themselves.
WHAT IS THE AUDIENCE YOU ARE YOU MOST INTERESTED IN REACHING AND HOW HAVE YOU GONE ABOUT IT?
When I wrote the book, I hoped to reach women who were just starting out in the working world. I focused on doing podcasts and interviews in publications that focused on that targeted group. Interestingly, what I have since realized since the publication date in April, is the book actually has a much larger reach. I can’t tell you how many emails and letters I have received from 60 – 70 year old women thanking me for writing the book, and telling me that they wished they had had the book when they were in their 20s.
EVEN IN THIS TIME OF STAYING HOME, SOCIAL DISTANCING AND QUARANTINE, LYDIA HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE PRO-ACTIVE IN FORMING AN AMAZING DAILY INSTAGRAM IG LIVE. SHE INVITES A ROSTER OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN TO SPEAK ABOUT THEIR LIVES, THEIR CAREERS AND THEIR VISION OF THE FUTURE. TRY TO TUNE IN, AT 6 PM EASTERN, AND OF COURSE, BEING THE INCOMPARABLE PHILANTHROPIST THAT SHE IS, SHE INVITES US ALL TO DONATE TO HER FAVORITE CAUSE, https://www.river.fund, OR TO A CHARITY OF YOUR CHOICE.
PLEASE JOIN US IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG POST WHERE LYDIA FENET OFFERS EXTRAORDINARY GUIDANCE IN THE ART OF NEGOTIATION.
AND, MOST OF ALL, STAY WELL AND STAY SAFE!