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Archive for March, 2014

Setting: An Example (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On March 27th

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In my last Blog I discussed the subject of decorating a venue. In it I had to confess I don’t get involved in the process because it’s not my forte. Just ask my wife Mary. When guests walk through our home we receive many compliments which I have to quickly deflect in Mary’s direction. Sure, I can hang a curtain rod, but she’s the one with the eye for interior design.

However, I did make a few suggestions regarding what to do and not do when decorating a venue.  Those suggestions included:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission. If your mission is to feed the hungry, then decorate the tables with canned food items that will remind the donors why they are there.

I do have one more suggestion when it comes to setting the mood at a fundraising event – and that’s the use of “Uplighting.”

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Uplighting is the process where theatrical lighting fixtures – such as Par Cans (mostly widely used lights for concerts, nightclubs and touring productions) and Color Bars are used to add color to a room.

These light fixtures are placed on the floor pointing up and project color on surfaces such as columns, alcoves, corners and any other piece of architecture that you want to stand out. The good news is these lights can add any color you wish and may be programmed to change colors throughout the evening.

Perhaps the best part of Uplighting is that it can be achieved at a minimum cost and yet have a maximum impact.

At an event I did last year the decorating committee used Uplighting extremely well.  The effects were amazing and I dare say that most of the crowd had no idea the beautiful and colorful lighting effect was simply an Uplight on a regular household screen.

Let me conclude this 2-Blog subject by reiterating that I am in no way suggesting that decorations do not play an important role at a gala. It does. It’s just not my field of expertise.

I really enjoy watching the guests arrive – and when they walk into the venue for the first time – listen to their Oohs and Ahhs as they head to their assigned tables.

The decorations also play a key role in recruiting for next year’s event. Remember, your guests are paying a significant amount per ticket to attend the event, $100 – $500 per person at most of the events I conduct.  They don’t want to feel as if the charity “went cheap” and lessened the quality of the event and their experience at the fundraiser.

But there is a balance. It’s up to the decorating committee to understand where that balance is so both parties – the charity and the donors – go home feeling great about the hours they just spent helping others in need.

 

© 2014 Scott Robertson Auctioneers. All Rights Reserved. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.

 

Decorating the Venue Part 1

Posted by Scott On March 20th

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There’s a reason Hollywood hands out awards in the category of “Set Decoration” or “Art Decoration.” The visual effect of the set plays a key role in a movie’s authenticity and really sets the stage – forgive the pun – for the actor’s role to come to life and the audience to accept what they are seeing as real which enhances their theatre-going experience.

The same holds true for a charity fundraiser. The way in which a venue is decorated can play a key role in setting the stage for a success event. Now here comes the ironic part – I have nothing to do with it.

We all have our strengths. Mine is not in the realm of planning decorations for a gala. Not only am I decorating-deficient, I simply don’t have the time due to my auction schedule and consulting for many other aspects of a fundraiser from pre-planning to post-event analysis.

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Trust me, I fully appreciate and marvel at a beautifully decorated ballroom. I even attempt to match the tuxedo vest I wear the night of the event to the decor. But putting it all together – me actually getting involved with the decoration theme or process – is akin to allowing a bull wander around in a china shop.

However, with that said, I do inform clients there are some decorating basics they should follow for fundraising auctions.

I will go into detail in a minute – but here are three decorating basics all Event Chairs should adhere to:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission

Let’s begin with the subject of tall centerpieces. They may look great on a table but they interfere with the patrons seeing the auctioneer and/or the auctioneer seeing the patrons.

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Audience analysis, a term I use on a regular basis and one of the keys of my success, is hinged upon my ability to closely observe the faces of the bidders and potential bidders. Due to this clear vision path I often know in advance when a person is going to bid or bid again long before they raise their paddle.

In addition, there is nothing more frustrating to a bidder than to raise their hand or bid paddle and then not being seen by the auctioneer or their ringman due to a centerpiece blocking their view. So keep centerpieces low.

Another important basic is: Don’t overspend on decorations. In my 20 years experience I’ve discovered the portion of the event budget that most often goes over budget is the decorating allowance. Too often the decorating committee gets carried away with hosting a lavish party and forgetting the purpose of the gala is to raise money – not waste it.

Decorations can: Set a nice tone for an event – Can make the attendees feel welcome – And make for great photo opportunities.  But they seldom add significantly to the bottom line. Besides, you don’t want your guests to feel as if their donations from the previous year were being used wastefully on unnecessary and extravagant decorations.

And finally, the decorations should enhance the event by helping to permeate the mission of the charity whenever possible. For instance, if your mission is to supply needed educational tools to school children then decorate the tables with educational manipulatives that are age appropriate for the children you’re trying to serve.

If your mission is to feed the needy, than use strategically placed canned goods and other packaged food items – that can also be used after the event to nourish the hungry – on the tables as decorations. Donors will love the fact that you are getting double duty from the decorations, therefore stretching their donation dollars.

In my next Blog I will talk about how “Uplighting” at an event also plays a key role in setting the mood and can be an integral part of the decor.

 

 

Treat Your Celebrity Talent as a VIP

Posted by Scott On March 10th

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At many local fundraisers you’ll see local TV news anchors and reporters assisting the charity – by not only promoting the event on air – but by participating in the actual event itself. Since they are easily recognizable personalities their presence automatically increases the significance of the event in the minds of the other guests in attendance.

That’s why I have two basic rules when it comes to local TV personalities who volunteer their time to join you at your worthy cause.  1) Treat them like a VIP. 2) Make it as easy for them as possible.

Since many fundraising events start in the early evening hours – and the news anchor or reporter will be arriving late due to the fact they just got done with their early evening newscast – have a reserved parking space for them as close to the venue entrance as possible. An orange cone is always an easy target for them to spot and it reserves the parking space.

Keep in mind – if you don’t have a reserved parking space for them they end up parking in the last spot in the lot because they’ll probably be the last to arrive.  They’ll also have to walk the furthest once the event is over. So keep them close – even if you do offer valet parking. This accommodation will only take up one spot, and chances are the celebrity will be leaving as soon as the event is over so their vehicle will never be in the way of guests.

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Here are several more helpful hints on how to treat your local celebrities:

Make sure they receive an auction catalog ahead of the event.  This will give them time to study it at their leisure.

Upon their arrival they should be greeted by a charity representative and handed a 3-ring binder with the auction items, notes and timeline clearly spelled out – with their portion highlighted.

And don’t forget to give them a pen to write notes, a colored highlighter to identify key elements of items, and a bottle of water to refresh them.

The celebrity should be escorted to his or her table – preferable as close to the stage as possible.

Time is a precious commodity for everyone. Typically when a celebrity is donating their time, a 2-3 hour commitment is the expectation on their part. If their presence is needed for a longer period of time, this should be discussed in advance.

And finally, present them with a gift card at the end of the event. Remember, not only are they donating their time and talent, but they do have expenses such as travel, hiring a babysitter and buying new clothes – to name just a few.

So treat your local VIPs like the celebrities they are.  Their presence will boost your exposure and make your guests feel they are hobnobbing with TV stars.

Thanks For A Record-Setting Year

Posted by Scott On March 6th

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At the time this Blog is being written I’m in the midst of my busiest time of year – those dates between early January and mid-April when many major fundraising events are held.

But, as 2014 begins to unfold I need to take a few minutes to reflect back on 2013 – because – what an incredible year it’s been.

When I began my career as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer some 20 years ago my number one goal was to help families in need – especially children. I thought then – if I could assist charities, schools and organizations raise several hundred thousand dollars a year – the world would be a better place.

My mission came right from the heart. Little could I have realized the figure I had in my head at that time would not only be reached – but exceeded way beyond my original expectations.

I say this because in 2013, I was able to help raise a total of $21,757,360 for charities within Florida and the country. As a comparison, in 2012 I helped raise $14,853,000.  That’s an incredible jump of some 33 percent – a new personal record. And one of which I’m extremely proud.

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But, let me be clear.  I didn’t do it on my own I have merely played a role in the success. I’ve had the privilege of working with some great Event Chairs and their committees – volunteers who work tirelessly for months on end – if not an entire year – to make their fundraiser a success. And let’s not forget the generous donors, who spend their hard earned dollars to make the world a better place for others.

It truly is an honor to work aside such dedicated individuals who feel so strongly about their mission. In many ways their passion makes my job a little easier.  And I hope visa versa.

I look back at 2013 with pride. But, I also know that I cannot dwell on the past.  A successful, record-shattering year does not mean the mission has been completed.  In fact, quite the contrary.

To the charities I’ve worked with this past year – and especially the Event Chairs – I say Thank You!  We created a strong and successful partnership.

But, it’s a new year. There are many new and important missions ahead. So many families – especially children – are counting on us.