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Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Archive for January, 2015

Making Sense of Percentages

Posted by Scott On January 29th

If you’re a television viewer, during the course of any day you’ll find yourself watching a commercial for some national or international charity asking for a donation.

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Many times they only ask for a small, very affordable amount to be pledged on a monthly basis. You know the ones. Save these sad looking dogs in cages. Help feed these starving children in a third world country.

It’s not unusual that during the commercial the voice-over artist announces that 85 percent of all donations go directly to the charity to fight their worthy cause.

The reason for them doing this is quite simple.  The charity believes the higher the percentage they receive from the total donations coming in – the more the public will be willing to give – and be confident about it.

I know this may come as a surprise to some, but I really take issue with the “percentage” marketing technique. It’s not always about the percentage the charity uses for the cause versus administration or operation costs. To me it’s simply about the total dollars raised.

Let me explain.

Continue reading “Making Sense of Percentages” »

A Fun Event Begins With the Auctioneer

Posted by Scott On January 22nd

In countless number of Blogs I’ve mentioned the word “Fun!” To be more specific, I used that word to describe what a fundraising auction should be.

It’s the responsibility of the Event Chair and his or her committee to make sure their event is entertaining and fresh. Your guests for the event, who are giving of their time and money, are expecting nothing less.

Scott Robertson

I forgot to mention one additional individual whose job it is to make sure the attendees of the fundraiser have a great time – and that’s the auctioneer.

In the course of my 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from past Event Chairs regarding the auctioneer they hired or the volunteer auctioneer they decided to go with as a means to save a few dollars.

Their overall complaint?  The lack of energy in the room!

I often think of this scenario as a comic on stage. Every joke he or she tries to tell the quieter the room becomes. Nobody likes to bomb. That’s because bombing means the comedian as well as the audience had no fun.

I’m not suggesting that joke telling at a fundraising event is the answer. What I am suggesting is that the auctioneer for your event – whether hired or a volunteer – must radiate enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is contagious.  The more fervor your auctioneer has for the cause the more the attendees pay attention and the more they get involved in the auction itself. And the more they are entertained the more fun they’ll have.

I’ve been very fortunate. Not an auction goes by, at which I’m the auctioneer, that I don’t hear the words, “You looked like you were having so much fun.  We were having fun right along with you.”

Those are great words to hear.  I have a deep passion for what I do – those charities that call on my services – and the families they’re aiming to help.

winefest

To me, it’s all about passion – all about enthusiasm. If your auctioneer is not passionate or enthusiastic how can you expect your audience to be passionate or enthusiastic?  You want your guests to have both and the conduit to having an enjoyable, fun event is your auctioneer.

Remember, there’s a good reason why the word “fundraiser” begins with the letters F-U-N!

 

May I Have Your Attention Please

Posted by Scott On January 16th

In Part 1 of this Blog I talked about the 6 words you should never say during a fundraising event. For those who didn’t see the first Blog, just take a look at the title above. I also gave a recommendation on what should be said, which I’ll repeat a little later.

In this Blog I want to get more specific regarding 3 questions I’m often asked about announcements during the course of a fundraising event.  Those questions include:

  • How many announcements should be made?
  • What kind of announcements should be made?
  • When should announcements be made during the duration of the social hour/silent auction?

Before I answer those questions I highly recommend that from the very start of an event you have a schedule in place for the entire program and stick with the schedule. This includes when the doors open, the opening and closing of the silent auction, the start of the program, the start of the dinner service and the start of the live auction. The attendees should be aware of these timeframes.

By sticking to the schedule your attendees will be anticipating the start of the various elements within your program.

schedule

Now, Question 1: How many announcements should be made during the social hour and silent auction?

If you’re waiting for a magical number the truth is – I don’t know. Every audience is different.  The key is to keep them to as few as possible and to be strategic about when they are said. Remember, your guests do not like to be interrupted when they’re having fun and conversing with fellow attendees. They will give their attention a finite number of times – so use announcements sparingly.

Question 2: What kind of announcements should be made?

Only interrupt your guests when something meaningful needs to be said. Feel free to welcome guests a few times as they arrive at the venue. If a silent auction item isn’t receiving its fair share of bids due to its location in the room it’s perfectly acceptable to make the attendees aware of it.

Now, here’s an example of an announcement that should never be made, “May I have your attention please!  Bill Smith please go to the registration table your friends are here.”

Simply put, you do not ask everyone for their attention when you’re trying to find a single individual. Instead of making a public announcement you send out your volunteers to canvas the venue, locate him, and give him the message – privately.

Talking in to Mic

Question 3:  When should announcements be made during the duration of the social hour/silent auction?

Again, every fundraiser is different, but here are my suggestions. Deliver a few welcome announcements at the beginning of the event.  During the course of the silent auction limit announcements to those silent auction items that are not receiving much attention. As the silent auction is getting ready to close, inform attendees that the deadline for the silent auction is near. And finally, get the attendees to take their seats for the start of the program, not by saying – “May I Have Your Attention Please” – but with softer, less intrusive announcement such as, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s so wonderful to have you here tonight. This evening is off to a great start and we so much appreciate your participation in this most worthy cause.”

When it comes to announcements the bottom line is this:  Have a strategy, a timeline going into the event and stick to it. Be sure if you’re asking for someone’s attention it’s for a meaningful message that’s been strategically placed within the timeline – but don’t overdo it.

And at all cost never say, “May I Have Your Attention Please!” Leave the Carnival Barker for the sideshow. Treat your guests with respect. Let them have uninterrupted fun.

Remember, just because a microphone is present doesn’t mean it should be used. The fewer words spoken – the better!

 

May I Have Your Attention Please

Posted by Scott On January 8th

Have you ever been drawn into a sideshow at the circus thanks in part to that colorfully attired and somewhat boisterous guy standing on a raised platform just outside the sideshow tent entrance?

 

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That barker plays a key role in the financial success of the circus. His main goal is to attract attention to the sideshow, describe what the people are going to see or experience, and then getting them to pony up the fee and get them through the gate. The barker’s whole performance is quite entertaining to say the least.

A benefit auctioneer is somewhat of a carnival barker – albeit one with a much more noble cause.

During the course of a fundraising event, our goal is to welcome guests, inform them about what will or is taking place within the venue and to get the guests to participate in things such as the silent auction – to pay the fee if you will.

Here’s where the benefit auctioneer must walk the tight rope. How many times does the auctioneer make announcements during the course of the evening and especially the silent auction?  Well in short – as few as possible.

There are 6 words I absolutely do not want to hear and will never say as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer – and those words are, “May I Have Your Attention Please!” The other 4 words I do not want to hear are, “Everybody please be quiet!”

Not only do I refuse to say these phrases, I dread when I hear someone else ask for the attention of the audience at a fundraising auction.  This is especially true during the social hour, the time when the silent auction and raffles are usually taking place. Guests are having fun – they’re having conversations with other attendees.  Nothing shuts down the fun and the conversations more than a “May I Have Your Attention” interruption.

So what do you say and when do you say it to get your guests to head to their tables for instance? Well, first of all, you do it on schedule. Since the attendees are aware of the schedule they are anticipating when the different programs within an event will start.

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As for the words to grab their attention, I recommend the soft, pat-them-on-the-back approach such as, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is so wonderful to have you here tonight. This evening is off to a great start and we so much appreciate your participation in this most worthy cause.”

 

By using this kind of language the guests become quiet and attentive on their own. And the best part is they don’t feel like they’ve been interrupted.

You must remember, auctions are all about emotions. And if you set the wrong tone at the beginning by consistently interrupting people they will start to take offense. That quickly changes the positive energy in the room into negative energy – and that’s the last thing you want to do.

I have a great deal more to say about this topic but it will have to wait until Part 2 of this blog.

Some of the questions I’ll be answering are: How many announcements should be made, what kind of announcements should be made and when should they be made during the duration of the social hour/silent auction?

My answers just might surprise you.

 

 

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Thanks for another Record-Setting Year

Posted by Scott On January 5th

When I began my career as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer some 20-plus years ago, my number one goal was to help charities in need – especially children charities. 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.

2014 Somonma Wine Weekend  (3)

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 expectations.

Fast forwarding to 2014, my team and I are so grateful to assist each individual charity achieve or exceed their fundraising goals. This allows the charity to focus their good work to help their client base and make a positive difference in their community.

After conducting 79 fundraising auctions in 2014, our team was able to help raise a total of $28,150,250 for charities within Florida and throughout the country. That’s a new record. As a comparison, in 2013 our team was able to help raise $21,757,360 and in 2012, $14,853,000.

But, let me be clear, we didn’t do it on our own. We’ve had the privilege of working with some great Event Planners, Event Chairs and their committees, volunteers who work tirelessly for months on end, (if not an entire year) to make their fundraiser a success. 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. I hope vice versa.

Here are just a few of the fundraising highlights of 2014.

  • 2014 Somonma Wine Weekend  (2)In Sonoma, California, last September my team and I were able to raise $4 million dollars at the Grand Tasting/Auction at the Sonoma Wine Weekend for a combination of children’s charities. One of the identified needs was a literacy program that teaches migrant children, and their non-English speaking parents, to read. This will help the world as these families break the cycle of poverty and become more productive workers and citizens. This is the truly amazing part of our work, and for that we are extremely grateful.
  • Conservancy of Southwest Florida again exceeded all expectations, raising $1.3 million net to support their worthy programs. One of these programs is the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Earlier this year, in a one week period of time, in addition to all the other animals they rescued, 15 Pelicans were treated for serious fishermen related injuries. Without the generosity of supporters, this important facility would not be available
  • The Southwest Florida Wine Festival raised $2.5 million in the live auction and is ranked in the top 5 charity wine auctions in United States by Wine Spectator Magazine. The even better news is the majority of the proceeds are going to help fund the brand new Golisano Children’s Hospital currently under construction with a projected opening date in 2016.
  • The Celebrity Martini Glass Auction chose 2 worthy charities this year.  The first was PAWS, which provides service dogs to wounded warriors.  The second was Honor Flight which flies WWII veterans from Naples to Washington D.C. to view the WWII memorial. In Celebrity Martini Glass auctioneer2014 this event, which collects autographs from well-known celebrities on beautiful martini glasses and then connects with an artist to customize the glass, raised over $300,000. That compares to the $21,000 raised at its inaugural event just 4 years ago.
  • Marion Downs Hearing Center in Denver, thanks to a family connection, was able to recruit Donnie Osmond to perform a private concert after the auction, for 300 attendees at the gala. The funds raised at this record breaking event will help this research facility discover new ways to help deaf and hearing impaired children lead more traditional lives.
  • In late September, I traveled to Juneau, Alaska for the Bartlett Regional Hospital Foundation and set a new record for their fundraising auction. This remote city needed specialized equipment to allow patients to “to stay home” during their hospital stay instead going through the stress of taking an emergency med-flight to Seattle.
  • An untimely death of a friend and much beloved fundraising auctioneer David Reynolds left several charities challenged with finding a new auctioneer. When I reached out to his family see how I could help, they scheduled me to conduct three events in San Francisco on three consecutive days. Being able to help David’s family and the charities, was a wonderful experience. Even better news is they have already booked me for the same events in 2015.
  • At a fundraising event at Carrolwood Country Day School in Tampa FL, during the special appeal portion of the live auction, over one million dollars was given to jump start the project of building a multi-purpose facility on campus. When this new building is in place, the students will have a gym to call their own, including the ability to host basketball and volleyball games plus social activites.
  • There were so many other incredible fundraising galas that I wish I could mention but there is simply not enough space in this blog.

Happy Scott at 80K

As an active member of the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) I was requested to speak on various elements of “fundraising auctions” at the NAA Conference and Show in July and at the Benefit Auctioneers Summit in September. This opportunity allowed me to give back to my profession by working with other fundraising auctioneers on techniques to improve their craft. Which in turn will assist them raise more money for the charities in their respective communities.

I look back at 2014 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 are counting on us.

And I’m always here to help. So if you know of anyone who could benefit from my services in 2015 please contact me as early as possible.

Thank you for your continued support!