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Hiring an Auctioneer is Not a Full Committee Decision

Posted by Jessica Geer On August 14th

Classical Greek philosopher Plato once said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” As a professional benefit auctioneer, I could not agree more. 

Throughout the course of the year I’m contacted by various charities and organizations searching for a fundraising auctioneer. When the decision maker makes the call and signs the contract everything moves smoothly along.  Where the system bogs down is when I hear the words, “I’ll need to present your credentials and agreement to our full committee and will get back in touch with you.”

The decision regarding who to hire as a fundraising auctioneer should never be delegated to a full committee. Sure, it sounds great and wonderful to have everyone aboard, but the problem is, “too many cooks spoil the broth.

Recently, the Executive Director of an organization wanted to hire me for their upcoming fundraiser. The Event Chair also wanted to hire me. But both wanted to get everyone on the full committee to agree.  When you bring in a lot of people a number of issues pop up, many of which are unfair as the auctioneer is not present to answer the question and resolve the concern.

Based upon feedback I hear the top three issues that arise during the full committee meeting are:

1)  Someone will say “we are all volunteers, we shouldn’t have to pay for an auctioneer/consultant.

2)  Some committee member says “I saw someone who did a really good job at the _______ gala. I will get more information on that person and present it to the committee”, thus delaying the decision until at least the next meeting. (Do not be surprised when this committee member forgets to get the information and delays things even further.)

3)  Another committee member says “I know someone with a great personality, and is really funny, who might be willing to be our auctioneer.

This list could go on and on as suddenly the committee is more concerned with price than with performance. They forget the decision should always be based on ROI, return on investment.

So, from the time the charity or organization first contacts me to the time they get back to me with a decision weeks may have gone by. During this waiting period, a different group not only contacted me, but signed the agreement to hire me, which left me no other choice but to tell the other group, “Sorry, but I’m already booked.”

I learned from the past – I can’t hold dates for organizations. When full committees get involved in the decision process, precious time is lost, and that often results in disappointment.

The solution is simple – the decision to hire an auctioneer should be made by a steering committee of two or three people – but no more than five. This steering committee needs to take the lead and make the decisions so everything is handled efficiently and effectively. These are the people that deal with the consulting portion of the auctioneer services for the months leading up to the fundraising event. The full committee needs to trust those in the steering committee to make the executive decisions.

Everyone has an opinion.  But like I said in the beginning, “Too many cooks….”   

 

Do you have additional questions?  Contact Scott today!

One would think that, after helping to raise millions of dollars for charities in the past 9 months, Benefit Auctioneer Scott Robertson would unwind during the summer.  Kick off his shoes. And simply relax at his Fort Myers, Florida home.  

Well, that’s not Scott.  Instead, he’s spending his summer – his time off from his hectic auctioneering world – to guide hundreds of white water rafters down a fast-flowing river in what they often consider an adventure of a lifetime.   

According to Scott, being an auctioneer and being a white water rafting guide, his two passions besides his wife Mary of course, have many similarities.   

Scott’s career as an auctioneer began over 20 years ago.  But his love for the water – and auctions – started much earlier than that at his childhood home about 50 miles outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

“When I was seven years old I built my first wood raft,” recalled Scott.  “Ironically, that’s about the same age when I started attending farm and antique auctions with my parents. I guess it was destiny the two would meet later on in my life.”

Scott’s early adventures on Flat Creek didn’t stop at rafting. While fishing the swift and cold Kentucky stream he also learned about water flow by observing the bobber at the end of his line.

As often as he could he would be found floating on the creek or fishing from its bank, Scott spent just as much time with his dad, a farmer, and his mom, an antique storeowner, attending auctions.  That’s when he began appreciating the concept of the auction and the power of the auctioneer.

It was 34 years ago this summer when Scott first put his rafting skills and water current knowledge to the test when he became a rafting guide for Adventures On The Gorge on the New and Gauley Rivers in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

“Every summer I really enjoy hanging up my tuxedos and colorful auctioneer vests in exchange for a wetsuit and lifejacket,” said Scott. “I guide about 35 trips down the river during the rafting season.  But, that’s far fewer than the number of trips I take for the remaining nine months traveling the country as a professional benefit auctioneer.”

During one of his rafting trips last year Scott realized there were several similarities between his career as an auctioneer and his summer job, of being a white water rafting guide.

“The first thought I had when comparing the two was nervous energy,” said Scott.  “I always have nervous energy prior to an auction and prior to launching the raft.  Regardless of the number of auctions you conduct or trips you take down the river you are only as good as your next trip or performance.”

Another comparison can be stated in four words:  Living in the moment.

“It’s impossible to have anything else on your mind but the mission ahead when you are entering into a rapid or conducting an auction.  You must have total focus,” he said.  “And you must think two to three moves ahead – planning where you need to be and what you need to do to get there.”

Then there’s analyzing the audience.  According to Scott, an auctioneer must be able to size up the attendees at a fundraising auction to maximize the charity’s profit. The same holds true for those eight individuals boarding the white water raft.  The guide must be able to size up each passenger and play to their strengths to minimize their weaknesses.

The final two comparisons are Scott’s favorites.

“Everyone depends on my leadership role whether times are good or challenging.  As a benefit auctioneer you must control the action from start to finish. The organizers and attendees of the event depend me to take charge of the auction and see it through to a successful completion.

The same is true when I’m a white water rafting guide.  There is a trust factor and those on the raft must have total confidence that I’m going to get them down the river safely.”

Scott added, “Perhaps my favorite comparison deals with having fun.  Guests at a fundraiser want to have a good time and be entertained in the process.  The passengers on my raft want the same thing – to have fun.  There’s no better sensation than the “feeling of satisfaction” trip after trip or auction after auction.”  

Scott, who turned 56 a few months back, said he has no immediate plans to hang up his wetsuit any time soon.  In fact, he and his wife Mary, who he met while being a guide and is a guide herself, purchased 6 acres about four miles from the rafting company and relocated a 200-year old cabin on the site.

“This is my home away from home,” stated Scott.  “I still love white water rafting as much today as I did when I first arrived 34 years ago.” 

“It’s the same with auctioneering.  I think it’s even more fun now. I simply love the interaction with people, especially the event chairs when their fundraising goals weren’t just met – but exceeded.”

Scott concluded, “I have to admit, if I’m being honest, I truly love what I do.  Whether it’s being a guide on a white water rafting adventure or being the auctioneer for an important fundraising event – I love to lead.  You might say regarding both disciplines, I’m ‘SOLD!’”