Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Archive for the ‘nonprofit’ Category

In an earlier Blog I talked about the need for some charitable organizations to spend some of their money to hire and retain competent and quality employees. I realize donors want to see – and prefer – 100 percent of their donations going to the “cause” and not into “operation costs” which includes the hiring of a staff.

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However, as long as the money is spent wisely, the hiring of a competent staff – and that includes everyone from the Top Brass to the receptionist – more than pays for itself in the long run.

Simply stated, “Employee turn-over can easily turn into fundraising turmoil.” There is a price to pay for consistency. But considering all the benefits – it’s a small price to pay.

Staff turn-over is a constant problem in the fundraising universe and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the Not-For-Profit world. The departure of Development Directors and CEO’s is fairly common place.

The reasons for their departure vary widely.

But, one of the main reasons is – they are forced out. This usually happens when new members of the Board of Directors are brought in with “change” on their agenda.  No Development Director or CEO of a charitable organization wants to continue working feverishly for a Board that questions their methods, their role – or even worse – simply doesn’t unanimously want them there.

Another main reason for their departure is a new job opportunity. When a better position opens up at another organization – and if a Development Director or CEO doesn’t feel he or she has the full backing of the Board of Directors – they can’t pack their boxes and depart their old office fast enough.

Now, here are the three primary motivators for people leaving a Not-For-Profit organization.

  • Not feeling fulfilled by their work
  • Require more money to sustain their family
  • Perception of lack of teamwork by other staff members or volunteers

So now the question arises, “What can be done to retain these top staffers?

Scott Robertson

Well, it all begins with hiring the “right fit” in the first place. CEOs and Development Directors are a bit like fundraising auctioneers. If you hire the best fit for the organization they’ll pay for themselves many times over.

From my experience, the “least expensive” hiring option, which many organizations do as a way to save money, is often the most expensive in the long run due to a lack of talent and the inability of that person to bring in the necessary “donor dollars.”

There are two other things the organization must do to retain the right person in this leading role.

First, the Board needs to exhibit confidence in its CEO or Development Director and the direction he or she is taking the organization.  Secondly, the Board needs to show appreciation for the job being done. Nothing creates “happy feelings” like a good pat on the back.

The lack of confidence and the lack of appreciation are two leading causes of employee loss.  And each time a CEO or Development Director moves on to another position, most of the momentum they generated is lost. That’s because the new CEO or DD comes in with a different attitude, a different set of skills – and all of these require time to overcome.

I realize Not-For-Profits are businesses and should be run as such. But they also need to hire the best they can afford, support those they hire and do what is needed to keep them engaged, productive and happy.  It’s a winning formula for both parties.

Audience Management

Posted by Scott On February 12th

I’d like to take you back in time to your classroom years. Can you hear the school bell ringing signaling the start of a new school day?  Can you smell the food being prepared in the cafeteria kitchen?  Can you hear someone running down the hallway trying to get to class before the teacher closes the door to begin his or her lesson?

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Now, I’d like for you to think of your favorite teacher.  You know the one.  It was the class you looked forward to attending every day because the teacher had a passion for what they were teaching.  And their passion became the student’s passion.

What you might not have thought about back then is that the teacher, because of his or her passion for and knowledge of the subject they were teaching and his or her preparation prior to starting the lesson, had total control of the classroom.  It was a control fashioned through positivity – not negativity.

In many ways a benefit auctioneer is exactly like your favorite teacher.

If a professional fundraising auctioneer is doing his job correctly, he or she has great control over the audience. They don’t gain control by being in the guest’s faces, slamming books on a desk or having someone stand in the corner. They do it through their presence, their experience, their knowledge of the charity and their passion for raising money for a great cause. If the auctioneer is good, this should all appear effortless.

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Personally speaking, I won’t work with a group if I don’t believe in their cause. I also won’t conduct an auction until I’ve done my homework and have a total understanding of the charity and its motive and purpose for needing the funds.

Hopefully, during the auction, the auctioneer communicates his passion through body language, facial expressions and gestures, and of course through the words he speaks while on stage or on the event floor.

An auctioneer, like a teacher, should never demand control of the room. It should always be earned without the audience ever being aware of it.  And the best way to earn control is through Presence, Preparation and Passion.

By demonstrating these 3 P’s, you can add to more to your event when it concludes – Perfection and Profitable.

 

Over-Serving Guests Leads To Under-Serving Cause

Posted by Scott On February 5th

There’s no doubt some of you have spent a little time in a casino or know someone who has. At the very least you’ve heard stories about slot and table players receiving free drinks as an enticement for them to continue their play – and because of the alcohol – spend a little more money than they had originally planned.

Serving free drinks is a great marketing tool for casinos. And they do it for a specific reason – to make more money. However, when it comes to charitable fundraising events I highly discourage the practice for a number of reasons.

 

Drinks-delicious-recipes-23444788-1024-768What I’m about to describe is an actual event which occurred recently. I think it will serve as a prime example of how over- serving the guests at your event will actual hurt your bottom line – not increase it.

During the cocktail hour and silent auction the charity had a raffle for a cooler of alcohol. The contents of the “Cooler of Cheer” were all donated bottles of various liquors. Guests were invited to buy raffle tickets with the winning ticket taking home the entire cooler.

It sounds like a great idea – except for one twist. When a guest purchased a raffle ticket they were also given a shot.  If the guest bought 3 raffle tickets he or she was given 2 shots.

No one likes to drink alone. So those who bought 3 tickets and had 2 shots in front of them usually invited a friend over to join in on the festivities. The friend who just came over now decides to reciprocate and purchases 3 tickets too. Now he’s given 2 more shots which of course he shares with his friend.

By the time the raffle is over the room has a good number of people with 3 to 4 shots in them – and that’s not counting what they consumed before this all began.

Now, the meal comes and a little later the live auction is about to begin. The guests who consumed the straight alcohol are now “three shots to the wind.” Not only do they feel over-served, they are tired, sometimes disruptive during the live auction and pay less attention to what’s going on. As a result of being some guests being over-served – the fundraising effort of the live auction suffers.

In an earlier Blog I talked about non-alcohol events. My conclusion was they are not the way to go – not even if the charity deals directly with the social issues that come from drinking.

 

You want your guests to have fun. Non-alcohol events tend to be quiet and dull and a real challenge to build emotion in the room. And fundraising is all about emotion.

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On the other hand an event should never be set up where guests could be over-served.  Remember, your goal is to make sure your guests have fun, remain happy and healthy throughout the course of the evening and perhaps most importantly, make good decisions at your event.

A little bit of alcohol is wonderful.  Too much alcohol has the real potential of backfiring on your fundraising efforts.

Remember, too many “bottoms-up” leads to “bottom line down.”

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

  © 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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

One of the greatest joys of being a parent is watching your children open their presents on Christmas morning. The looks on their faces has to make you smile as their tear into the wrapped boxes and discover they got exactly what they wanted.

 

downloadSo how did the parents nail it?  How did they know what to get and who to get it for? The answer is usually pretty simple. Depending on the child’s age, they asked them directly or they asked them covertly in the months leading up to what many consider the “Happiest Time of the Year.”

This approach is the same approach Event Chairs or the Committee Members in charge of procuring items for a Live Auction should follow.

Your attendees are very strategic when it comes to bidding. Just because they want to support the charity and its cause does not mean they will bid on an item they don’t want. The truth is, they will only bid on items they want – and feel they will be able to use or enjoy.

So the goal is to find items for the live auction that match the wants, needs, interests and personalities of your guests.

But, how do you do that?  You ask!

Some prefer the direct route. “A couple wants to donate a trip for two for an African safari. Do you know of anyone who would have a specific interest in that?”

Some prefer the covert route. “I overheard a couple talking about an African safari they took this summer. Boy, it sure sounded like they had a lot of fun!”

Now the question arises – who do you ask?

Well, you don’t ask the people who typically don’t spend their money at your live auction because it won’t matter to them what’s up on the bidding block.

You ask those who do spend their money to support the charity.  They are the ones where it’s important to know what they are seeking and will be excited to bid on.

If you don’t want to ask your best supporters or donors directly or indirectly, you can always ask their friends or significant others. They are usually very willing to help out especially since their information is going to the advancement of a worthy cause.

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As for what they want. They want trips.  They want experiences. These often come up as auction packages or consignment packages.

They also want consumable products. They generally are not looking for items that have to be stored for a lengthy period of time – although there are some exceptions to this rule.

So, the key to having a successful Live Auction at your next fundraising event is to have items your attendees not only want – but on items in which they are willing to bid high.

Knowing what your guests will bid on in advance – or will have a huge interest in – goes a long way in adding to your bottom line.  So ask the questions that need to be asked – and ask the right people. If they end up with the highest bid they just might be as delighted as a child on Christmas morning.

 

 Robertson is considered one of the premier professional benefit auctioneers working in the United States today.  In the past 20 years, Robertson has conducted hundreds of benefit auctions throughout Florida and the Southeastern United States and annually raises millions of dollars for a variety of not-for-profit organizations, schools and charities.

For more information about Scott Robertson of Scott Robertson Auctioneers visit his Web site “The Voice of Experience” at www.thevoe.com or call (239) 246-2139.

Investing in an Auctioneer

Posted by Scott On December 11th

You’ll have to forgive me while I go on a personal crusade for this Blog. But, the following situation arises on a regular basis and I thought it appropriate to talk about an important matter concerning the hiring or not hiring of a Professional Benefit Auctioneer.

Recently I was asked to send a proposal for my auction services to an organization that was in the planning stages for an upcoming event. I did just that and waited for a response.  And I waited some more.

 

Scott RobertsonEventually I took it upon myself to contact them – to follow up. That’s when I learned they indeed had received my proposal – which was good to know – and that the gala committee had reviewed my proposal. My contact with the organization went on to say that, “The committee decided not to use my services because they did not want to spend the money.”

When I heard those words I knew my proposal was presented inappropriately.  By the way, my least favorite word in that entire sentence was “spend.” I wanted to inform them there is a big difference between spending and investing.

Let’s talk about spending.  When you spend you are paying for something that eventually goes away – or at a minimum – depreciates. You spend money on food – it is eaten – it goes away. You spend money on fuel – it’s consumed – it goes away. You spend money on a new car – it depreciates in value the minute you drive it off the dealership lot.

Now let’s talk about investing. We invest in the stock market. We invest in education. When we invest money the expectation is that the investor will get a return.  It’s not always guaranteed, but the goal is to get a larger amount of money back than originally put out.

The hiring of a Professional Benefit Auctioneer should be looked at as an investment – and not an expenditure.

As for the organization I was dealing with, I asked, “Did you take my proposal fee and simply subtract it from the amount raised last year?”  Their response, “Yes.” To which I responded, “That’s not how my fee should be viewed!”

What they should have done is estimated how much a Professional Benefit Auctioneer will bring to the table – the added profit factor if you will – and then subtract the fee from the total.

The truth is I know how to bring in additional funds to an organization. When I don’t think I will be an asset to the group I am the first to tell them.

 

helpMy schedule is quite busy and can be selective as to which groups I want to work. And I only want to work with groups I think I can help.

If I feel my fee isn’t justifiable, I’ll tell the organization and try to find them a no-cost or lower-cost auctioneer. I do not want to cost organizations money – I want to make them money. I do not want to be something they spend money on. I want to be an investment – and a solid investment at that!

It’s all about the cause.  It’s not about me.

My disappointment with the organization I’m using as an example in this Blog has little to do with them not hiring me and everything to do with the fact their fundraiser will just remain status quo as they try to match the previous year’s take.

I know I could have helped them reach higher – been more profitable. But then on the bright side – there’s always next year.