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Ringman

Posted by Scott On October 16th

The Art of the Ringman

Benefit Auctioneers are comfortable in a room no matter the number of people.  However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little help on occasion.

Scott has a rule of thumb.  If the crowd size is 200 or less, he’s able to handle the auction depending on the configuration of the venue.  But for every 100 people above 200, he surrounds himself with expert ringmen. As an example, if the benefit auction had 500 guests, Scott would work with three ringman.  If there were 1,000 guests, Scott would have eight strategically placed around the room.

The ringman’s responsibilities are to observe the crowd and work with bidders and potential bidders, than pass that information to the benefit auctioneer through designated voice or hand signals.

A ringman’s job is not to just spot bids, but to solicit bids without being confrontational or offensive. That’s why Scott often prefers women ringmen at benefit auctions – a welcome change since most auctioneers and bid spotters are traditionally male.

A professional ringman also knows exactly where to stand as to not block the potential bidders’ view of the action – yet must always be within eyeshot of the auctioneer

And finally, bid spotters must develop a trust and really get to know the people in their section of the room.  Knowledge of the items up for auction is also crucial.  A quality ringman always completes his or her homework and is able to answer any questions coming from their assigned area regarding a particular item.

In large crowds, professional ringmen play an important role in the success of benefit auctions.  By connecting personally with the bidders and helping their bidding voices be heard, the ringmen help keep the momentum of the auction fast paced and exciting – and the charity comes out the winner.

 

Sound Advice

Posted by Scott On August 30th

(Disclaimer:  The following blog is a little misleading.  As a professional benefit auctioneer Scott would never do a mic test in front of the attendees.  That’s done far in advance of the guests entering the venue. But for demonstrative purposes this blog does exactly that as a means to not only entertain, but to inform.  So go ahead Scott, start the blog.)

“CHECK.  CHECK. TESTING 1. 2. 3.  TESTING 1. 2. 3. EXCUSE ME – YOU IN THE BACK ROW.  CAN YOU HEAR ME CLEARLY?  YES!  GREAT.  HOW ABOUT YOU IN THE FRONT ROW?  NOT TOO LOUD?  NO.  GREAT.”

“WELL, SINCE I’M TESTING THE AUDIO WHY DON’T I GIVE YOU A FEW TIPS ON SOUND SYSTEMS FOR BENEFIT AUCTIONS. LET ME START BY STATING A PROFESSIONAL AUDIO SYSTEM IS CRUCIAL TO THE SUCCESS OF AN EVENT.

NOTHING WILL DESTROY THE MOMENTUM AND THE EXCITEMENT OF A FUNDRAISER MORE THAN A FAULTY OR NON-SUFFICIENT AUDIO SYSTEM.  IF ATTENDEES CAN’T HEAR WHAT YOU’RE SAYING OR ARE STRAINING TO HEAR EVERY WORD BECAUSE THE VOLUME IS INADAQUATE OR THERE IS A QUALITY-OF-SOUND ISSUE EMMINATING FROM THE SPEAKERS – THEY WILL LOOSE INTEREST. BECOME DISCONNECTED WITH THE EVENT. WHICH OFTEN TRANSLATES INTO NOT BIDDING.

SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROFESSIONAL SOUND SYSTEM AND A SYSTEM – LET’S SAY – A DJ COULD SET UP OR ALREADY EXISTS AT THE VENUE? THE ANSWER IS: BIGGER BUCKS.

SMALLER AUDIO SYSTEMS ARE GREAT FOR SOME USES.  BUT A PROFESSIONAL SYSTEM SHOULD BE UTLIZED AT FUNDRAISING EVENTS. AND HERE’S WHY.

AT AN EVENT YOU WANT AN “ORGANIZED PARTY ATMOSPHERE.” THAT MEANS THERE WILL BE DRINKING. GUESTS WILL BE HAVING SIDE CONVERSATIONS DURING THE AUCTION. THERE WILL BE COMPETITIVE BIDDING BANTER AMONG TABLES FAR APART.  ATTENDEES WILL NOT BE ATTENTIVE 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME. AND THIS IS FINE!

A PROFESSIONAL AUDIO SYSTEM CAN ASSURE THE HOST RISES ABOVE THE ORGANIZED CHAOS AND THAT ALL GUESTS CAN FOLLOW THE ACTION NO MATTER WHERE THEY ARE SEATED.

IN FACT, DID YOU KNOW IN ORDER TO BE HEARD A SOUND SYSTEM ONLY NEEDS TO BE 10 DECIBELS ABOVE THE AUDIENCE SOUND LEVEL?

AND FINALLY, ALONG WITH THE PROFESSIONAL AUDIO SYSTEM BE SURE TO INCLUDE A SOUND ENGINEER.  THINK OF IT THIS WAY.  YOU CAN BUY A RACE CAR.  BUT UNLESS YOU HAVE A PROFESSIONAL DRIVER IT REALLY DOESN’T DO A LOT OF GOOD.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS, DON’T GO THE INEXPENSIVE ROUTE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR AUDIO.  YOU INVESTED TOO MUCH TIME AND MONEY INTO MAKING YOUR EVENT THE “MUST-ATTEND” FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR.  BE SURE YOUR ATTENDEES CAN HEAR YOUR VOICE – AND YOUR MESSAGE – LOUD AND CLEAR FROM START TO FINISH.

NOW, IF YOU’LL EXCUSE ME.  TESTING. 1. 2. 3. TESTING 1. 2. 3.

 

A few blogs back I talked about the importance of saying thank you to attendees and major donors during and immediately after a benefit fundraiser as they exit the venue.  But, it’s also crucial and beneficial to say thank you days or weeks following an event.

In 1839, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  So here is a tip you should “ink” about doing – writing Thank You notes.

Although sending a thank you note is always a great follow-up – a second tier of sincerity and appreciation for the attendees generosity, what they really want to know is; “Was the money put to good use?”

If the money was donated for a specific cause, send a Thank You note to the person or persons that gave and confirm their money has indeed changed lives.

As an example, if donors gave so underprivileged children could have access to new computers, write to the donors and tell them the computers have arrived – are now in place – and the children are beginning to benefit from them. And don’t be hesitant to send along a photo

If the total amount raised during a benefit isn’t known until after the event send Thank You notes to all attendees informing them of the event’s successful.  Everyone wants to be part of a winning team.

And don’t forget to send Thank You notes to those individuals and companies that gave items to be auctioned off.  They often receive high praise and recognition as they give – but are often left out of the post-event Thank You loop and may never know what their donation really meant to the success of the occasion.

Remember, a verbal thank you is great to hear.  A written thank you is even more noteworthy.

 

Give Thanks to Those who Give

Posted by Scott On May 17th

 

I cannot think of two words – placed back-to-back – that have more positive impact than Thank You.  They are heard on a daily basis and in all kinds of settings.

Just the other day I held the door open at a convenience store as a lady was walking in.  She gave me a warm “Thank You.” Even the cashier at my favorite supermarket thanked me for stopping by.  Simply stated – a thank you means a lot.

As a professional benefit auctioneer, I thank each winning bidder as I close down one item and head to the next. But the Auction Chair, CEO and other key people within the organization should stand in the corridor that leads out of the building to personally shake hands and thank the people for attending and their generous bidding.

Now, how about a surprise thank you?  Have your parking valets place chilled bottles of water in the cars for your guests to enjoy on their way home. Chocolates are also a nice thought, but only if the temperature assures the tasty treats won’t melt.

And don’t forget to thank the businesses which donated items for your auction.  During the event encourage your guests to patronize these businesses and say thank you – and make sure they mention they say the item at the auction.  Not only is it the right thing to do – it will also help the following year when you return to that business and ask them once again to donate an item.

As for Thank You notes – well – they too are crucial when it comes to showing your appreciation.  I’ll tackle that subject in a future Blog.  But, if you need to know now call or email me.  I’d be happy to pass on a few tips.

I’ll conclude for now by simply stating:  “Thank You can never be said too much.”  So, to all of you, Thank You.  Your enthusiasm encourages me to work harder every day.

My Auction Day Routine Part 2

Posted by Scott On May 8th

In the last blog we talked about my day leading up to a live auction.  I told you how I prepare.  What I review.  When I eat. What I load into my car.  What I do on the way to the venue. And then I stopped at my arrival.  So, now let’s continue my journey from the first hello to the final thank you and goodbye.

By the time I arrive at the venue I pretty much have my game face on.  I know what I need to do.  I know who I need to meet prior to the live auction.

But, the first major item on my agenda is the all important – in fact crucial – sound check and meeting with the sound engineers.  Unless they are totally in sync with me – and know the program from start to finish – the auction will not have the professional atmosphere I demand and that could reflect on the charity’s bottom line.

After coordinating the sound check I meet with the volunteers and other staff members who will be working with me, especially the recorders, clerks and bid-spotters.

30 minutes before the auction begins is ME TIME. I don’t want anyone to talk to me unless it is absolutely necessary.  This is when my final game face goes on and I totally focus on the task ahead – the charity that is depending on me to deliver – and the families my effort will help.  So please.  No idle chit-chat.

With 10 minutes to go – I like to be alone. I need to review my final preparations.  I need total focus. I need my head clear.  And then, the adrenaline begins to flow.  I’m getting amped up. I’m being introduced.  I’m walking into the room.  I scan the crowd quickly.  And think to myself; “Hello folks.  Game On!”

From here on out – it’s all fun.  All the preparation, work, meetings, phone conferences, research and planning comes out as the first auction item is revealed and doesn’t stop until the last one is sold.

When the event concludes and the attendees begin heading toward the exits – with adrenaline still high – I make a point to personally thank every major bidder as well as the organizers for the event.

As the ambassador for the organization, at least for that night, I feel it is my responsibility to shake every hand I can – and in return – help those high-bidding heroes bond tighter with the charity.  I don’t do this out of obligation, but rather as a heartfelt thank you.

Occasionally, a well-intended person will approach me after the event and say, “WOW. You make pretty good money for just an hour or two of work!”  I simply smile and respond, “Yes, I do.”

But, as they walk away I reflect on the past 6 months or longer that I’ve worked with the charity.  All the meetings.  All the phone calls.  All the planning. All the detail.  And, as those “well-intended” walk out the door I smile and think to myself, “If they only knew!  If they only knew!”

Say No To Status Quo

Posted by Scott On April 10th

 

It’s no secret – we humans are creatures of habit.  If something works we tend to stay with it – foregoing change – even if that change could improve the situation. That’s why the two words I least like to hear in the same sentence are well and but.

You’ve probably heard something along this line hundreds of times.  You make a suggestion and the response is, “Well, that’s a great idea, but we’ve always done it this way.”

For some, the status quo is good enough when it comes to how money is raised at a charity auction.  However, in the past few years many organizations are discovering their fundraising efforts have remained flat or are falling short of preset goals.  The economy can be partially to blame for the lack of growth or the shortfall.  But, a more likely culprit is boredom.  Organizations that hold the same event year after year, without taking it to a higher level or adding new exciting elements, is on a path to status quo stagnation. (In no way am I suggesting that all established traditions at event be abandoned, what I am suggesting is to be receptive to new ideas that may just help the flavor of the event).

Professional benefit auctioneers have their pulse on the latest trends, which is crucial to success.  Their years of experience have taught them every event needs to be fun and fresh – which will keep the guests attending – but also willing to reach deeper in their pockets.

Everyone’s goal is to raise as much money as possible for a needy cause.  So, keep an open mind.  The next time a professional fundraising auctioneer offers suggestions on how to make your auction more successful – forego the status quo – and allow new ideas in.

And a response like this could really make a professional benefit auctioneer’s day.  “Well, that’s a great idea.  No buts about it.”

A FUNdraising FUNdamental

Posted by Scott On March 28th

A FUNdraising FUNdamental

One doesn’t often associate a benefit auction with a statistical equation, but I actually have one for you.  What percent of the guests who attend a benefit auction come for the fun?  Well the answer is high.  Very high.  92 percent to be exact.

There is no doubt your guests would not be there if they did not support your cause or want to donate generously.  But, research has shown they give more when they are surrounded by a fun environment.

This can be accomplished partially by creating a fun theme and then decorating the venue to coincide with the theme. Themes can be crucial to your success and can change as fast as Clark Kent in a telephone booth.

I have a long list of current theme ideas.  The list is too long to mention in a blog, but contact me and I’d be happy to share some ideas with you.

Your emcee or host is also crucial.  He or she must set the pace for the evening and keep the audience engaged and entertained.

And don’t forget to step up your “Fun Meter” every year.  Benefit auctions with the same basic theme year after year soon fail to raise the excitement level of attendees and that translates into falling donations.  Think fun and think fresh.

So, keep the fun in your FUNdraising FUNction.  It’s great for your bottom line. And 92 percent of your guests are there because of it.

5th Line Frenzy

Posted by Scott On February 1st

Silent Auction items typically bring in approximately 65% of the retail value according to the National Auctioneers Association. Of course some events do better than others but, the rule of thumb is 65%.

 

Savvy silent auction attendees have learned over the years to become “sniper bidders”. They wait until the last moment before making any bids and swoop in to place the last bid on an item seconds before the bidding closes. Wouldn’t it be great if there were an enticement to get bidders to pay more than 65% and encourage competitive bidding throughout the whole period of the silent auction? Well, now there is… 5th Line Frenzy.

Attendees, who place their bid on the “5th line” of any specially marked, silent auction bid-sheet, are automatically entered into a raffle to win a significant prize.

There several things that must be in place before 5th bidder frenzy can be effective:

 

•        All silent auction bids sheet must have predetermined bid amounts printed on the bidding forms (more on this later).

•        A substantial prize that has universal appeal has to be donated or purchased. (A gift certificate for an Apple IPad makes a great prize. The reason for the gift certificate is so the winner can upgrade the idea to meet their specific requirements.)

 

•        An incentive for the business person to donate the prize is to become a sponsor. The emcee/auctioneer, as part of their regular announcements, will state, “The fifth line frenzy is proudly sponsored by XYZ Bank.”

•        The prize is attractively displayed near the registration table with a brief written explanation of 5th Line Frenzy so that all attendees will notice the prize and hopefully inquire, “What is fifth line frenzy?” A friendly greeter will be on hand to explain the process.

•        Strategically placed, printed instructions will be placed throughout the venue. While 5th Line Frenzy is a simple concept, for many attendees this may be their first experience with this bidding strategy.

 

Registering people for the raffle is a breeze, provided you use these simple techniques.

 

•        At the conclusion of the silent auction, collect the bid-sheets and bring them to the check out area.

•        Have one person sit next to the person inputting the results into the computer to collect the data from the highlighted 5th line of the bid sheets.

•        The process for collecting the 5th line data is as simple as having a couple of blank sheets of 8 1/2 X 11 paper, and handwriting the bid numbers for everyone who placed their bid on the fifth line (see attached). Be sure to leave enough space around the number for easy scissor work later.

•        Once the number is collected from the individual bid-sheet, it is passed to the person who is inputting the data into the computer.

•        When all bid sheets have been processed by the 5th line collector, the numbers are cut into foldable slips of paper and placed in a container.

•        At some scheduled point during the announcements, prior to the live auction, the winner is quickly announced and informed their prize will be awaiting them at check-out.

 

5th line Frenzy works like a charm to get attendees to bid earlier while encouraging them to increase their bids to higher levels by skipping over the lower levels. When using this technique, do not be surprised if all of your silent auction items have bids on the 5th line or higher with 30 minutes still to go in the silent auction.

 

******Warning: Past experience has shown me that some organizations have attempted to modify the above process by preprinting the bid sheets with only the first couple of lines (40% and 50% of the retail value). The logic was, “Last year some people increased their bid higher on the 3rd line, so we don’t want to restrict their bidding.” This is the wrong approach. Attendees can bid on any line they choose so long as it increases the bid. Without preprinting the bidding increments on all the lines on the silent auction bid forms you are simply going to confuse your bidders.***********

 

For more information about “Fifth Line Frenzy” and additional profit making ideas contact Fundraising Event Consultant/Auctioneer Scott Robertson at srauctioneers@gmail.com

 

 

The contents of this blog are not to be reproduced without the express written consent of Scott Robertson Auctioneers.

 

Your acquisition committee comes to you all excited as a local jewelry store is willing to provided jewelry to your fundraising auction at “the stores cost” in exchange for being the featured jeweler at your event! Should you be excited or politely decline this offer? This is up to you and your committee but all that glitters is not gold and all “opportunities” are not good deals for your organizations.

 

While there are many reputable jewelry stores in every community there are also some self-serving ones. The goal of the “self-serving” jewelry store is to make money on their “donation” and reap the benefits of the positive PR provided by your school or not for profit organization. Be wary. Below are some additional tips regarding jewelry in your live auction.

 

  • Jewelry can be a highly subjective item at a fundraising auction. People’s jewelry taste vary and “one size does not fit all”. Select jewelry that will have universal appeal but is also unique to generate interested among your bidders.
  • Jewelry stores tend to inflate the price of their “donation” to your fundraising auction to a price higher than they would price the item at 5 minutes before closing time on Christmas Eve. Again proceed with caution
  • Jewelry consignments can take money out of your crowd with little to no actual donation from the jewelry store. If the consignment price is $4,000 and you sell it for $4,000 your net profit is less than $0.
  • Any more than two jewelry items in your live auction is simply too many. Keep your items interesting and unique in order for maximum profitability.

Ok, if you are still reading, then you really do want to know my suggestions on selling jewelry at auction. Stay tuned for next blog entitled “How to best display jewelry at your fundraising auction”.

How to Maximize the Results of Your Volunteers….

Posted by Scott On December 7th

How to get volunteers to do the job you want them to do?  It is very simple; COMMUNICATION!  Provide them with their job description(s) the location of their station(s) and the timeline for the event.  Make sure the job descriptions are not wordy or lengthy, but they should be able to communicate exactly what you want them to do.  When you want them to do, and where things are positioned.  Auction Chairman often times does not think to write out the job description as they ASSUME that the volunteers understand their exact role. However this is often not the case.  Writing job descriptions prior to the event is time well spent. The night of the auction can be chaotic enough without the additional task of explaining to the volunteers their role for the evening. In other words less stress…

The biggest complaint you get from volunteers is that they—DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO or WHEN TO DO IT!  From there, they may get reprimanded from a member of the committee, which is never fun.  In almost 20 years of experience as a fundraising auctioneer the biggest complaint I hear from volunteers is they simply were given no direction.  Remember to be kind to your volunteers, communicate your expectations, and they will happily play a significant role on your fundraising team.