Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Hi Scott Robertson here. Today we’re going to talk about momentum at your fundraising auction.

When you start the live auction you need to start with momentum and keep that momentum rolling all the way through to the conclusion of the live auction. Don’t interrupt it with pulling raffle tickets, speeches, or anything!

Keep the momentum rolling!

There is one exception to the rule and that is perhaps in the middle or at the end you can do what we call Fund a Need that’s okay as long as it fits in to the flow of the entire event. But once the live auction gets started, maintain that momentum and that will allow you to have success.

Do not interrupt the momentum. You’ll be disappointed if you do. Listen to your professional fundraising auctioneer. They’ll be singing the same song that I’m singing which is keep the momentum rolling.

If you’d like a consultation with a professional who can help you exceed your fundraising goals, I’d love to help. Please contact me to set up a meeting.

You know I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the fundraising auction business and I LOVE setting new records for events. It’s absolutely wonderful. And people often ask “So Scott, how can your percentages of establishing new records be so high?’ Well, it’s about confidence…and really, confidence in three areas.

  1. Confidence in the economy
  2. Confidence in the charity
  3. Confidence in your fundraising auctioneer

Continue reading “To set record highs at fundraisers, confidence is paramount” »

What’s Up With the Crazy Vests, Scott?

Posted by Scott On June 15th

You know, I’m often asked “Scott, what is up with those crazy vests?” Well, they’re sort of my trademark…is to wear a colorful vest at fundraising auctions. It started back in the 90s when vests replaced cumberbunds and a friend of mine Debbie, from Black Tie Tuxedo in Fort Myers, Florida said “You know Scott, what you should do is you should get a vest that makes you stand out” and she pointed to this exact vest.

And I said “Oh Debbie, I’m way to conservative for that.” And she says “No, you want it! It’ll make you stand out!” And I thought “You know, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

So I purchased this vest and since now, I’ve probably purchased 40 vests. So I try to match my vest to the color scheme of the event, the motif of the event…whatever they want. So if you retain my services for a fundraising auction, tell me what colors you want me to match. Chances are I’ve got a vest that’ll do the trick. Crazy vests? I LOVE ’em!

Quality Sound is an absolute key component to any and all fundraising events. People have to be able to hear to understand. But I’m going to take that a step further and I’m going to tell you that a sound check with your audio director prior to the event is absolutely critical to success.

Who is going to be there for the sound check?

Obviously the auctioneer needs to be there for the sound check because it’s going to be their voice who’s going to be heard throughout the evening. But who else should be there for the sound check is anyone who is going to speak. If you have anyone giving a presentation, anyone giving an award, they need to be comfortable with the microphone and the sound engineer needs to understand the nuances of the person’s speaking voice so that they can adjust accordingly.

People often say “It’s okay, I’m just gonna get up there and wing it!”

Continue reading “A Sound Check is Critical to Your Fundraising Event’s Success” »

Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions

Posted by Scott On April 17th

I truly love what I do. 

However sometimes my passion at a fundraising event is misinterpreted causing those who’ve hired me to feel as if I’m personally attacking their organization – or a person within their organization.

Scott Robertson AuctioneerThe reason for these hard feelings?  I can see a train wreck coming and I just told the organizers:

  • What type of train it is
  • How fast it’s approaching
  • And when it will hit.

The approaching train wreck comes in many forms.  It could be a gaffe in the timeline or a problem with the speaker about to address the audience.  It could be a Live Auction item, a display issue or even a potential bottleneck due to the layout of the room.

There are so many variables at an auction.

If those variables are done correctly it will enhance the event and there won’t be a train wreck.  If those variables are implemented incorrectly it will hurt the event and create a potential train wreck situation.

Knowing the difference between the two scenarios is the reason for my dilemma. The question is: Do the event organizers want to know a train wreck is coming or not?

When it comes to approaching train wrecks I work with two different mindsets.

Continue reading “Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions” »

to helm and back - Scott Robertson AuctioneersI’ve always said a successful fundraising event is a team effort. It takes months of pre-planning and an excellent committee and volunteer staff to pull all the pieces together.  Having each individual member know the exact role they will be playing during the event is crucial to its flawless execution.

The Event Chair and his or her committee and volunteers have an advantage over a Professional Auctioneer, such as myself, who does not live in their particular city. They know the key players and the main donors that will be attending.

Since I am the out-of-towner, some Event Chairs and Board Members may consider it a disadvantage to their fundraising efforts if they hire me as their Professional Auctioneer since, in some cases, I’ve never practiced my craft of auctioneering for them before.  They feel I won’t know their audience.

Although it’s an initial legitimate concern, the fact is the “not knowing their VIPs” can be easily overcome.  It’s just a matter of four easy steps:

  1. Create an attendee yearbook
  2. Facilitate some warm introductions
  3. Generate a roster of bidders
  4. Produce informative bidding paddles

Let me start with the first…the yearbook.

Continue reading “How to Help Your Auctioneer Learn Your Audience” »

Success street signIt’s the moment Event Chairs look forward to the most – the “turning off the lights” as their latest fundraiser comes to a close. Exhausted, they reflect back. The guests had fun. The event was a success.  Lots of money was raised.  Now it’s time to relax until the planning begins for next year’s event. HOLD ON!  NOT SO FAST. There’s one more step to go.

Just as important as the event’s pre-planning and execution is the debriefing meeting.  Preferably this meeting should take place within 3 days of the event – but never more than 2 weeks.  Remember, the earlier the better. This way everyone’s memories of the event are still vivid and wouldn’t have begun to fade with the passage of time.

Knowing what went right and what went wrong during an event is crucial to building even more successful fundraisers in the future.

So, it’s also very important for those involved in the event to write their thoughts down on paper – both positive and negative – within 24 hours of the event and then to bring those notes to the debriefing meeting.

These thoughts should span the time frame from before the doors opened until the last guest departed. Every element of the program is fair game. That includes the registration process, the cocktail hour, the silent auction, the dinner, the live auction, the entertainment, the checkout and the valet line.

As a guide to help you along your way – and to keep the conversation civil and on topic – I’m happy to present the format your debriefing meeting should take, how it should be conducted and who should be involved.

By the way, the debriefing meeting should be scheduled weeks prior to the actual event.  This way everyone associated with the fundraiser has it on their calendars and know when it’s going to occur.

To reiterate, the debriefing meeting should take place within 3 days of the event.  Under no circumstances should it ever take place more than 2 weeks after an event.

Now, as to who should attend the meeting…

Continue reading “Why Debriefing Meetings are Essential to the Success of Your Future Fundraisers” »

Event Coordinator’s Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Scott On March 19th

I’ve said it many times – the Event Coordinator is the key to a perfectly planned and executed fundraiser. (Note:  For the purposes of this article, I’m describing the person in charge of the event the Event Coordinator.  This person may be a trained professional, a staff member or a volunteer.)

With that clarification, I’m happy to reveal my list of 4 Do’s & Don’ts for Event Coordinators on the night of the event.

One of the mistakes they make is not getting ready for the event in a timely fashion.

Chances are, on the day of the event, the Event Coordinator has been at the venue since early to mid-morning.  And, the closer time gets to the doors opening, the more the Event Coordinator becomes increasingly nervous.

So, here’s my first helpful suggestion. Sign that says "Help!"

1. DO get ready for the event in a timely fashion.

If the event begins at 6 p.m. the Event Coordinator should have eaten and gotten dressed by 4:30pm and re-arrived at the venue between 60 to 90 minutes ahead of the doors opening.  That should give him or her plenty of time to relax prior to the event and then to deal with any loose ends once (s)he returns to the venue.

Too often the Event Coordinator delays getting themselves ready until the last minute and by the time (s)he arrives, panic sets in because of all the final details which still need to be addressed. This creates too much stress on the Coordinator, as well as the staff and volunteers. You do not want your guests arriving to a panic-filled room.

2. Don’t assign yourself duties the night of the fundraiser.

Most people know the line of thinking, “It’s just easier to do everything myself.” Well, that might be true, but it’s not the best use of the Event Coordinator’s time.

Far in advance of the event, the Event Coordinator should have delegated duties to another committee member or volunteer. Running around looking for a replacement silent auction bid sheet is not good use of the Event Coordinator’s time. Delegate that responsibility. This will give the Event Coordinator time to focus on the bigger issues that may be looming on the horizon.

Here’s a great tip.  The Event Coordinator should be given a designated area within the venue during the final hour or so before the doors open.  This will give the staff and volunteers a specific location to go to in an effort to get their questions answered quickly. When the doors open, the Event Coordinator should remain in this area for the same reasons.

Continue reading “Event Coordinator’s Do’s and Don’ts” »

A Tale of Two Timelines

Posted by Scott On March 12th

When hired as the professional auctioneer for an event there is one thing I create to assure the fundraiser is as successful as possible – a timeline. I cannot overstate its importance.  From the minute the doors open every major program within the event must start and end on time.  That includes the silent auction, the brief speeches, the dinner service and the live auction.

You may be asking, “So what if one event has to be delayed for a few minutes!”  Well, experience tells me any swaying from the agreed upon timeline can have a major impact on the bottom line.  Let me explain why.

Scott Robertson

I recently did two events.  One was very successful and the other moderately successful. Both in the same town, with many of the same attendees, and only three days apart. The difference, I believe, was following the timeline vs. not following it.

For the record, both events had timelines. I looked at them, tweaked them, and then the event chairs and I agreed they were good timelines and we’d stick to them as the nights progressed.

Well, one did stick to the timeline and one did not.  Let’s start with the one that didn’t.

This event started on time – as did the silent auction. However, prior to the silent auction’s scheduled closing a committee member runs up to me and states that we’d have to postpone the closing due to the fact some people had not yet arrived at the event due to an accident on the road. The committee member felt those who had not yet arrived should be able to bid on the silent auction items and suggested the closing of the silent auction be extended by 30 minutes.

I suggested we stick to the timeline, but was overruled by the committee.  So, 30 minutes was added to the silent auction.

Here’s the problem.  By postponing the closing of the silent auction by 30 minutes you are postponing the rest of the evening by 30 minutes.  And a 30 minute delay can be devastating in several ways.  Here’s a few examples.

  • Guests already there drink another 30 minutes
  • You’re penalizing those guests who arrived on time
  • The timing of the food service is crucial since the Chef prepared the food to be delivered to the tables on a specific timeline. Any delay in that service reflects on the quality of the food and most professionally trained Chefs will take the delay personally
  • You’re major money maker – the Live Auction – will suffer because your guests will begin to lose focus from being tired.
  • You’re high-priced band could lose their “raring to go” attitude and will most likely be playing for fewer guests and have fewer couples on the dance floor since many will head home early due to the 30 minute delay at the start of the event.

Let me go into a little detail regarding two of the above mentioned.  I’ll start with the expanded drinking time.

Live auctions are more successful when you catch your guests – most of whom have consumed alcohol – on their way up. The worst case scenario is if you catch them on the plateau. But you certainly do not want to catch them on the downward slide.

You’d be amazed as to the difference that 30 minute delay makes. It’s that tight a window. Tired guests don’t stay focused. They become less concerned about helping the cause and more concerned about what time they’ll be heading home. This greatly affects the fundraising effort as more and more bidders go quiet and winning bids stay low.

Now let’s talk about the food service.  Your attendees paid for their tickets and are expecting a delicious, First Class meal.  The Chef probably worked for days preparing the meal and has timed the delivery of the food to the tables – down to the minute – to assure it’s served fresh and hot. Again, the 30 minute delay was more harmful than helpful.

The bottom line for that event – which was delayed by 30 minutes – is that it was just moderately successful. Now it’s time for the other Timeline Tale.

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

It was the same scenario.  The event started on time – as did the silent auction.  But as the silent auction was about to close the event committee wanted me to extend the silent auction as a way to increase the bidding on the items.

I informed them you encourage your guests to bid on the silent auction items – not by extending the time of the silent auction – but by giving them a deadline. The committee thought it over and went with my recommendation.

I immediately started announcing the silent auction will shut down in 15 minutes and WHAM – the race was on. People suddenly stopped what they were doing and focused on the silent auction. And to the committee’s surprise – the winning bids for the silent auction items were much higher than they had been in the past.

The bidding frenzy continued into the Live Auction. By the end of the night a record amount of money was raised and it was all due to sticking to the timeline.

By the way, at this event the food was served on time – fresh and hot – and the band took the stage on time – and guests filled the dance floor. One couple even came up to me and said, “Wow, that’s the most fun we ever had at this particular event.”

Sticking to the timeline deserves all the credit. So be sure to stick to yours.  And that includes the time you allotted for a speaker or a video presentation.

It’s easy to lose time at a fundraiser. It’s very difficult – if not impossible – to make it up.  Timing is everything.  And Time is Money.

Learn From Others – But Don’t Copy

Posted by Scott On March 5th

As a Professional Benefit Auctioneer for 20-plus years I have the privilege of hosting fundraising auctions all across the country. Besides the Southwest Florida area where I reside, I’ve also been the auctioneer this year for events in Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Monterey, Sonoma and even Juneau, Alaska, to name just a few.

2014 Somonma Wine Weekend  (3)If there is one thing I’ve learned from the nearly 60 events I’ve hosted so far just this year is – each one is different – yet they do have some commonalities.

This is especially true when you travel from state to state. The different regions of our nation have different fundraising traditions, different likes and dislikes, and different donors with different expectations.

I learn a great deal from my travels. That’s because every event is like a classroom. I get to discover long running regional traditions as well as absorb new ideas. I’m like the proverbial “kid in the candy store.”

Throughout the course of the year I hear from a number of Event Chairs looking for fresh themes, fresh ideas for their upcoming fundraiser.

I also hear that these Event Chairs and members of their committee learn what other charities are doing across this great land and then incorporate those ideas into their own events.

Although this would seem like an innocent enough strategy – as for the practice – I do have a caution.

I highly recommend that charities learn from others but don’t chase, implement or copy another charity’s idea.

There are a number of reasons for this.

Continue reading “Learn From Others – But Don’t Copy” »