Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

live_auction

 

 

I mentioned in several previous blogs that keeping focused during the course of a live auction is one of my highest priorities.  That’s why around 20 minutes prior to an event I place myself in my “performance zone.”  I need this “alone time” to gather my thoughts and review the program in my mind.  Any interruption could derail all the hard work that started weeks or even months earlier.

What’s even a bigger challenge is to stay focused during the live auction when event chairs or event volunteers try to communicate with me.

During the live auction, my brain, like my vocal chords are racing at 100 mph. If someone attempts to talk to me – to give me a message during the live auction – one of two things happen.

  • My brain screeches to an abrupt halt forcing me to go off message as I search for an answer or response to the communication.
  • My brain continues racing along as I stay focused on the mission and unfortunately must ignore the message.

Neither option is productive to serious fundraising.

What I’m saying may make it appear as if I’m antisocial during the course of a live auction – or worse yet – a Prima donna.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The charity and I have but one goal – and that is to raise as much money as possible in a relatively short period of time. My preferred method of making that happen – limiting the number and timing of interruptions – helps me accomplish our mutual goal.

photo

With that said, here’s what works for me and hopefully will help your emcee or auctioneer if and when these situations arise at your event.

I find if someone will write me a note, sticky note preferred, and attach it to my auction binder located at the podium I can read the note without derailing my thoughts or interrupting the momentum of the live auction.

This is why at each auction I request that one cool-headed person be designated as my contact. This gatekeeper will be the only person to share information with me. This makes for better productivity for everyone and will increase the results of the auction.

That which I just described is a controllable situation.

In my next blog I’ll discuss the uncontrollable – the unexpected situation – when a drinking guest interrupts the flow of the live auction by presenting what he or she believes is a “great idea.”

Here’s a hint!  There’s no easy answer. Until then…

 

 

 

Temperature at your event is important

Posted by Scott On April 3rd

room_temp

I received an interesting email a short while back. The subject matter dealt with the issue of room temperature. According to the email writer, he attended an inside, night event in Naples, Florida and soon found himself getting overheated since he was in a jacket and tie. He also stated several women sitting at the same table also felt uncomfortably warm.

However, he also mentioned that he overheard several conversations at nearby tables where several women, dressed in beautiful slinky gowns, were stating they felt a little chilly.

So, what’s an Event Chair to do?

Unfortunately for the men they should just grin and bear it since they are at a formal fundraising event. This is especially true when it comes to “Black Tie” events. Two coping mechanisms that I employ for my tuxedo are:

1)   Most of my tuxedos are “Tropical Weight Wool” which is much cooler than a traditional tuxedo.

2)   The tuxedo shirts I typically wear are made of microfiber. Microfiber shirts are thin, look good, are breathable and do not require starch.  I find the layer of starch acts as a vapor barrier, which creates more heat and makes the wearer uncomfortable.

As for the women – I always encourage them to bring a wrap. Yes, they want to look their best and often wear their finest dress – which are usually designed with very light fabric. A wrap is a great way to stay a little warmer if they get a little chilly. And it enhances their look – not detracts from it.

Now for my best advice to all Event Chairs regarding room temperature.

If you live in a warm climate or hold a fundraiser when it’s warm and muggy outside – be sure to turn the thermostat down at the venue’s location long before the first guest arrives.  Usually three to four hours ahead of time will suffice.

to helm and back-Scott Robertson Auctioneers

Once guests arrive their body heat will naturally warm up the room and this should keep everyone as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.  If you turn down the thermostat once everyone is present – it has a minimal – if any affect.

And finally, keep the venue’s doors closed as much as possible. The warm, humid air rushing in through the doors creates a challenging situation for the HVAC system.

Often times the hotel staff will prop the doors open when they are moving items in. And they usually leave them open until their job is completed.

Don’t be afraid to have a volunteer work the doors during this process so they stay closed as much as possible. Your guests will be not only thankful – but more comfortable.

I hope you find this helpful.  And keep the questions coming.

 

 

© 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.

Treat Your Celebrity Talent as a VIP

Posted by Scott On March 10th

2013-09-07 18.37.53

At many local fundraisers you’ll see local TV news anchors and reporters assisting the charity – by not only promoting the event on air – but by participating in the actual event itself. Since they are easily recognizable personalities their presence automatically increases the significance of the event in the minds of the other guests in attendance.

That’s why I have two basic rules when it comes to local TV personalities who volunteer their time to join you at your worthy cause.  1) Treat them like a VIP. 2) Make it as easy for them as possible.

Since many fundraising events start in the early evening hours – and the news anchor or reporter will be arriving late due to the fact they just got done with their early evening newscast – have a reserved parking space for them as close to the venue entrance as possible. An orange cone is always an easy target for them to spot and it reserves the parking space.

Keep in mind – if you don’t have a reserved parking space for them they end up parking in the last spot in the lot because they’ll probably be the last to arrive.  They’ll also have to walk the furthest once the event is over. So keep them close – even if you do offer valet parking. This accommodation will only take up one spot, and chances are the celebrity will be leaving as soon as the event is over so their vehicle will never be in the way of guests.

2013-09-14 22.16.48

Here are several more helpful hints on how to treat your local celebrities:

Make sure they receive an auction catalog ahead of the event.  This will give them time to study it at their leisure.

Upon their arrival they should be greeted by a charity representative and handed a 3-ring binder with the auction items, notes and timeline clearly spelled out – with their portion highlighted.

And don’t forget to give them a pen to write notes, a colored highlighter to identify key elements of items, and a bottle of water to refresh them.

The celebrity should be escorted to his or her table – preferable as close to the stage as possible.

Time is a precious commodity for everyone. Typically when a celebrity is donating their time, a 2-3 hour commitment is the expectation on their part. If their presence is needed for a longer period of time, this should be discussed in advance.

And finally, present them with a gift card at the end of the event. Remember, not only are they donating their time and talent, but they do have expenses such as travel, hiring a babysitter and buying new clothes – to name just a few.

So treat your local VIPs like the celebrities they are.  Their presence will boost your exposure and make your guests feel they are hobnobbing with TV stars.

Thanks For A Record-Setting Year

Posted by Scott On March 6th

Thank_you_small

At the time this Blog is being written I’m in the midst of my busiest time of year – those dates between early January and mid-April when many major fundraising events are held.

But, as 2014 begins to unfold I need to take a few minutes to reflect back on 2013 – because – what an incredible year it’s been.

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

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 original expectations.

I say this because in 2013, I was able to help raise a total of $21,757,360 for charities within Florida and the country. As a comparison, in 2012 I helped raise $14,853,000.  That’s an incredible jump of some 33 percent – a new personal record. And one of which I’m extremely proud.

Wine Fest 2010 222

But, let me be clear.  I didn’t do it on my own I have merely played a role in the success. I’ve had the privilege of working with some great Event Chairs and their committees – volunteers who work tirelessly for months on end – if not an entire year – to make their fundraiser a success. And let’s not forget the generous donors, who spend their hard earned dollars to make the world a better place for others.

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.  And I hope visa versa.

I look back at 2013 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 – especially children – are counting on us.

Clothing the Deal

Posted by Scott On February 28th

to helm and back-Scott Robertson Auctioneers

It’s no secret that one of the things I’m known for is my colorful vests. Not only do they energize me when I put them on, it energizes the attendees – and in a subtle way – sets the stage for a fun event.

Over the course of my career I’ve had to literally “give the shirt” or should I say vest “off my back.” I’ll sacrifice it for a good cause, but only if the situation and timing is appropriate.

My experience has been – that if a vest is going to sell – it needs to be spontaneous with the guest making the request. In 2013, such a request was made 6 different times with one vest selling for $15,000. If you’re curious – opening bids start at a minimum of $1,000.

 

Vest

The timing of the selling of the vest is crucial. If an auction is humming along the last thing I want to do is interrupt the flow. I also don’t want to siphon proceeds that may have gone to a major cause such as Fund-A-Need.

With that said, if an auction needs a shot of excitement, selling the vest off my back can be a great addition.

Now, here’s something else I’ve learned through 20 years of experience.

CCA Orlando 001

When the auction is in full swing my job is to be totally focused. Any side deals like this are handled by my auction assistants or the event planner in charge of the event.

If someone, particularly a well-meaning volunteer who has heard about me selling a vest at auction brings up the idea, my auction assistants quickly dismiss it if the volunteer is not planning on backing up the idea by bidding on it. And for it to be successful addition to an auction, I prefer at least 2 people being committed to purchasing the vest so we have an actual auction experience.

In short – I’m happy to give the vest off my back.  But it only works if 2 or more people want to bid on it and only if the request occurs in a spontaneous “fashion.”

 

Video Marketing A Growing Trend (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On February 12th

video marketing a growing trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

In our last blog we talked about the trend regarding the use of videos in promoting fundraising events. We also reviewed what the videos could promote including; the specific mission of the charity, the items up for auction and how past events helped change lives and made the community better – to name just a few.

Also discussed was the length of a video.  “Keep it short” was a repeated theme.  Some could be as short as 30 seconds – while others could run up to 2 minutes – but no longer. Remember, people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

Now, it’s time to get your video on the Internet. It’s a relatively simple process – so don’t panic.

The easiest way to get your video on the Internet is by using YouTube and creating your very own channel.

To get started, go to www.YouTube.com. On the upper right hand side will be a blue icon that says “Sign In.” Click it. The next thing – in the same position – is a red icon that says “Create an Account.” Click on it and fill out the form.

 

When you finish the “set up process” your channel will have been created.  You can than begin to upload your video or videos to your new YouTube channel.

video marketing trend a growin trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

Now, there are 2 different ways to connect your new YouTube channel to your website.  The easiest is to have your website administrator set up a YouTube link on your site.  By doing this anyone on your website can click on the YouTube link and go directly to your YouTube Channel to view the videos.

The other is to have your website administrator actually click on one of the videos on your YouTube channel.  Directly underneath the video will be the word “Share”.  Click it. At this time 3 new icons will appear including the word “Embed”.  Click it to expose the actual “embed code.”  Your website administrator can now copy and place that code directly on your website for immediate viewing.

For those who shoot video with their cell phones – it gets a little tricky.  That’s because all cell phones aren’t exactly alike, but here’s the general concept.

After you shoot your video with your phone, plug your phone into your computer and download the video by following the prompts that appear.  Once the video is downloaded you can upload it on your YouTube channel.

 

Some Smart Phones however allow you, once the video is shot, to simply select the video and share it on YouTube directly.

This may all sound complicated to the video novice – but it’s not.  And the payoff could be – well – blockbuster.

The Pros and Cons of Electronic Bidding

Posted by Scott On January 23rd

 

pros and cons of electronic bidding

Anyone involved in fundraising is probably familiar with how a silent auction is conducted.  For those unfamiliar, guests go up to tables – grab a pen – and write down on a bidding sheet how much they are willing to bid on a specific silent auction item.  If another guest writes down a higher offer, the other bidders are able to revise their old bid.  At the end of the silent auction, the item goes to the highest bidder.

For many years the pen-and-bid-sheet method has proven to be both fun for the guests and beneficial for the charity.  But alas, the silent auction’s “pen and paper” days may be numbered.

Why?  Well, e-Bidding is beginning to infiltrate the world of fundraising.  Down the road, a few years in our future, it will probably be commonplace. As for now, charities will need to decide if utilizing Electronic Bidding is right for their event – and especially – their guests.

There are advantages and disadvantages of using e-Bidding, which is typically done on Smart Phones or the Apple I-Touch. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the pros and cons in an effort to allow charities to determine if e-Bidding is a good fit.

pros and cons of electronic bidding-fundraising auctioneer

Let me start by saying that e-Bidding is not a fad.  It is the future of silent auctions. However, at this time, e-Bidding may not be a practical or effective fundraising avenue to travel down. That’s because the largest objection to Electronic Bidding is the cost.

I have no doubt that the pricing is destined to be reduced as technology increases and more vendors get in the game. So for now, here are a few factors I feel must be in place before a charity decides to invest in electronic bidding.

1)   A charity’s silent auction revenues must exceed an amount which justifies the additional cost.

2)   The charity’s age demographic embraces technology. E-Bidding is not difficult, but some attendees resist anything related to technology.

So, who loves e-Bidding?

1)    Attendees in the 20s and 30s love the use of technology in the silent auction.

2)    Tech-Savvy individuals who always buy cutting edge technology.

3)   Males who hate to shop, but are competitive in nature.

4)   Individuals who like to win on eBay.

Who dislikes Electronic Bidding?

1)    Older individuals who did not grow up with technology.

2)   Individuals who purposely do not have Smart Phones.

3)   Sniper bidders who are always seeking a bargain and love to swoop in at the end of the auction to make a last minute bid. (This occurs sometimes after the bidding is closed)

bidding

In my next blog I’ll discuss the limitations of e-Bidding and the additional advantages and disadvantages of utilizing such a “high-tech” system.

In the meantime, I’ll grab a pen and a piece of paper – or should I use my I-Phone – to jot down a few other factors that might help you in your “should I” or “shouldn’t I” decision. Until then…

 

 

 

 

 

Worth My Weight In “Sold”

Posted by Scott On December 26th

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

During the course of your workday, do you find yourself dividing the day into fractions? You know, those milestones that you look forward to as the minutes tick by.  If you start at 8 a.m. the first milestone is usually 10 a.m. with the second being noon.  After lunch, most people look forward to 3 p.m. which invigorates them as they look forward to heading home at 5.

And then, there are times of the day, when you know you’re doing an excellent job – or just completed a major project – and  think to yourself; “I really earned my keep today?”

Well, to be totally honest, I also feel that way during the course of a fundraising event.

I too see things in fractions.  Every scheduled event that takes place within a fundraiser is a milestone that needs to be crossed. Mine typically consists of arrival and prep – followed by the start and end of the silent auction – to the start and end of the live auction – to thanking guests for their participation as they’re leaving the venue and heading back home.

scott

But, more importantly, when a fundraising event is over, if I can’t point out at least four or five separate occasions during the course of the auction where I fully paid for myself, I am disappointed. I’m very proud to say, this rarely happens.

The organizers and attendees may not always recognize when this occurs, but as the front man in the room, I certainly do.

I wish I could pinpoint ahead of time exactly when this will happen during the course of a fundraising event.  But, more times than not it happens in an unexpected place – and more times than not – in an unexpected way.

So you might be asking yourself; “Why is this important?”

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

Well, the answer is easy.  As a professional benefit auctioneer I sometimes hear from Event Chairs that the charity decided to use a non-professional or volunteer auctioneer for their fundraiser as a way to save money. I try to explain I don’t cost the organization money – I make them money. But for some, the message falls on deaf ears.

For the record, when I’m hired to be the front man for an event, my record for 2013 show I help the charity reach its fundraising goal 95%  of the time. And 83% of the time I exceed the previous record for the auction.  No brag.  Just fact.

So, if you’re looking for an auctioneer for your event consider hiring a professional benefit auctioneer. They pay for themselves by helping charities raise more than they thought possible.  Or as the headline to this Blog proclaims, “We’re worth our weight in ‘Sold.’”

The Do’s & Don’ts Regarding Donations

Posted by Scott On December 19th

SWFL Conservancy 2012 purple vest (2)

I’ve said it many times, “I’m here to help you!” I especially love it when I get a good question from a colleague or even an unknown-to-me event chair that has run into a fundraising conundrum.  Here’s one such question – and the answer.

An associate, in charge of procuring donated items for a silent auction, was given a photo/portrait package which was to be included in the fundraiser. The business that donated the item claimed it had a retail value of $5,000.  Even with bids starting at $1,000, the item didn’t receive a single bid.

The following year the same business, unsolicited and not a member of the school committee, donated the same item.

So how should unwanted donations be handled?  It’s quite simple really, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Although they might be well intended, photographers, gyms and hair salons are notorious for donating items that are merely advertisements for the respective businesses. You know the ones.  They are donating “a free sitting fee”, “a one month membership” or “$30 off a cut and color.”

 

A fundraising event should never accept any donation that has the sole purpose of getting a new client in the door so the business can start running up the actual cost.

Hair salon packages never work.  We are creatures of habit and tend to have the same stylist for years.  Going to another stylist feels like cheating. However, if the donated package is from a salon frequented by many of your attendees – then it should be considered.

Nobody wants a one-month membership at a gym. If the gym wants to donate an entire year – that’s another story.  But, accept nothing shorter.

dos and don'ts of donations

The list of examples of “advertisements-disguised-as-donations” could go on and on. But, I’m sure you get the picture.

The good news is there are ways to turn down donated items so that both parties can walk away with heads held high – and without embarrassment.

Tell the person or business donating the item that, “Although we appreciate your offer our committee has decided to only accept items which have no additional costs to the highest bidder.

Remember, when an item is unattractive, receives no bids or is simply unpopular, it quietly brings down the entire silent auction. Your guests might not talk about it, but they’ll observe the lack of interest – and it’s discouraging.

2

The last thing you want at a fundraiser are discouraged guests. It’s the auctioneer’s or event chair’s job is to create and maintain a fun atmosphere – one where the guests are happy from start to finish – and totally fired up.  Unwanted donations can be a real downer.

Feel free to send me your tough questions.  It just might make a good blog which will be a big help to others.

Choose Your Fundraising Ambassador Carefully

Posted by Scott On December 5th

Choose Your Fundraising Ambassador Carefully

Twenty years is a long time to be in the same business. Some people may burn out being in a position for such an extended period of time.

I, on the other hand, wake up every day with an unbridled enthusiasm and a passion to – not only get the day going – but to fine tune and review the details for an upcoming auction which I was contracted to host.

I also enjoy assisting other fundraising auctioneers and event chairs  from around the country that have called or emailed me regarding a specific question that arose during the planning of their event. I’m honored to help out any way I can.

I take my job – my career – as a Professional Fundraising Auctioneer very seriously. I do it because I truly love what I do.

But, what matters most are the charities and the amount of money they raise during an event. There’s no better feeling in the world than to help make life a little easier for those who need the help the most.

Don’t get me wrong.  I realize some charities feel they can’t afford a professional benefit auctioneer.  They believe a local celebrity, a local politician or even a volunteer from their organization can handle the demanding duties of being the host and play the role of auctioneer for an event.

_1230668300

I’ve seen some succeed.  But, I’ve also seen a great deal more fail, all at the detriment of the charity. The main issue – they didn’t take the role perhaps as seriously as they should. So, what did they do wrong?  Here are a few examples.

1)   Should the volunteer auctioneer’s performance is less than stellar, the charity has no recourse because the volunteer auctioneer is not getting paid. (Generally the charity is grateful he or she showed up at all.) Event organizers tend to “walk on egg shells” when dealing with higher profile volunteers. That tends to add to the problem since the volunteer auctioneer never receives any real feedback on their performance.

2)    They are often focused on doing what they always do in their normal life and don’t take the time to prepare and complete the background work needed prior to an event. When the decision comes down to “Should I work on my business item or on the charity for which I am donating my time” – guess which choice wins.

3)   They often arrive late after the doors are opened for the event, ask for a list of the items, then the microphone and rely on their “personality” to carry them through. If they do several events per year, they and their family are likely tired of giving up their prime evening time for no compensation.  This makes the event becomes less fun for them and more of a responsibility.  The less time they spend on and at the event the less pain for them and their loved ones.

Exchanging Packages Beneficial For Both Charities

4)   A common volunteer auctioneer tactic, provided they know people in the crowd, is to call attendees out by name and shame them into bidding. Certainly knowing the attendees is a good thing.  But, calling people out to bid……. tacky, which can silently backfire on the organization.

5)   When the auction chairman says “We have spent so much on food, drinks, venue, flowers, decorations, entertainment, etc – so we need to cut back somewhere.” So, the one person, the professional fundraising auctioneer, who can most significantly and positively impact the net revenues of the event, is eliminated in favor of non-profit generating items.

The 5 examples listed above relates to less money for the charity. In the beginning, the “free auctioneer” may look great as a line item on the event budget.  But the reality is many more times than not they actually cost the charity in terms of lost revenue.

In a future Blog I’ll expound on this subject with a list of additional mistakes a volunteer auctioneer makes.

Until then, when it comes to naming who you’ve selected to be your event auctioneer, take all these factors into consideration. A mistake could cost your charity – well – serious cash.

 

© 2013 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.