Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog



In a previous blog I talked about the value of meetings. Perhaps more importantly, in an effort to prevent volunteer burnout, I talked about the following:


1)   How far in advance the first meeting should be conducted prior to a fundraising event

2)   What decisions should be made during the earliest meetings

3)   The real purpose of a meeting and the need to stick to the agenda

4)   The reasoning behind forming sub-committees that work under the Steering Committee.


Now, here are a few additional tips regarding meetings.


General information should be disseminated to volunteers via emails and memos. However, specific topics such as sub-committee reports, item procurement, audience development and ticket sales should be discussed in a meeting environment.


During these meetings, stick to the agenda and stay on time. Do not allow anyone to take over the meeting with extended and repetitive dialog.


The minutes of the meeting should be distributed to the stakeholders and attendees within 48 hours of the meeting. This will serve as a reminder of the decisions of the meeting and also the tasks assigned. Also it’s important that the minutes from the previous meeting, including any updates, be handed out to the attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Expecting all attendees to bring the minutes that was distributed earlier is simply not realistic. Allow them 5 minutes of quiet time at the start of meeting to review the minutes. This will refresh their minds regarding what was discussed in the previous meetings and get them focused on the task at hand. This also allows a short buffer time for people who are habitually 3 minutes late.


During a meeting, if an assignment is given and accepted to a volunteer or committee member, write down the deadline as to when the assignment needs to be accomplished.  The person who did the assigning should contact the person with the assignment 2 days before the deadline and inquire as to how the assignment is progressing. The person with the task should present his or her progress during the next meeting.

group of cheerleaders cheering

Now, this is key to keeping meetings a positive gathering. Celebrate the wins when good news is shared. However, NEVER embarrass anyone at a meeting for a missed or incomplete assignment or task.  The leader should speak with them privately before or after.


In conclusion, keep meetings as short as possible – have only essential attendees be present – stick to the topics on the agenda – and be sure that the attendees feel, when the meeting is adjourned, that something was accomplished, that the event planning process was moved forward – and their valuable time was put to a good use.

Limiting Meeting Time Prevents Volunteer Burnout (Part 1)



Have you ever wondered: “When it comes to fundraising events, what’s the largest contributing factor to volunteer burnout?”  It’s a question I’m often asked – and my answer rarely comes as a surprise to the event chairs that ask it – Ineffective Meetings!


Let me state upfront, meetings do have value. But, those who schedule them need to keep a few things in mind.


To begin with, the purpose of meetings is to promote dialog and exchange ideas. A meeting is not a place for the event chair to simply provide information to the volunteers and other event personnel.  All general information should be distributed via memos and emails, not in a meeting format.



It’s essential that every meeting has an agenda. It’s also essential the person who calls the meeting or chairs the meeting sticks to the agenda. And if a meeting is scheduled, be sure:


  1. The meeting is worth all the attendees valuable time
  2. Will cause the project to move forward
  3. Begins and ends on time

Another question I’m frequently asked deals with the number of necessary meetings. Simply stated, it really depends on the organization and the issues that need to be resolved.


I’m a big proponent of having several sub-committees working under a Steering Committee. Steering committees should have two to five members who may act as the chair for a sub-committee. This will help in limiting the number of people who need to attend a meeting since the attendees have a specific purpose and role for being there.

Limiting Meeting Time  Prevents Volunteer Burnout (Part 1)

Meet as often as needed, but never meet for the sake of having a meeting. If a scheduled meeting is no longer required, cancel the meeting. Everyone is busy, attending a meeting that is perceived to be a waste of time creates ill feelings and stress.


And speaking of stress, the initial meeting for an upcoming fundraiser should take place 15 months ahead of the scheduled event. You read that correctly – 15 months. This way the next year’s event planning is occurring simultaneously with the current year’s event. The issues that arise during the final stages of the current year’s event can be learning opportunities for the next year.


It’s also crucial to get all large decisions made early so they are completed by the time the current year’s event happens. This includes but is not limited to:

  • The date
  • Venue
  • Theme





By doing this ahead of time these items can be announced at the conclusion of this year’s gala. Please understand I am not suggesting this planning for next year’s event in anyway interfere with implementation with the plans, item procurement or ticket sales for this year’s event. My suggestion is the steering committee for next year’s event get together early to make these decisions.


In an upcoming blog, I will be expanding on the topic of keeping meetings as short as possible – as infrequent as possible – and as focused as possible.


So, until we meet again.  Oh gosh, now why did I go and say that?

Saying Thanks To Participating Businesses

Posted by Scott On October 10th


During my 20 years in the business as a professional benefit auctioneer I’ve had the opportunity to chat with business owners, specifically those who donated an item for a charity fundraiser. Most verified they did receive a thank you card for their participation.  And they were grateful for the recognition they received.

But, there was one bit of information they feel is often left out in the thank you card – “How much did my item raise for the charity?”

It’s a good question.  Nearly every business is proud of their support for a worthy cause – and are happy to give generously. However, not knowing how much they helped seems to drive them a little crazy.

My solution is simple:  Tell them. An exact figure is great, but not always necessary.  The business owner just really wants to know if their participation helped the overall fundraising effort.


Here are a few other ways you can thank businesses, which should always be done in person within days after the event.

1)  Present them with a leftover program and highlight their name.

2)  Take a photo of their donated item – as it appeared during the auction – and present it to them.

3)  Certificates of Participation are a great way to thank a business – which most likely will frame it and place it on one of the walls visible to customers.

4)  If it’s a major donor, a plaque makes a great substitute for a Certificate of Participation.

So, after the fundraising event, send a volunteer to the participating business, armed with a plaque or certificate of participation, photo of donated item and highlighted program and present it to the business owner.  And don’t forget to explain to the business exactly what their donation meant to the fundraising effort and/or how much their item helped raise specifically. In other words put as much effort into thanking them as was done to secure the item.

A thank you – especially one that’s face-to-face – will go a long way in getting the same business to participate in future fundraising events.

Take Note Of Society Writers Part 2

Posted by Scott On September 4th


In Part 1 of this Blog I talked about the important role Society Writers play in the success of a fundraising event.  You learned how far in advance the writer and his or her editor should be notified of the upcoming event, where to seat the writer upon arrival, what information should be shared between the Event Chair and writer upon the conclusion of the event, and what the deadline should be to get the figure of total amount raised to the writer.


I also mentioned briefly what information should be handed to the writer the day or night of the event.  In this Blog, we are going to explore in more detail what information that package should contain.


To quickly review, even though the writer may have covered your event in previous years and is familiar with the charity – and even if the writer was sent or given a pre-event press kit or initial program – make sure a complete package of information is presented to the writer upon arrival. Be sure to have it ready the minute the doors open.  Society Writers are usually one of the first to arrive.


As for the package itself it should contain the 5 W’s with a heavy emphasis on “Why” the money is needed and how it will be utilized.


All information regarding the event should be in a written format to make things easier for the writer and to avoid any miscommunication which often occurs in the noisy environment of the gala.


Other items the writer needs upon arrival is the list of the silent auction items, the list of the live auction items, and the list of the individuals who played a key role in the event planning and execution.


And don’t forget to include the information about the entertainment.  If the entertainment is from out of town be sure to mention the city they consider their home base.


I realize that the amount of information that will be included in these packages for Society Writers may differ from city to city and on the type of fundraising event that is being held. That’s why I’ve created a general check list of what items should be included along with a timeline for implementation.


I’m more than happy to share that information with Event Chairs or other charity or benefit representatives planning an upcoming fundraising event. Just give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to touch base with some of the Society Writers I know.  It’s never too early to inform them what’s on my calendar starting this Fall.


 If you wish to read Scott’s previous blogs go to
 © 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.


Take Note of Society Event Columnist Part 1

Posted by Scott On August 22nd



Getting pre-publicity and post-publicity for a fundraising event can play a major role in alerting the public to the need of the charity, organization or school as well as getting members of the public to attend the event in hopes of raising more dollars.

Your local Social Event Columnist should be one of your first contacts – and most important.  You should also be communicating with the Columnist’s Editor perhaps as much as 6 months to a year in advance with the goal of getting the Editor to put your social event on his or her assignment calendar – since it fills up extremely quickly.

It’s also very important to be prepared when the writer arrives on the day or night of the event.  Even though the writer may have covered the event in previous years and is familiar with the charity – and even if the writer was sent or given a pre-event press kit or initial program – make sure a complete package of information is presented to the writer upon arrival. The exact contents of that package will be discussed in Social Event Columnists: Part 2.


I’m often asked by Event Chairs, “Where do we seat a Social Event Columnist?” I always tell them the same thing.  “Greet them warmly – and show them to the best seat possible.”  But keep in mind you should reserve the absolute best seats in the venue for those likely to donate the most money.  Society Columnists are great at what they do and can get their story no matter where they are seated.

When the event is done a Chair or event representative should personally thank the Columnist for attending and ask if they need any other information, such as the list of top selling packages.

It’s also important that the Chair and Columnist share telephone numbers and email addresses so there is an easy exchange of the most critical information of all – the total amount raised – which could take hours, if not longer, to add up.

images (1)

And finally, be sure to forward that total by 10 a.m. the next day.  Social event Columnists are on deadlines too.  The earlier they receive the information – the easier and less stressful you make it for them.

I’ve learned over the years that social event columnists are wonderful professionals – who enjoy covering their city’s major fundraisers – and reporting on the charitable organizations that strive to make their city a better place to live.

It’s the Event Chair’s responsibility to make the writer’s job as easy as possible by giving them the information they need in advance of an event – during the event – and immediately after the event.

The more you take note of a Social Event Columnists important role in making your event successful – the more the Columnist will take note of you and your event.

 © 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













Supportive Bidders

Posted by Scott On July 26th

supportive bidders

At any live auction there are usually three types of supporters in the crowd.  The first is a guest who feels the price of admission was enough charity and doesn’t plan to bid on any item.  The second is an enthusiastic guest that has money in his pocket and is willing to bid as high as necessary to get an item and help the charity in the process.  The third is what I refer to as a “supportive bidder.”

Supportive bidders are there to have fun. And, they are there to help the charity maximize its fundraising effort by bidding on items simply to get the price of the item up.

I’m not referring to a “plant” or a “shill.”  A charity should never place a person in the room whose only purpose is to compete with other bidders with the intention of never actually winning a bid.

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

A supportive bidder does this on his or her own accord. They are really “soft bidders.”  By that I mean if they bid on an item and would happen to get it they are happy.  But, their real purpose is to make more money for the charity by getting others to bid higher – especially if they feel the current bids are below the items true value.

An auctioneer often doesn’t know who the supportive bidders are until the live auction actually starts. However, by reading a bidder’s body language and mannerisms a professional benefit auctioneer can spot them rather quickly and use them to the charity’s advantage.

When bidding on an item is slow or if a current bid is far below what I think an item should sell for I find myself drifting towards the supportive bidders as a means to get the ball rolling a little faster – and the bids a little higher.  I think most of the time they know that I know what they are doing and they usually play along.

So remember, no “plants” or “shills.” But keep in mind supportive bidders are in the room and can play a key role in your fundraising success – if the auctioneer knows how to spot them – and use them for your benefit.

HandShake, Rattle & Roll

Posted by Scott On July 18th

fundraising auctioneer

I’m often surprised by the number of people who know my name.  I’m not talking about colleagues. I’m referring to people who I might know casually or meet on occasion.

The manager of a local Fort Myers, Florida restaurant is one good example. The minute I step in the door she greets me with a warm smile, sometimes a handshake, but always with the words, “It’s good to see you again Mr. Robertson.  Welcome back.”

I have to be honest with you.  I think I only introduced myself to her once several years ago. Yet, she approaches me like a long lost friend. And that does something to me that makes me feel good about being there.

In this day and age of high-tech gadgetry – where emails have replaced the personal, handwritten letter – and the art of face to face conversation has been reduced to text messages or a ‘tweet’, it does the heart good to know a simple greeting – that includes an actual name – can change a person’s total disposition.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than at a charity fundraising event.

I’ve always encouraged the event chairs I work with and every charity VIP to know who will be coming through their event’s door. This is easily done by simply studying the guest list and then actually greeting the guest as they arrive – by name.


I’ve stood near these greeting lines on occasion and have watched faces turn from “We’re here – what do we do next?” to “What a nice hello – and she knew my name!” Their smiles said it all.

And for lack of a better phase – it made them feel important. This is even more true when the people being greeted by their names bring along friends that are unknown to the charity’s members. This scenario really boosts the ego of those who are known while at the same time makes their guests feel as if they are attending the event with VIP’s themselves.

But don’t forget.  Even an unknown guest should be greeted warmly.


The bottom line: Know your guests by their names – and greet them with a warm handshake.  This will put them in a positive and happy frame of mind and they’ll be more eager to rattle cash out of their wallets and purses.  And of course, that means there will be an increase in the charity’s bankroll.



One of the first blogs I posted on my website had to do with the subject of saying “thank you.” The focus of that blog was when to send a follow-up thank you to your event’s VIPs and largest, most generous contributors.

If you will recall, the answer was within days. Any thank you that arrives after that time frame seems like water under the bridge since too much time would have elapsed and memories of the event begin to fade.

In this blog I want to discuss saying thank you during an event.


party-hostess1Although every guest should receive a warm welcome and feel as if their presence is very much appreciated – the verbalization of a thank you carries a much heavier weight and is much more appreciated by your guests when it is spoken immediately after the fundraising portion of the event.

Avoid saying “thank you” at the beginning of an event.  And avoid saying “thank you” during the middle of an event.  Overdoing those two words early on is like adding water to soup – it dilutes the power the words and those words will have less meaning when they’ll really mean the most.

Wine Fest 2010 222

My philosophy is:  “Welcome – and away we go with the auction.”  Nationally this is a fairly new trend – but it has proven to work.  So, save every “thank you” for the end.

And don’t forget – a nice thank you goes great with a strong, sincere handshake or a warm hug – when appropriate. It’s not only the perfect combination to end the night – or day – but it will help build the foundation for the guest list for your next year’s event.

Now that I’m done with this blog – may I just say “thank you” for reading it.







My Not-So, Laugh-In Moment

Posted by Scott On May 9th

my not so laugh moment-funraising auctioneer

Having grown up being a fan of the old TV show “Laugh-In”, I was very excited for the opportunity to work as a co-auctioneer with one of its stars, Lily Tomlin. The event was “Arts for ACT” a significant fundraiser for the Abuse Counseling and Treatment Center in Fort Myers, Florida.  The venue was the Harborside Event Center and more than 1,200 attendees were present.


I found Lily to be a wonderful, down to earth, funny-as-hell personality.  She was a joy to work with.


At this particular auction, due to the large number of items up for bid, the organizers decided to have two professional auctioneers take turns selling 10 items at a time. When I was not calling the bids I was able to converse with Lily and point out particular individuals in the crowd for her to “pick on” via the microphone.


When we were about two-thirds of the way through the auction she turned to me and asked if I thought it appropriate if she had a gin and tonic. I explained to her that the way she had endeared herself to the crowd I didn’t think she could do anything wrong.



So off the stage we went walking, arm in arm, toward one of the cash bars set up to serve the thirsty auction attendees.


I was feeling pretty proud of myself – to be escorting such a well-known celebrity in my hometown – and having the privilege of buying her a drink.  But, my pride quickly turned to panic as I suddenly realized I had no money in the pockets of my tuxedo.


Fortunately, as we neared the bar I saw the manager of the event center, a man I had worked with on numerous occasions in the past, and quickly introduced Lily to him.  As they shook hands – and without missing a beat – I said: “Wouldn’t the Harborside Event Center like to buy Ms. Tomlin a drink?”


What a relief when I heard the reply, “Of course we would!”  Whew. I was off the hook.  And ever since that near “Laugh-In Disaster Moment” I always keep a bill in my pocket when I’m on the stage with celebrity co-auctioneers.

 © 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.

Moves Like Jagger

Posted by Scott On May 2nd

Moves Like Jagger

My performance – or mannerisms on stage during a live auction have been called “larger than life” by those who hired me to be their benefit auctioneer, as well as those guests in attendance.   I’m honored with each and every comment I receive, although the truth be told – I cannot take all of the credit.  Some of it must go to Mick Jagger.

Yes, you read that right.  Mick Jagger. Let me explain.

In 1978 I attended my first Rolling Stones concert. Since then I’ve attended at least 10 other Rolling Stones concerts – both in big and smaller venues.  And, here’s what I noticed.


While performing in a larger venue, Mick’s gestures – his mannerisms – were larger, more exaggerated. While performing in a smaller venue, his mannerisms were more subdued – but still right on cue.

It didn’t take me long to realize why this was occurring. Mick wanted to make sure that even the audience members – sitting in the seats furthest away from him – got to experience his performance just as much as those sitting up front near the stage.  The further those attendees sat – the larger his gestures.

Now, here’s something else I noticed.  Mick always wore pants with an elastic waistband.  The reason?  He often slipped his hand-held mic in the waistband, although unnoticed by the crowd, so his hands were free to gesture to the audience – and get them more fired up.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to wear pants with an elastic waistband.  I work totally from a headset microphone so my hands are always free.

I do however gesture – using both arms – with a specific focus in mind. These purposeful gestures help me better communicate where the bidder is seated – the amount I’m asking for – and sometimes simply to animate a point I’m trying to make.  These mannerisms help keep the attendees engaged – brings emphasis to what is being auctioned off – and adds a fun and exciting element to the benefit.

So, at your next fundraising event be sure your emcee, host or auctioneer keeps your guests entertained and alert by being animated on the stage or in the audience as he or she moves around.

Remember, a Rolling Stone gathers no moss.  That’s because acting like a Rolling Stone will keep the event moving and the attendees more attentive.