Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Hiring an Auctioneer is Not a Full Committee Decision

Posted by Jessica Geer On August 14th

Classical Greek philosopher Plato once said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” As a professional benefit auctioneer, I could not agree more. 

Throughout the course of the year I’m contacted by various charities and organizations searching for a fundraising auctioneer. When the decision maker makes the call and signs the contract everything moves smoothly along.  Where the system bogs down is when I hear the words, “I’ll need to present your credentials and agreement to our full committee and will get back in touch with you.”

The decision regarding who to hire as a fundraising auctioneer should never be delegated to a full committee. Sure, it sounds great and wonderful to have everyone aboard, but the problem is, “too many cooks spoil the broth.

Recently, the Executive Director of an organization wanted to hire me for their upcoming fundraiser. The Event Chair also wanted to hire me. But both wanted to get everyone on the full committee to agree.  When you bring in a lot of people a number of issues pop up, many of which are unfair as the auctioneer is not present to answer the question and resolve the concern.

Based upon feedback I hear the top three issues that arise during the full committee meeting are:

1)  Someone will say “we are all volunteers, we shouldn’t have to pay for an auctioneer/consultant.

2)  Some committee member says “I saw someone who did a really good job at the _______ gala. I will get more information on that person and present it to the committee”, thus delaying the decision until at least the next meeting. (Do not be surprised when this committee member forgets to get the information and delays things even further.)

3)  Another committee member says “I know someone with a great personality, and is really funny, who might be willing to be our auctioneer.

This list could go on and on as suddenly the committee is more concerned with price than with performance. They forget the decision should always be based on ROI, return on investment.

So, from the time the charity or organization first contacts me to the time they get back to me with a decision weeks may have gone by. During this waiting period, a different group not only contacted me, but signed the agreement to hire me, which left me no other choice but to tell the other group, “Sorry, but I’m already booked.”

I learned from the past – I can’t hold dates for organizations. When full committees get involved in the decision process, precious time is lost, and that often results in disappointment.

The solution is simple – the decision to hire an auctioneer should be made by a steering committee of two or three people – but no more than five. This steering committee needs to take the lead and make the decisions so everything is handled efficiently and effectively. These are the people that deal with the consulting portion of the auctioneer services for the months leading up to the fundraising event. The full committee needs to trust those in the steering committee to make the executive decisions.

Everyone has an opinion.  But like I said in the beginning, “Too many cooks….”   

 

Do you have additional questions?  Contact Scott today!

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” »

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” »

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In my last blog I wrote about my need to stay totally focused – and on message – during the live auction portion of a fundraising event.

 

In an effort to accomplish this, I discussed the advantages of having just one, dedicated, cool-headed person responsible for gathering the messages that need to reach me, writing them down on a sticky note, and placing the message on my auction binder so I can read them to myself upon returning to the podium.

This helps me stay focused on the mission of raising money and keeps the momentum of the live auction moving forward at a comfortable pace.

That which I just described is a controllable situation that can be easily handled.  However, during the course of a live auction there will be uncontrollable and unexpected situations that arise – and they usually occur when a drinking guest interrupts the flow of the live auction by presenting what he or she believes is a “great idea.”

fundraising auctioneer

So, what’s an auctioneer to do?

 

Well, to be totally honest, this is where experience comes into play, although there is no easy answer.

Here’s the main problem.  If someone, who has been drinking, suddenly gets a “great idea” and insists on sharing this idea with me, two things happen.  And neither is good for fundraising.

  • Not only do I have to try to interrupt the momentum of the live auction and listen to the idea – as a courtesy – I also have to make an educated decision on-the-fly if it’s actually a good idea or a bad idea. Either way my focus on the live auction items becomes clouded.
  • If I decide it’s not a good idea, the person making the suggestion will inevitably ask me; “Why?” Now I am completely derailed, lost all the momentum, and the audience gets to sit while I explain quietly to the person why their idea will not work. Obviously, this creates immediate negativity.

So the next question is; “What’s the best way to handle this situation?”

For the answer I refer back to Part 1 of this Blog – have a “cool headed” person as a Gatekeeper – and preferably someone in a position of authority within the organization.

The Gatekeeper’s role is to get me off the hook by interrupting the conversation between me and the guest and basically taking over the situation.  This allows me to escape to continue the live auction – to stay on message – and to maintain momentum.  At the same time the guest with the suggestion is getting personal attention since the Gatekeeper is enthusiastic about what the guest is saying.

post it

Once this dedicated individual listens and evaluates the suggestion they will let me know via a Post-It note on my auction binder if the suggestion requires any action on my part.

It’s really a win-win for both parties – as well as the other attendees.

And the best news of all – in many instances the guest is offering an additional item for the live auction which could add significantly to the charity’s fundraising effort. Of course, in that case, I’m more than happy to include it at the appropriate time.

So my suggestion for the week – be sure your live auction has a “cool-head” Gatekeeper at your auctioneer’s disposal. They often come in very handy.

By the way, in a future Blog I’ll reveal a fantastic donation that came up in the exact situation I just described two paragraphs earlier.  But before I go I’ll give you a clue. “Quack!!!”

Decorating the Venue Part 1

Posted by Scott On March 20th

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There’s a reason Hollywood hands out awards in the category of “Set Decoration” or “Art Decoration.” The visual effect of the set plays a key role in a movie’s authenticity and really sets the stage – forgive the pun – for the actor’s role to come to life and the audience to accept what they are seeing as real which enhances their theatre-going experience.

The same holds true for a charity fundraiser. The way in which a venue is decorated can play a key role in setting the stage for a success event. Now here comes the ironic part – I have nothing to do with it.

We all have our strengths. Mine is not in the realm of planning decorations for a gala. Not only am I decorating-deficient, I simply don’t have the time due to my auction schedule and consulting for many other aspects of a fundraiser from pre-planning to post-event analysis.

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Trust me, I fully appreciate and marvel at a beautifully decorated ballroom. I even attempt to match the tuxedo vest I wear the night of the event to the decor. But putting it all together – me actually getting involved with the decoration theme or process – is akin to allowing a bull wander around in a china shop.

However, with that said, I do inform clients there are some decorating basics they should follow for fundraising auctions.

I will go into detail in a minute – but here are three decorating basics all Event Chairs should adhere to:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission

Let’s begin with the subject of tall centerpieces. They may look great on a table but they interfere with the patrons seeing the auctioneer and/or the auctioneer seeing the patrons.

Wine Fest 2010 222

Audience analysis, a term I use on a regular basis and one of the keys of my success, is hinged upon my ability to closely observe the faces of the bidders and potential bidders. Due to this clear vision path I often know in advance when a person is going to bid or bid again long before they raise their paddle.

In addition, there is nothing more frustrating to a bidder than to raise their hand or bid paddle and then not being seen by the auctioneer or their ringman due to a centerpiece blocking their view. So keep centerpieces low.

Another important basic is: Don’t overspend on decorations. In my 20 years experience I’ve discovered the portion of the event budget that most often goes over budget is the decorating allowance. Too often the decorating committee gets carried away with hosting a lavish party and forgetting the purpose of the gala is to raise money – not waste it.

Decorations can: Set a nice tone for an event – Can make the attendees feel welcome – And make for great photo opportunities.  But they seldom add significantly to the bottom line. Besides, you don’t want your guests to feel as if their donations from the previous year were being used wastefully on unnecessary and extravagant decorations.

And finally, the decorations should enhance the event by helping to permeate the mission of the charity whenever possible. For instance, if your mission is to supply needed educational tools to school children then decorate the tables with educational manipulatives that are age appropriate for the children you’re trying to serve.

If your mission is to feed the needy, than use strategically placed canned goods and other packaged food items – that can also be used after the event to nourish the hungry – on the tables as decorations. Donors will love the fact that you are getting double duty from the decorations, therefore stretching their donation dollars.

In my next Blog I will talk about how “Uplighting” at an event also plays a key role in setting the mood and can be an integral part of the decor.

 

 

The Economy’s Improving! Will Our Bottom Line?

Posted by Scott On December 12th

Economy

If you believe the majority of the business reports in both the print and broadcast news media the economy is on the upswing. Sure, there have been a few glitches in the uptick, but for the most part it appears the past “down years” are now behind us.

The apparent improving economy has led many fundraising chairman to ask me if the upswing will roll over into their money raising efforts during the coming year. Although, in general terms it should, it’s really hard to project since fundraising isn’t directly tied to the overall economy – but the specific donor’s economy.

So, what do I mean by that?  Well, if the country’s economic conditions are improving it’s a good sign for the country.  What’s more important is – is the donor’s economic conditions improving? The two don’t always coincide.

It really comes down to confidence.  If donors are confident about the economy they tend to loosen their pocketbooks. If they are not confident they will remain cautious and save for the proverbial “rainy day.

Charity

With that said, there is a way for charities to get donors – no matter the economic conditions – to contribute to the charity’s fundraising efforts.  And that’s to build their confidence that the money they are donating is going to a good cause and will be used wisely to improve the lives of others that so desperately need help.

Donors are usually cautious with their money during uncertain economic times.  However, they are willing to give if they have confidence the charity will be a good steward of their donation. The same holds true in good economic times.

It all comes down to communication.  And, not their economic index – but their confidence index.

Supportive Bidders

Posted by Scott On November 21st

supportive bidders-fundraising auctioneer

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.

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.

fundraising auctioneer

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.

 

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.

Musical Chairs

Posted by Scott On November 14th

 

musical chairs

A few days ago a strange, but an absolute right-on comparison popped into my head and I thought I’d share it with you today.  A fundraising gala – that has both a silent auction and a live auction – is much like a game of musical chairs. You weren’t expecting that comparison where you?! But, hear me out.

During an event, with both a silent auction and a live auction, there is a time when your guests should be on their feet and a time when they should take a seat.

Let’s begin with the silent auction. This is the time of the event you want your guests on their feet.  You want them to be mobile so they can walk around and mingle – preferably bidding on the silent auction items.

It’s alright to have a little bit of seating for those who have difficulty walking or standing, but place the seating in the corners of the room and away from the silent auction area.

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However, you can have tables near the silent auction area, but they should be high cocktail tables with NO bar stools. This will give your guests a place to rest their drinks and chat with those immediately around them without them sitters.  Remember, once a person sits they tend to protect their “real estate” and not move from their seats. Keeping them standing or walking around the silent auction tables will result in higher revenue being generated for the charity.

With that said, it’s just the opposite during a live auction. You want everyone seated – no movement.  This will keep your guests focused on the PowerPoint presentation containing the live auction slides, the auctioneer, and especially the items being auctioned.

It’s much like a high school football coach, when near the end of practice, he tells his players to take a knee as he goes over today’s practice and what they can expect at this week’s game.  By doing this the coach knows he’s taller than the players – and he has the stage.  It also assures no player’s view is blocked and his message will reach everyone within listening distance.

If your guests are walking around the room where the live auction is being held they create a disturbance and the others in the room lose focus. A loss of focus is a loss of revenue.

 

This is one of the primary reasons not to have a buffet at your fundraising auction. Whenever possible choose the sit down dinner

So keep them standing when they should be standing.  Keep them seated when they should be seated. At the end of the day your bottom line will thank you.

 

auction

When it comes to promoting your auction many of your guests will be looking on your website for the date, time and place as well as other general information.  When it comes to promoting the items you are going to auction off during the fundraising event, nothing beats an old fashion catalog.

 

I recommend sending out the catalogs two weeks prior to the event – no more, no less.  This will give individuals and couples plenty of time to page through the catalog and determine which items they are interested in bidding on but not allow them time to postpone reviewing the catalog.

 

Although the first few pages can have a few words from the event chair and some information regarding the charity itself, when it comes to the actual auction items, each live auction item should have a page of its own.

 

Each page should include a photo of the item and a brief, easy to read description. It’s important to note that color photos are preferred if the printing budget allows for it. Yes, it’s more expensive.  But, we live in a let-me-see color world and fortunately I’ve learned over the 20-plus years I’ve been a benefit auctioneer that catalogs with color pays for itself by raising the level of interest in an item and the level of excitement during the auction. And that translates into higher prices.

 

Finally, I recommend testimonials be included with an item where appropriate.

 

alaska

Here’s a great example.  Let’s say you are auctioning off a fishing trip to Alaska, which includes a stay at a private chalet and the best fishing captain at the port.  If you auctioned off the same trip the year prior get some quotes from the person who took the trip and let them describe – in their own words – what a fantastic adventure it was.  You simply can’t beat positive personal experiences.

 

And don’t forget about silent auction items. Although it increases the work load, listing all the silent auction items, in categories provides greater exposure to the profit makers. For instance if you have  golf experiences from various country clubs. The catergory will be “GOLF” with the items listed below with the their respective silent auction number. (see example below) This will allow you spread out the golf trips all around the silent area but group them in the catalog. Pictures are generally not provided for silent auction items.

 

 Golf Packages

 

Item number                 Description                            Location

12                        Foursome at Fiddlesticks CC        Ft Myers FL

23                        Foursome at Quail West                 Naples FL

42                        Foursome at Black Diamond       Crystal River FL

66                        Foursome at Bear’s Paw                 Sarasota FL

 

So, don’t forget to get those catalogs out on time and give each live auction item its own colorful, descriptive page. And be sure to have a copy of the same catalog at the event so your guests can remind themselves exactly on what they want to bid.