Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

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” »

Temperature at your event is important

Posted by Scott On April 3rd

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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

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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.

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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.

 

Several Blogs back I discussed the usual mistakes a volunteer auctioneer makes during the course of a fundraising event.

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At this time I’d like to list three addition mistakes a volunteer auctioneer often makes and then expand on each one.  The three are:

1)    They don’t know when to say “SOLD”

2)   Their performance is not smooth.

3)   They don’t understand bid increments.

As for not knowing when to say “SOLD” – well – this usually comes from their inexperience.

They either wait too long – which drags out the event – or they have what is known in the auction business as “a quick hammer.” By that I mean they say SOLD before getting to all the money that was available for the item being auctioned off. Knowing when to say SOLD is crucial to the charity’s fundraising effort and only comes through years of experience and the ability to analyze an audience.

Choose Your Fundraising Auctioneer Carefully

The second item on our list deals with performance. I’ve been a witness to the performance of many volunteer auctioneers who were anything but smooth and polished.

The performance of the auctioneer is crucial. A non-polished one adds length to the event, and is more often than not, painful to listen to and watch. The guests paid good money for their tickets and they expect professionalism throughout the entire event – especially during the live auction. I often say a charity won’t hire an amateur garage band as the entertainment so why did it hire an amateur to lead their critical fundraising effort.  It simply doesn’t make sense.

And finally there’s the subject of bid increments. Volunteers usually have no idea what those increments should be. And if they do, they generally cannot adjust on-the-fly which is often needed in the heat of aggressive bidding.

Recently I watched a volunteer start the bidding of an item at $1,000. The next logical increase was $2,000. Instead volunteer asked for $1100. The item evidently sold for $5,200 which was great, but it took a long time to get there in $100 increments.

to helm and back-Scott Robertson Auctioneers

A volunteer auctioneer also lacks the pace necessary to move the auction forward.  A professional will always be able to sell more items in a shorter period of time without the attendees feeling rushed. The profit of just two additional items may make a major impact in terms of profit for the event.

There is a big difference between and volunteer and a professional auctioneer. To me the choice is clear. It all comes down to if a charity wants to gamble with the success of its event.

Worth My Weight In “Sold”

Posted by Scott On December 26th

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

 

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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

 

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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?