Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Not All Items Belong in the Live Auction

Posted by Jessica Geer On April 6th

After 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer, I’ve seen charities and organizations make plenty of mistakes when it comes to the Live Auction portion of their fundraising event. Here’s one of the biggest:

Charities or organizations intentionally decide to have items in their live auction which they feel all attendees can afford.

You know the drill – putting three or four items up for bid, in the live auction, that will meet everyone’s price point. By doing this you probably feel better because now everyone can participate in the excitement and have the chance to take something home at the end of the night.

This sure sounds like a great idea. The problem is – come Monday morning – your bottom line will suffer.

You must remember, it takes as much time, effort and energy to auction low priced items as it does more expensive items – and for less money.

Here’s a great example –

You have a trip valued at $3,000 – $5,000 vs. an item in the $20,000 – $25,000 range. Even if the trip would get the top bid of $5,000 – the charity leaves potentially $20,000 on the table. Add that up three to four times during a live auction and you begin to see my point.

(For the record, at your event the “affordable items” may be $300-$500 with the “expensive items” going for $2,000. The percentages are still the same as will be your feelings on Monday morning following the auction.)

So, my recommendation is to put the high priced items in the live auction and place the lower to mid-priced donated items in the silent auction. This is a great way to appease your guests without deep pockets and get them involved.

Another way is to make sure the live auction is lively!  Just because a guest is not a bidder doesn’t mean they can’t have fun cheering on the bidders and watching the action.

 

Time is money.  So invest your Live Auction time wisely.

 

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” »

Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions

Posted by Scott On April 17th

I truly love what I do. 

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

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

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

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

There are so many variables at an auction.

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

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

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

Continue reading “Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions” »

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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.

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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…

 

 

 

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.

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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 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.

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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)

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Although 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.

“Instant Purchase” Option Gaining Popularity At Silent Auctions

My philosophy is:  “Welcome – and away we go with the auction.”  Nationally this is a fairly new trend – and it has proven to work.  So, save the “thank you’s” for the end when you are actually saying “thanks” for everyone’s generosity.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Your Celebrity Talent as A VIP

Posted by Scott On May 23rd

treat your celebrity talent like a vip-fundraising auctioneer

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.

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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.

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 with or 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.