Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

The 2017 Celebrity Martini Glass Auction of Naples FL raised another record setting amount of $600,000+! Scott Robertson Auctioneers has been honored to play a role in the fundraising efforts of the CMGA for the past 5 years.

Brenda Melton & Scott Robertson

 

Since its inception in 2010 the event has grown exponentially due to the vision, hard work and perseverance of its Founder, Brenda Melton.
Brenda founded this event to fulfill the mission of making a difference through the power of art.  To do so, she gathered a roster of martini glasses autographed by celebrities or American heroes and then enlisted noted artists to add their designs to the glasses. All while keeping with the personality and accomplishments of their signers.  
Brenda stated “When I brought Scott Robertson Auctioneers in to conduct and consult for the CMGA, I knew it was the right thing to do but it was scary. Previously a professional auctioneer volunteered their time, which was wonderful, but I knew we needed to take the fundraising portion of the event up to a higher level. The year before Scott came in the event raised $90,000, this years event raised $650,000. In the past 5 years we have raised a total of almost $2 million. which is nothing short of amazing.”
This year’s invitation only event took place on March 26, 2017 and is a prime example of how passion and dedication can pay off in a big way for a non-profit organization. Funds raised at this year’s auction will benefit the PAWS Assistance Dogs organization.  PAWS breeds, trains and places support and therapy dogs with children and veterans who have physical, neurological and developmental disabilities.
 

A highlight of the live auction was the martini glass signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame.  The glass was beautifully designed and once the bidding reached $20,000 for the glass, generous supporters Jay & Patty Baker stepped up and offered to donate 2 exclusive tickets to a Hamilton show on Broadway.  The tickets increased the value of the package to $40,000 with the Bakers being the winning bidders. At that moment, Patty with a gleam in her eyes announced, “Scott I will donate the tickets to the auction if you sell them right now”. The bidding escalated to $15,000 for the pair of tickets, thus bringing the total value of the package to $55,000.

CMGA is yet another glowing example of how a proven need, motivated chairs, engaged donors, great product when combined with a driving force on stage (Scott Robertson Auctioneers) are a winning combination!

Today we’re gonna talk about the differences between a commercial auctioneer and a fundraising auctioneer. One of the main differences is the auction chant. See, a commercial auctioneer is selling product and a fundraising auctioneer is really selling to people. There’s a distinct difference.

At commercial auctions, people are generally auction savvy. They attend auctions on a regular basis and that commercial auctioneer is able to go much faster. In fact when I was selling at a commercial auction, I would generally sell 80 to 100 items an hour. That’s fast! At a fundraising auction, the rate is generally around 20 items per hour. Let me give you a difference in the chant. At a commercial auction it would sound more like:

(spoken in a rapid cadence)

“Two thousand dollars is bid, now three thousand, three thousand and four. Four now five. Five now six and seven thousand. Seven thousand now eight. Eight thousand? Sold! Seven thousand dollars!”

And at a fundraising auction it would go more along the line of…

Continue reading “Difference between commercial & fundraising auctioneers” »

Investing in an Auctioneer

Posted by Scott On December 11th

You’ll have to forgive me while I go on a personal crusade for this Blog. But, the following situation arises on a regular basis and I thought it appropriate to talk about an important matter concerning the hiring or not hiring of a Professional Benefit Auctioneer.

Recently I was asked to send a proposal for my auction services to an organization that was in the planning stages for an upcoming event. I did just that and waited for a response.  And I waited some more.

 

Scott RobertsonEventually I took it upon myself to contact them – to follow up. That’s when I learned they indeed had received my proposal – which was good to know – and that the gala committee had reviewed my proposal. My contact with the organization went on to say that, “The committee decided not to use my services because they did not want to spend the money.”

When I heard those words I knew my proposal was presented inappropriately.  By the way, my least favorite word in that entire sentence was “spend.” I wanted to inform them there is a big difference between spending and investing.

Let’s talk about spending.  When you spend you are paying for something that eventually goes away – or at a minimum – depreciates. You spend money on food – it is eaten – it goes away. You spend money on fuel – it’s consumed – it goes away. You spend money on a new car – it depreciates in value the minute you drive it off the dealership lot.

Now let’s talk about investing. We invest in the stock market. We invest in education. When we invest money the expectation is that the investor will get a return.  It’s not always guaranteed, but the goal is to get a larger amount of money back than originally put out.

The hiring of a Professional Benefit Auctioneer should be looked at as an investment – and not an expenditure.

As for the organization I was dealing with, I asked, “Did you take my proposal fee and simply subtract it from the amount raised last year?”  Their response, “Yes.” To which I responded, “That’s not how my fee should be viewed!”

What they should have done is estimated how much a Professional Benefit Auctioneer will bring to the table – the added profit factor if you will – and then subtract the fee from the total.

The truth is I know how to bring in additional funds to an organization. When I don’t think I will be an asset to the group I am the first to tell them.

 

helpMy schedule is quite busy and can be selective as to which groups I want to work. And I only want to work with groups I think I can help.

If I feel my fee isn’t justifiable, I’ll tell the organization and try to find them a no-cost or lower-cost auctioneer. I do not want to cost organizations money – I want to make them money. I do not want to be something they spend money on. I want to be an investment – and a solid investment at that!

It’s all about the cause.  It’s not about me.

My disappointment with the organization I’m using as an example in this Blog has little to do with them not hiring me and everything to do with the fact their fundraiser will just remain status quo as they try to match the previous year’s take.

I know I could have helped them reach higher – been more profitable. But then on the bright side – there’s always next year.

The Fear of Change-Part 1

Posted by Scott On November 13th

Ben Franklin is credited for the quote, “There are only two things certain in life: Death and Taxes.” Well, with all due respect to one of our country’s favorite Founding Fathers, who was also an author, inventor, statesmen and diplomat – he missed one. The truth is “There are only three things certain in life:  Death. Taxes. And Change.”

Scott Robertson

Change is a natural part of our existence. Things around us change.  Just look at the northern forests as their summer greenery turns into a canopy of brilliant multi-colors. We also change. Not only physically as we get older, but what we wear, what we drive, the technology that we use.

There are those who are resistant to change.  Although any individual in any age group can be guilty, it does seem the older one gets the more likely one is to reject change.

In many ways the status quo is a warm, cozy blanket – and why discard that which is so familiar – that which has been good enough for so many comforting years – for the preconceived untested and unfamiliar unknown.

Why indeed?

Well today, when it comes to the planning and the execution of a charity fundraising event, there is a very, very good reason – indeed.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the course of a year I run into charities and organizations that are resistant to change – even though their events have suffered a slow and agonizing decline in recent years. Some people just won’t let go of the past – even if it means they’ll have no future.

There are so many angles to this Blog it’s difficult to pick which road to head down first.  So perhaps the best way to explain exactly what I mean is by telling a true story – one that occurred recently.

Scott Robertson

After more than 20 years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer I’m proud to say I do come with a wealth of experience.  But I also come with a great deal of enthusiasm and work hard to raise the level of excitement at every fundraiser at which I’m hired and that includes both the silent and live auctions.

This knowledge, this passion comes through early-on in the process of planning a major event. Unfortunately, the knowledge and passion don’t always translate well with some committee members – and especially those – for lack of a better word – curmudgeons – that have been an active and loud voice of the charity or organization for a great number of years. In fact, they might have even organized the first event decades ago.

Many of these early fundraising pioneers – as well as some newcomers – simply do not like change.  The “same old same old” works just fine in their minds and they’ll resist any attempt to steer the sinking ship to a new port. In this particular case they did their best to sabotage the event.

In many instances just one word explains their reasoning why – control.  They hate to lose it.

In Part 2 of this Blog I’ll talk about how the person in charge of the event should handle the taking over of the ship’s wheel and direct the sea-worthy vessel to that new and exciting port – the one with more riches.

 

 

A full time professional Benefit Auctioneer, Robertson annually conducts 70-80 fundraising auctions, raising more than $25 million dollars thus far in 2014. He is one of an estimated 30 auctioneers in the country that make fundraising auctions their full time profession.  Scott has earned the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) designation from the National Auctioneers Association.  Less than 1% of the auctioneers in the country have earned the BAS professional designation.  To learn more about Scott Robertson Auctioneers visit thevoe.com or call (239) 246-2139.

 

 

I Love my Homework-No really, I do!

Posted by Scott On July 17th

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I love my current occupation as a professional benefit auctioneer. But like many hard working professionals, I often reflect back to my previous occupation and think to myself, “If it wasn’t for the lessons I’ve learned during that job I would not be as successful in my current job.”

What’s ironic about that statement is my previous profession was that of a teacher – and a coach. For 16 years I taught high school – and yes – I assigned plenty of homework.  But I did it with a smile on my face and with passion in my soul knowing that a little hard work on the students part would make them more productive citizens once they tossed their graduation caps into the air and continued life’s wonderful journey away from these hallowed halls.

And during those 16 years I took an old teacher’s adage to heart, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”  There must be something to those 14 words.  I was fortunate enough to win many awards recognizing me as an outstanding teacher.

Today, most of us shutter at the thought of homework.  I would bet many of you have nightmares on occasion about a homework assignment you didn’t complete – or lost on your way to school.

As for me, I love it. And I have homework assignments every day – every week of the year.

That’s because, as a fundraising auctioneer, I really get involved with the charity or organization I am going to represent.  After all, how can I stand in front of – or in many cases intermingle closely with their guests and donors – if I know very little about the charity and its cause?

So now I have a new adage.  “No one knows how much you care until they know how much you know about their good work.”

To me, homework is everything. It’s the foundation of what I do. In fact, I really don’t care for the word “work” in homework.  I find it enjoyable and rewarding.  And it is a critical component to not only my success – but to the charity’s success as well.

Ahh Homework!  I think I’ll get back at it right after I put the period at the end of this sentence.

 

“For additional information on fundraising auctions and Scott Robertson Auctioneers, please visit his website“© 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.

Musical Chairs

Posted by Scott On June 12th

circlechairs

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.

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.

football coach

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.

Event Producer Worth The Investment

Posted by Scott On May 29th

PJ_Pic

A number of blogs ago I wrote you should not have a band playing hard-driving dance music during dinner. My reasoning is fairly simple. I believe your guests need to eat in peace – and be able to converse with others sharing their table.  But more importantly, I want the guests to conserve their energy for when the fundraising activity takes place.

I’m sticking to my guns here – fundamentally – although a recent experience has convinced me: “You can teach an old dog a new trick.”

Let me set the stage.  During a recent fundraising event the silent auction was closing and the guests were beginning to move from the cocktail reception/silent auction area into the dining room. This transition usually takes about 15 minutes

The silent auction portion of the event went OK, but there was not a lot of energy being shown by the attendees. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d describe their energy level as a 3.0 or 3.5 at max.

The dining space was nicely decorated – but truth be told – it was larger than needed for the crowd. The band continued to play “transition music” as the guests began taking their seats. That’s when I noticed their energy level had dropped to a 1.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one to notice it. That’s because that night I had the privilege to work with one of the best professionals in the business – Ms. PJ Fuerstman Meyer. PJ is a Event Production Specialist – or in other words – an outstanding event producer from P’zazz Productions. She orchestrates the entire event.

As the guests began eating their salad course, PJ approached me about the lack of energy in the room and said she had a solution to the problem. So, as I left to room to check out the results of the silent auction – PJ talked to the band in an effort to change the energy level around.

 

By the time I bandreturned – just 3 short minutes later – dance music filled the room and PJ’s Pzazz Dancers were pulling attendees up on the dance floor. I couldn’t believe my eyes. At least half of the guests were boogying to the band and showing their moves on the dance floor. Fun!

It was great, but I was still concerned because I know early fast dancing can deplete guests of their energy. And they continue focusing on having fun and not fundraising. I voiced my concern to PJ.

Now, here’s where PJ really showed her professionalism and incredible talent. Sure, she got the guests on their feet after eating their salads.  But, now, how do you get them off their feet and back in their seats for the main dinner course?

 

Well, PJ had the answer.  She asked the food service company to begin serving the entrée in 5 minutes.  So PJ went to the band once again and requested a danceable 4-minute song – which they played.

Now, here comes the brilliant part. As the food servers began to stream through the doors delivering entrees, the band suggested everyone take their seats began playing a slow song with a strange beat that no one could really dance to. So people began filing off the dance floor and started to eat their dinner – right on cue, and very subtle.

It was at this time PJ looked at me with a gleam in her eye and said, “See there – I can clear a dance floor in 30 seconds.”  I had to chuckle a little bit and thought to myself, “It worked beautifully because it was orchestrated perfectly.”

But before me lie the question I was asking myself throughout the dancing, “Will the live auction benefit or suffer from this during-dinner service activity?” Well, I’m pleased to say it was beneficial. The energy level in the room jumped to at least an 8. Still not a 10 – but so much better than the 1 we were seeing.

So as dinner was wrapping up the live auction portion of the fundraiser began.  And I’m thrilled to report the guests had sustainable energy – and that helped us meet the goal for the Live Auction and a new record for the Fund-a-Need. It was PJ that really made the difference.

So the lesson learned was this – people’s energy levels need to be monitored at all times.  And it takes an experienced and professional event producer to make those types of calls. I’m convinced if PJ wasn’t there – the results of the fundraiser would have been dramatically different. That is why I highly recommend charities and organizations hire an Event Producer for their event.

dogs2

Now for a quick synopsis.  Can the band play before the entree – Yes.  Can people dance before the entree – Yes.  Can people dance through the entire dinner – No. It’s too big a waste of the energy they’ll need later.

As for the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick” – I’d have to humbly disagree.  Because in this case, I’m the dog. Although I’d take exception to the “old” part.

 

 

 

The Strategy For A Successful Silent Auction

Posted by Scott On May 22nd

“Instant Purchase” Option Gaining Popularity At Silent Auctions

Over the past few months I’ve been focusing on the Live Auction portion of fundraising since it is the part of the event which brings in the most money. But the Silent Auction portion is also very important and I have several tips which will certainly help your silent auction go more smoothly – and more profitably.

A silent auction does have a “life cycle.” My first advice is to have the silent auction tables set up and the silent auction items on display prior to the first guest arriving. This is important because the minute your guests arrive, they usually head directly to the bar and then begin having conversations with friends.  After all, no one ever walks in the doors of a fundraising event and immediately begins shopping. This only occurs on “Black Friday” at 4 a.m. when the doors open at Best Buy.

Now, here’s a really big tip.  Place your best silent auction items near the bar and/or where the line forms for drinks. This gives your guests something to do while they await their turn for the bartender’s attention.

Please understand that wherever you place the bar is the location where people are going to stop and congregate.  So, one bar located deep in the silent auction area is a great idea.

Also, if you have high tables set up for people to gather around – place their drinks – and converse with friends prior to the sit-down dinner – be sure to place those tables close to the silent auction tables. This makes it easier for people to bid on silent auction items. By the same token do not place these tables so close to the silent auction items that they interfere with the traffic flow of the silent auction.

silent-auction-animation1The silent auction should start the minute you open the doors to the venue but should only go on for an hour and a half. So if your event starts at 6 p.m. – the silent auction should conclude at 7:30 p.m. or before dinner. Never expect your attendees to go to the dining room and then get up and come back to bid more. The only people who do this are bargain shoppers.

During the time period of the silent auction it is perfectly acceptable to remind your guests about the auction items.  And it’s a good idea for effective board members of the charity as well as Event Chairs and other high-ranking event volunteers to work one-on-one with the guests.

But don’t do it the minute the doors open. Give your guests about 30 minutes to relax – have a drink – and converse with friends. Then let the “did-you-see-our-silent-auction-items” sales pitch begin.

And finally – if you’re an Event Chair or in charge of the silent auction DON’T PANIC if a lot of people don’t participate early in the silent auction.  My experience tells me the majority wait for the last 15 to 30 minutes to place their bids. That’s why it’s important to remind the guests about the silent auction while it’s going on.

It’s even more important to close the silent auction at the planned time. Deadlines create excitement and create a sense of urgency. More time does not equal more money.

 

Not All Items Belong In Live Auction

Posted by Scott On May 16th

 

 

Winefest standing 2013

After 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer I’ve seen charities and organizations make plenty of mistakes when it came 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 meets 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 to $5,000 vs. an item in the $20,000 to $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.

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(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.

Beware of the Board

Posted by Scott On May 8th

board

For this Blog I may be a little blunt, but since it deals with the subject of Advisory Boards I feel it needs to be.

Let me start by saying I have respect for Board Members and feel they play an important role in setting standard policies for charities and other organizations. Having served on numerous boards over the years, I fully understand the responsibility that’s entrusted to this position.

However, with that said, if you’ve been selected as an Event Chair and have to get approval for every decision you’ll need to make regarding a fundraising event – RUN, DON’T WALK – away from the event.

The Board may be well-meaning but sometimes they can’t get out of their own way. They are often more concerned about potential waste of funds and not raising money. They also have a tendency of trying to dictate policy despite the fact they severely lack fundraising knowledge – a “Father Knows Best” mentality.

Before you accept the position as Event Chair here is the one question that needs to be answered.

*Do I have the ability to make decisions or do all   decisions need to be approved by the Board?decisions

There are several great reasons I feel so strongly about this!

To begin with, if an Event Chair must get every decision approved by a Board a great deal of time is wasted. And there is no bigger “motivation killer” and “momentum killer” than wasting time.

It’s also extremely disheartening for – not only the Event Chair – but also for all the volunteers who are dedicating their time for the fundraiser.

Simply stated, Chairs need total authority and should never be second guessed throughout the entire event-planning process.  It’s total control or let the Board find someone else.

To make matters even worse, often times these same board members do not attend the function, and if they do, do not feel it is their responsibility to actively participate in the fundraising. They prefer to “sit on high and dictate” and after the fundraising event decide where and how to spend the profits.

There is an old adage when it comes to board participation in fundraising known as the three G’s. Give, Get or Get Off the board.

We all also know the adage, “Too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the broth.”  As it relates to fundraising events – I couldn’t agree more.

 © 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