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Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Beware of the Board

Posted by Scott On May 8th


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



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!!!”

Temperature at your event is important

Posted by Scott On April 3rd


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.

Setting: An Example (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On March 27th

2013-09-14 18.00.13

In my last Blog I discussed the subject of decorating a venue. In it I had to confess I don’t get involved in the process because it’s not my forte. Just ask my wife Mary. When guests walk through our home we receive many compliments which I have to quickly deflect in Mary’s direction. Sure, I can hang a curtain rod, but she’s the one with the eye for interior design.

However, I did make a few suggestions regarding what to do and not do when decorating a venue.  Those suggestions included:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission. If your mission is to feed the hungry, then decorate the tables with canned food items that will remind the donors why they are there.

I do have one more suggestion when it comes to setting the mood at a fundraising event – and that’s the use of “Uplighting.”


Uplighting is the process where theatrical lighting fixtures – such as Par Cans (mostly widely used lights for concerts, nightclubs and touring productions) and Color Bars are used to add color to a room.

These light fixtures are placed on the floor pointing up and project color on surfaces such as columns, alcoves, corners and any other piece of architecture that you want to stand out. The good news is these lights can add any color you wish and may be programmed to change colors throughout the evening.

Perhaps the best part of Uplighting is that it can be achieved at a minimum cost and yet have a maximum impact.

At an event I did last year the decorating committee used Uplighting extremely well.  The effects were amazing and I dare say that most of the crowd had no idea the beautiful and colorful lighting effect was simply an Uplight on a regular household screen.

Let me conclude this 2-Blog subject by reiterating that I am in no way suggesting that decorations do not play an important role at a gala. It does. It’s just not my field of expertise.

I really enjoy watching the guests arrive – and when they walk into the venue for the first time – listen to their Oohs and Ahhs as they head to their assigned tables.

The decorations also play a key role in recruiting for next year’s event. Remember, your guests are paying a significant amount per ticket to attend the event, $100 – $500 per person at most of the events I conduct.  They don’t want to feel as if the charity “went cheap” and lessened the quality of the event and their experience at the fundraiser.

But there is a balance. It’s up to the decorating committee to understand where that balance is so both parties – the charity and the donors – go home feeling great about the hours they just spent helping others in need.


© 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.


Video Marketing A Growing Trend (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On February 12th

video marketing a growing trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

In our last blog we talked about the trend regarding the use of videos in promoting fundraising events. We also reviewed what the videos could promote including; the specific mission of the charity, the items up for auction and how past events helped change lives and made the community better – to name just a few.

Also discussed was the length of a video.  “Keep it short” was a repeated theme.  Some could be as short as 30 seconds – while others could run up to 2 minutes – but no longer. Remember, people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

Now, it’s time to get your video on the Internet. It’s a relatively simple process – so don’t panic.

The easiest way to get your video on the Internet is by using YouTube and creating your very own channel.

To get started, go to On the upper right hand side will be a blue icon that says “Sign In.” Click it. The next thing – in the same position – is a red icon that says “Create an Account.” Click on it and fill out the form.


When you finish the “set up process” your channel will have been created.  You can than begin to upload your video or videos to your new YouTube channel.

video marketing trend a growin trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

Now, there are 2 different ways to connect your new YouTube channel to your website.  The easiest is to have your website administrator set up a YouTube link on your site.  By doing this anyone on your website can click on the YouTube link and go directly to your YouTube Channel to view the videos.

The other is to have your website administrator actually click on one of the videos on your YouTube channel.  Directly underneath the video will be the word “Share”.  Click it. At this time 3 new icons will appear including the word “Embed”.  Click it to expose the actual “embed code.”  Your website administrator can now copy and place that code directly on your website for immediate viewing.

For those who shoot video with their cell phones – it gets a little tricky.  That’s because all cell phones aren’t exactly alike, but here’s the general concept.

After you shoot your video with your phone, plug your phone into your computer and download the video by following the prompts that appear.  Once the video is downloaded you can upload it on your YouTube channel.


Some Smart Phones however allow you, once the video is shot, to simply select the video and share it on YouTube directly.

This may all sound complicated to the video novice – but it’s not.  And the payoff could be – well – blockbuster.

Video Marketing A Growing Trend

Posted by Scott On February 6th

video marketing a growing trend-scott robertson auctioneers

I had lunch a few weeks back with a friend who produces and hosts business and real estate videos for the Internet. He mentioned that such videos are a growing trend due to the fact the majority of “Web Surfers” prefer to be entertained and informed in a short video presentation format rather than having to read paragraph upon paragraph of copy. What he said made perfect sense.

This new video trend is also beginning to gain momentum in the world of fundraising.  If you are not promoting your event with the use of video let me help you get started.

Nearly every cell phone these days not only takes photos, but also video. Although this could do in a pinch, I’d recommend using a regular digital camcorder due to the fact the quality is much better.

Once your video is recorded it will have to be imported from the camera to a computer, edited, and then uploaded to YouTube or other video-sharing sites. This may sound complicated – but trust me – someone on your staff will be happy to take on this task.



So, what should be explained or shown in a video format?  Well, just about anything.  But, here’s a good place to start.

1)    Use video to better explain the mission of the charity

2)   Use video to promote the items in the auction

3)   Use video to help sell tickets

4)   Use video to show how the previous year’s event helped  change lives and made the community better

5)   Shoot video during your current event (when appropriate) of people having fun as promotion for next year’s event

Now, here’s perhaps the most important advice I can give regarding these videos – KEEP THEM SHORT!

People’s attention spans are short – so keep every video you produce short.  Some videos should run as short as 30 seconds while the longest they should run is 2 minutes – and that’s pushing it.

In the months to come you will be seeing more and more fundraising events promoted with the use of videos on the Internet.  So grab those digital camcorders and start shooting. Who knows – you might be the next Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg.

In our next blog we’ll discuss how to link your videos to your website and to YouTube.



Expectations of the Front Man

Posted by Scott On January 16th


expectations of a frontman-fundraising auctioneer

I often refer to a professional benefit auctioneer as the “front man” of an event.  Sure, I am the host and chief money-raiser, both rolls by the way which I cherish tremendously.  But, I’m also so much more.

In fact, I often think of myself as an on-course official at a professional golf event whose sole job it is to monitor a player’s or group’s “pace of play!” Those officials are out there to assure the daily schedule is adhered to and that everything runs on time, as smoothly as possible, without feeling rushed.

I do the same as a professional benefit auctioneer. But, rather than constantly watching a timepiece – I trust my inner clock – my instincts – to keep the event moving along at the pace the guests expect.

Let me state emphatically – Pace is Crucial. Here’s why!

When attendees pay large money to participate in an event – they have the expectation the event will flow along in a smooth and effortless manner. One must remember, these VIPs are often heads of corporations, major local business owners and other “movers and shakers” within the community. Their businesses are well-oiled machines.  And they expect the fundraising event to be the same.

So please remember, the minute your attendees walk through your gate – whether it be a door or an opening to a fashionable tent – their time is valuable.  So keep your event paced from start to finish.

Now, here’s another piece of advice. At the beginning of this Blog I said I was the “front man” of an event. If you’ll notice, I never used the word “Star” and never have used the word “Star” to describe my role.

In fact, I am not the star of any event I host.  That title goes to your attendees – and they should be treated as such from the moment they arrive to the moment they depart.

The bottom line:  Your event should flow along in a smooth and effortless manner. Anything else makes your guests uncomfortable and they can easily start to wonder – “If the event is disorganized and has minutes of hesitation and large gaps of indecision – how is the organization or charity we are supporting run.”

And treat your VIPs like – well – VIPs. By doing both, your financial goals will not only “stay on pace” with your expectations – but exceed them.




 © 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.


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


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.

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.


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.

Table Captains

Posted by Scott On November 7th

love boat

In many episodes of “The Love Boat” there was a scene were special passengers were asked to join Captain Stubing at his designated dining room table.  It was considered a real honor to receive such an invitation. At your next fundraising event, you should consider following in Captain Stubing’s footsteps – albeit without the cruise ship.

Captain’s Tables are a great way to increase revenues at a fundraiser.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a Captain’s Table is when an entire table at an auction gala is purchased by a supporter of the charity who then in return invites his or her friends to join them at the event.

There can be many Table Captains at your fundraising auction gala. To begin the process, suggest to the board members of the organization that they all should purchase a table and assume the role. Other supporters can join in as well.

A Table Captain who can purchase a table for 8 to 10 usually runs in affluent circles.  The assumption is:  When the Table Captain buys the table – the guests invited to the table contribute to the cause.  Or in other words, “Many hands make light work.”


The Table Captain is also a great ambassador for your cause.  Here are a few things the Captain should explain to his or her guests:

1)    Why the cause is so personally near and dear to their hearts

2)   Why they are personally involved with the charity

3)   How the money raised will be utilized to improve the community and/or the lives of its residents

4) That the generous participation in the evening fundraising activities is appreciated by the Table Captain.

By better understanding the charity’s mission, needs and goals it’s not unusual for a Table Captain’s guest to become a regular attendee of future events and a strong supporter and donor for years to come.

Now, if I can just get the theme song of “The Love Boat” out of my head.