Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Hi Scott Robertson here. Today we’re going to talk about momentum at your fundraising auction.

When you start the live auction you need to start with momentum and keep that momentum rolling all the way through to the conclusion of the live auction. Don’t interrupt it with pulling raffle tickets, speeches, or anything!

Keep the momentum rolling!

There is one exception to the rule and that is perhaps in the middle or at the end you can do what we call Fund a Need that’s okay as long as it fits in to the flow of the entire event. But once the live auction gets started, maintain that momentum and that will allow you to have success.

Do not interrupt the momentum. You’ll be disappointed if you do. Listen to your professional fundraising auctioneer. They’ll be singing the same song that I’m singing which is keep the momentum rolling.

If you’d like a consultation with a professional who can help you exceed your fundraising goals, I’d love to help. Please contact me to set up a meeting.

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.

Thanks For A Record-Setting Year

Posted by Scott On March 6th

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At the time this Blog is being written I’m in the midst of my busiest time of year – those dates between early January and mid-April when many major fundraising events are held.

But, as 2014 begins to unfold I need to take a few minutes to reflect back on 2013 – because – what an incredible year it’s been.

When I began my career as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer some 20 years ago my number one goal was to help families in need – especially children. I thought then – if I could assist charities, schools and organizations raise several hundred thousand dollars a year – the world would be a better place.

My mission came right from the heart. Little could I have realized the figure I had in my head at that time would not only be reached – but exceeded way beyond my original expectations.

I say this because in 2013, I was able to help raise a total of $21,757,360 for charities within Florida and the country. As a comparison, in 2012 I helped raise $14,853,000.  That’s an incredible jump of some 33 percent – a new personal record. And one of which I’m extremely proud.

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But, let me be clear.  I didn’t do it on my own I have merely played a role in the success. I’ve had the privilege of working with some great Event Chairs and their committees – volunteers who work tirelessly for months on end – if not an entire year – to make their fundraiser a success. And let’s not forget the generous donors, who spend their hard earned dollars to make the world a better place for others.

It truly is an honor to work aside such dedicated individuals who feel so strongly about their mission. In many ways their passion makes my job a little easier.  And I hope visa versa.

I look back at 2013 with pride. But, I also know that I cannot dwell on the past.  A successful, record-shattering year does not mean the mission has been completed.  In fact, quite the contrary.

To the charities I’ve worked with this past year – and especially the Event Chairs – I say Thank You!  We created a strong and successful partnership.

But, it’s a new year. There are many new and important missions ahead. So many families – especially children – are counting on us.

Clothing the Deal

Posted by Scott On February 28th

to helm and back-Scott Robertson Auctioneers

It’s no secret that one of the things I’m known for is my colorful vests. Not only do they energize me when I put them on, it energizes the attendees – and in a subtle way – sets the stage for a fun event.

Over the course of my career I’ve had to literally “give the shirt” or should I say vest “off my back.” I’ll sacrifice it for a good cause, but only if the situation and timing is appropriate.

My experience has been – that if a vest is going to sell – it needs to be spontaneous with the guest making the request. In 2013, such a request was made 6 different times with one vest selling for $15,000. If you’re curious – opening bids start at a minimum of $1,000.

 

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The timing of the selling of the vest is crucial. If an auction is humming along the last thing I want to do is interrupt the flow. I also don’t want to siphon proceeds that may have gone to a major cause such as Fund-A-Need.

With that said, if an auction needs a shot of excitement, selling the vest off my back can be a great addition.

Now, here’s something else I’ve learned through 20 years of experience.

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When the auction is in full swing my job is to be totally focused. Any side deals like this are handled by my auction assistants or the event planner in charge of the event.

If someone, particularly a well-meaning volunteer who has heard about me selling a vest at auction brings up the idea, my auction assistants quickly dismiss it if the volunteer is not planning on backing up the idea by bidding on it. And for it to be successful addition to an auction, I prefer at least 2 people being committed to purchasing the vest so we have an actual auction experience.

In short – I’m happy to give the vest off my back.  But it only works if 2 or more people want to bid on it and only if the request occurs in a spontaneous “fashion.”

 

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…

 

 

 

 

 

Expectations of the Front Man

Posted by Scott On January 16th

 

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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 Economy’s Improving! Will Our Bottom Line?

Posted by Scott On December 12th

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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.

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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.