Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

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.

 

 

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.

images

(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.

3915

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!!!”

 

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

images

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

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

2)   Their performance is not smooth.

3)   They don’t understand bid increments.

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

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

Choose Your Fundraising Auctioneer Carefully

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

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

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

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

to helm and back-Scott Robertson Auctioneers

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

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

Worth My Weight In “Sold”

Posted by Scott On December 26th

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

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.

scott

But, more importantly, when a fundraising event is over, if I can’t point out at least four or five separate occasions during the course of the auction where I fully paid for myself, I am disappointed. I’m very proud to say, this rarely happens.

The organizers and attendees may not always recognize when this occurs, but as the front man in the room, I certainly do.

I wish I could pinpoint ahead of time exactly when this will happen during the course of a fundraising event.  But, more times than not it happens in an unexpected place – and more times than not – in an unexpected way.

So you might be asking yourself; “Why is this important?”

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

Well, the answer is easy.  As a professional benefit auctioneer I sometimes hear from Event Chairs that the charity decided to use a non-professional or volunteer auctioneer for their fundraiser as a way to save money. I try to explain I don’t cost the organization money – I make them money. But for some, the message falls on deaf ears.

For the record, when I’m hired to be the front man for an event, my record for 2013 show I help the charity reach its fundraising goal 95%  of the time. And 83% of the time I exceed the previous record for the auction.  No brag.  Just fact.

So, if you’re looking for an auctioneer for your event consider hiring a professional benefit auctioneer. They pay for themselves by helping charities raise more than they thought possible.  Or as the headline to this Blog proclaims, “We’re worth our weight in ‘Sold.’”

The Economy’s Improving! Will Our Bottom Line?

Posted by Scott On December 12th

Economy

If you believe the majority of the business reports in both the print and broadcast news media the economy is on the upswing. Sure, there have been a few glitches in the uptick, but for the most part it appears the past “down years” are now behind us.

The apparent improving economy has led many fundraising chairman to ask me if the upswing will roll over into their money raising efforts during the coming year. Although, in general terms it should, it’s really hard to project since fundraising isn’t directly tied to the overall economy – but the specific donor’s economy.

So, what do I mean by that?  Well, if the country’s economic conditions are improving it’s a good sign for the country.  What’s more important is – is the donor’s economic conditions improving? The two don’t always coincide.

It really comes down to confidence.  If donors are confident about the economy they tend to loosen their pocketbooks. If they are not confident they will remain cautious and save for the proverbial “rainy day.

Charity

With that said, there is a way for charities to get donors – no matter the economic conditions – to contribute to the charity’s fundraising efforts.  And that’s to build their confidence that the money they are donating is going to a good cause and will be used wisely to improve the lives of others that so desperately need help.

Donors are usually cautious with their money during uncertain economic times.  However, they are willing to give if they have confidence the charity will be a good steward of their donation. The same holds true in good economic times.

It all comes down to communication.  And, not their economic index – but their confidence index.

Supportive Bidders

Posted by Scott On November 21st

supportive bidders-fundraising auctioneer

At any live auction there are usually three types of supporters in the crowd.  The first is a guest who feels the price of admission was enough charity and doesn’t plan to bid on any item.  The second is an enthusiastic guest that has money in his pocket and is willing to bid as high as necessary to get an item and help the charity in the process.  The third is what I refer to as a “supportive bidder.”

Supportive bidders are there to have fun. And, they are there to help the charity maximize its fundraising effort by bidding on items simply to get the price of the item up.

I’m not referring to a “plant” or a “shill.”  A charity should never place a person in the room whose only purpose is to compete with other bidders with the intention of never actually winning a bid.

A supportive bidder does this on his or her own accord. They are really “soft bidders.”  By that I mean if they bid on an item and would happen to get it they are happy.  But, their real purpose is to make more money for the charity by getting others to bid higher – especially if they feel the current bids are below the items true value.

fundraising auctioneer

An auctioneer often doesn’t know who the supportive bidders are until the live auction actually starts. However, by reading a bidder’s body language and mannerisms a professional benefit auctioneer can spot them rather quickly and use them to the charity’s advantage.

When bidding on an item is slow or if a current bid is far below what I think an item should sell for I find myself drifting towards the supportive bidders as a means to get the ball rolling a little faster – and the bids a little higher.  I think most of the time they know that I know what they are doing and they usually play along.

So remember, no “plants” or “shills.” But keep in mind supportive bidders are in the room and can play a key role in your fundraising success – if the auctioneer knows how to spot them – and use them for your benefit.

 

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.