Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

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.

Event Producer Worth The Investment

Posted by Scott On May 29th

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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.

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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.

 

Beware of the Board

Posted by Scott On May 8th

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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

 

Decorating the Venue Part 1

Posted by Scott On March 20th

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There’s a reason Hollywood hands out awards in the category of “Set Decoration” or “Art Decoration.” The visual effect of the set plays a key role in a movie’s authenticity and really sets the stage – forgive the pun – for the actor’s role to come to life and the audience to accept what they are seeing as real which enhances their theatre-going experience.

The same holds true for a charity fundraiser. The way in which a venue is decorated can play a key role in setting the stage for a success event. Now here comes the ironic part – I have nothing to do with it.

We all have our strengths. Mine is not in the realm of planning decorations for a gala. Not only am I decorating-deficient, I simply don’t have the time due to my auction schedule and consulting for many other aspects of a fundraiser from pre-planning to post-event analysis.

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Trust me, I fully appreciate and marvel at a beautifully decorated ballroom. I even attempt to match the tuxedo vest I wear the night of the event to the decor. But putting it all together – me actually getting involved with the decoration theme or process – is akin to allowing a bull wander around in a china shop.

However, with that said, I do inform clients there are some decorating basics they should follow for fundraising auctions.

I will go into detail in a minute – but here are three decorating basics all Event Chairs should adhere to:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission

Let’s begin with the subject of tall centerpieces. They may look great on a table but they interfere with the patrons seeing the auctioneer and/or the auctioneer seeing the patrons.

Wine Fest 2010 222

Audience analysis, a term I use on a regular basis and one of the keys of my success, is hinged upon my ability to closely observe the faces of the bidders and potential bidders. Due to this clear vision path I often know in advance when a person is going to bid or bid again long before they raise their paddle.

In addition, there is nothing more frustrating to a bidder than to raise their hand or bid paddle and then not being seen by the auctioneer or their ringman due to a centerpiece blocking their view. So keep centerpieces low.

Another important basic is: Don’t overspend on decorations. In my 20 years experience I’ve discovered the portion of the event budget that most often goes over budget is the decorating allowance. Too often the decorating committee gets carried away with hosting a lavish party and forgetting the purpose of the gala is to raise money – not waste it.

Decorations can: Set a nice tone for an event – Can make the attendees feel welcome – And make for great photo opportunities.  But they seldom add significantly to the bottom line. Besides, you don’t want your guests to feel as if their donations from the previous year were being used wastefully on unnecessary and extravagant decorations.

And finally, the decorations should enhance the event by helping to permeate the mission of the charity whenever possible. For instance, if your mission is to supply needed educational tools to school children then decorate the tables with educational manipulatives that are age appropriate for the children you’re trying to serve.

If your mission is to feed the needy, than use strategically placed canned goods and other packaged food items – that can also be used after the event to nourish the hungry – on the tables as decorations. Donors will love the fact that you are getting double duty from the decorations, therefore stretching their donation dollars.

In my next Blog I will talk about how “Uplighting” at an event also plays a key role in setting the mood and can be an integral part of the decor.

 

 

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.

Wine Fest 2010 222

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.

 

Vest

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.”