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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.

 

 

Staying in Touch with Donors

Posted by Scott On September 11th

 

Staying in Touch with DonorsAhh summertime – the four months out of the year when people relax and rejuvenate their batteries.  Families head out on vacation. Picnics are held in local parks. Florida folks tend to head to cooler climates. And charities reconnect with their donors.

Oh, did that last one throw you off?  Well, let me explain.

Summertime is the best time to reach out to those donors and supporters who gave so generously at your last fundraiser or auction. That’s because your event was probably held between October and May so you’re in that ‘tween stage. The last event is a distant memory but the next event is heading for the spotlight.

It’s always important to remind your donors and supporters that the money they gave last time is being utilized successfully and frugally. Saying thank you – whether it be by spoken word or written note – is important and much appreciated by those who gave.

But it’s even more important that your donors and supporters understand the money they gave previously is being invested wisely and really changing the lives of those for whom the donation was intended.

This summertime reconnection with donors and supporters should be packaged in a three-level message. Here’s an example.3

Let’s say a portion of the money raised at your last event was going toward funding reading or math tutoring sessions for students. The message you send to donors and supporters should include the following:

1)   A Message From A Student.  Nothing is more powerful than a grateful quote from a student who is being helped by the tutoring program because the donation is shaping his or her life for the better.

2)   A Message From The Tutor.  This person is not only the engineer guiding the train of knowledge, but is an eye witness to the progress of the life-enhancing, one-student classroom.

3)   A Message From The Director or CEO.  Yes, this is from whom donors and supporters would typically expect to receive a message. This person is important since he or she can give an overall picture of the program, explain how many students the program helped and how it made a difference in their lives. This is also a good note to include a simple sentence of “save the date” to reconfirm the date of your upcoming event.

Of course, this technique can be tailor made to reflect the charity you represent. So, even if it’s the dog days of summer, be sure to reconnect with your donors and supporters.  This is the ideal time of the year to let them know their previous donation is being put to good use.

This will accomplish two things.

It will make them feel good about the money they gave and just might open their wallets a little wider or make their checks a little heavier the next time they attend your event.

 

I Love my Homework-No really, I do!

Posted by Scott On July 17th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“For additional information on fundraising auctions and Scott Robertson Auctioneers, please visit his website“© 2014 Scott Robertson Auctioneers. All Rights Reserved. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.

Musical Chairs

Posted by Scott On June 12th

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A few days ago a strange, but an absolute right-on comparison popped into my head and I thought I’d share it with you today.  A fundraising gala – that has both a silent auction and a live auction – is much like a game of musical chairs. You weren’t expecting that comparison where you?! But, hear me out.

During an event, with both a silent auction and a live auction, there is a time when your guests should be on their feet and a time when they should take a seat.

Let’s begin with the silent auction. This is the time of the event you want your guests on their feet.  You want them to be mobile so they can walk around and mingle – preferably bidding on the silent auction items.

It’s alright to have a little bit of seating for those who have difficulty walking or standing, but place the seating in the corners of the room and away from the silent auction area.

However, you can have tables near the silent auction area, but they should be high cocktail tables with NO bar stools. This will give your guests a place to rest their drinks and chat with those immediately around them without them sitters.  Remember, once a person sits they tend to protect their “real estate” and not move from their seats. Keeping them standing or walking around the silent auction tables will result in higher revenue being generated for the charity.

With that said, it’s just the opposite during a live auction. You want everyone seated – no movement.  This will keep your guests focused on the PowerPoint presentation containing the live auction slides, the auctioneer, and especially the items being auctioned.

football coach

It’s much like a high school football coach, when near the end of practice, he tells his players to take a knee as he goes over today’s practice and what they can expect at this week’s game.  By doing this the coach knows he’s taller than the players – and he has the stage.  It also assures no player’s view is blocked and his message will reach everyone within listening distance.

If your guests are walking around the room where the live auction is being held they create a disturbance and the others in the room lose focus. A loss of focus is a loss of revenue.

This is one of the primary reasons not to have a buffet at your fundraising auction. Whenever possible choose the sit down dinner

So keep them standing when they should be standing.  Keep them seated when they should be seated. At the end of the day your bottom line will thank you.

Not All Items Belong In Live Auction

Posted by Scott On May 16th

 

 

Winefest standing 2013

After 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer I’ve seen charities and organizations make plenty of mistakes when it came to the Live Auction portion of their fundraising event. Here’s one of the biggest.

*Charities or organizations intentionally decide to have items in their live auction which they feel all attendees can afford.

You know the drill – putting three or four items up for bid, in the live auction, that meets everyone’s price point. By doing this you probably feel better because now everyone can participate in the excitement and have the chance to take something home at the end of the night.

This sure sounds like a great idea. The problem is – come Monday morning – your bottom line will suffer.

You must remember, it takes as much time, effort and energy to auction low priced items as it does more expensive items – and for less money.

Here’s a great example.

 

You have a trip valued at $3,000 to $5,000 vs. an item in the $20,000 to $25,000 range. Even if the trip would get the top bid of $5,000 – the charity leaves potentially $20,000 on the table. Add that up three to four times during a live auction and you begin to see my point.

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(For the record, at your event the “affordable items” may be $300-$500 with the “expensive items” going for $2,000. The percentages are still the same as will be your feelings on Monday morning following the auction.)

So my recommendation is to put the high priced items in the live auction and place the lower to mid-priced donated items in the silent auction. This is a great way to appease your guests without deep pockets and get them involved.

Another way is to make sure the live auction is lively!  Just because a guest is not a bidder doesn’t mean they can’t have fun cheering on the bidders and watching the action.

Time is money.  So invest your Live Auction time wisely.

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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!!!”

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I mentioned in several previous blogs that keeping focused during the course of a live auction is one of my highest priorities.  That’s why around 20 minutes prior to an event I place myself in my “performance zone.”  I need this “alone time” to gather my thoughts and review the program in my mind.  Any interruption could derail all the hard work that started weeks or even months earlier.

What’s even a bigger challenge is to stay focused during the live auction when event chairs or event volunteers try to communicate with me.

During the live auction, my brain, like my vocal chords are racing at 100 mph. If someone attempts to talk to me – to give me a message during the live auction – one of two things happen.

  • My brain screeches to an abrupt halt forcing me to go off message as I search for an answer or response to the communication.
  • My brain continues racing along as I stay focused on the mission and unfortunately must ignore the message.

Neither option is productive to serious fundraising.

What I’m saying may make it appear as if I’m antisocial during the course of a live auction – or worse yet – a Prima donna.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The charity and I have but one goal – and that is to raise as much money as possible in a relatively short period of time. My preferred method of making that happen – limiting the number and timing of interruptions – helps me accomplish our mutual goal.

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With that said, here’s what works for me and hopefully will help your emcee or auctioneer if and when these situations arise at your event.

I find if someone will write me a note, sticky note preferred, and attach it to my auction binder located at the podium I can read the note without derailing my thoughts or interrupting the momentum of the live auction.

This is why at each auction I request that one cool-headed person be designated as my contact. This gatekeeper will be the only person to share information with me. This makes for better productivity for everyone and will increase the results of the auction.

That which I just described is a controllable situation.

In my next blog I’ll discuss the uncontrollable – the unexpected situation – when a drinking guest interrupts the flow of the live auction by presenting what he or she believes is a “great idea.”

Here’s a hint!  There’s no easy answer. Until then…

 

 

 

Setting: An Example (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On March 27th

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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

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.

 

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.

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 www.YouTube.com. 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.