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Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Hiring an Auctioneer is Not a Full Committee Decision

Posted by Jessica Geer On August 14th

Classical Greek philosopher Plato once said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” As a professional benefit auctioneer, I could not agree more. 

Throughout the course of the year I’m contacted by various charities and organizations searching for a fundraising auctioneer. When the decision maker makes the call and signs the contract everything moves smoothly along.  Where the system bogs down is when I hear the words, “I’ll need to present your credentials and agreement to our full committee and will get back in touch with you.”

The decision regarding who to hire as a fundraising auctioneer should never be delegated to a full committee. Sure, it sounds great and wonderful to have everyone aboard, but the problem is, “too many cooks spoil the broth.

Recently, the Executive Director of an organization wanted to hire me for their upcoming fundraiser. The Event Chair also wanted to hire me. But both wanted to get everyone on the full committee to agree.  When you bring in a lot of people a number of issues pop up, many of which are unfair as the auctioneer is not present to answer the question and resolve the concern.

Based upon feedback I hear the top three issues that arise during the full committee meeting are:

1)  Someone will say “we are all volunteers, we shouldn’t have to pay for an auctioneer/consultant.

2)  Some committee member says “I saw someone who did a really good job at the _______ gala. I will get more information on that person and present it to the committee”, thus delaying the decision until at least the next meeting. (Do not be surprised when this committee member forgets to get the information and delays things even further.)

3)  Another committee member says “I know someone with a great personality, and is really funny, who might be willing to be our auctioneer.

This list could go on and on as suddenly the committee is more concerned with price than with performance. They forget the decision should always be based on ROI, return on investment.

So, from the time the charity or organization first contacts me to the time they get back to me with a decision weeks may have gone by. During this waiting period, a different group not only contacted me, but signed the agreement to hire me, which left me no other choice but to tell the other group, “Sorry, but I’m already booked.”

I learned from the past – I can’t hold dates for organizations. When full committees get involved in the decision process, precious time is lost, and that often results in disappointment.

The solution is simple – the decision to hire an auctioneer should be made by a steering committee of two or three people – but no more than five. This steering committee needs to take the lead and make the decisions so everything is handled efficiently and effectively. These are the people that deal with the consulting portion of the auctioneer services for the months leading up to the fundraising event. The full committee needs to trust those in the steering committee to make the executive decisions.

Everyone has an opinion.  But like I said in the beginning, “Too many cooks….”   

 

Do you have additional questions?  Contact Scott today!

Keeping in Touch with Donors

Posted by Jessica Geer On June 19th

Ahh summertime – the four months out of the year when people relax and recharge 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.

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.

Have a great summer!

 

 

One would think that, after helping to raise millions of dollars for charities in the past 9 months, Benefit Auctioneer Scott Robertson would unwind during the summer.  Kick off his shoes. And simply relax at his Fort Myers, Florida home.  

Well, that’s not Scott.  Instead, he’s spending his summer – his time off from his hectic auctioneering world – to guide hundreds of white water rafters down a fast-flowing river in what they often consider an adventure of a lifetime.   

According to Scott, being an auctioneer and being a white water rafting guide, his two passions besides his wife Mary of course, have many similarities.   

Scott’s career as an auctioneer began over 20 years ago.  But his love for the water – and auctions – started much earlier than that at his childhood home about 50 miles outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

“When I was seven years old I built my first wood raft,” recalled Scott.  “Ironically, that’s about the same age when I started attending farm and antique auctions with my parents. I guess it was destiny the two would meet later on in my life.”

Scott’s early adventures on Flat Creek didn’t stop at rafting. While fishing the swift and cold Kentucky stream he also learned about water flow by observing the bobber at the end of his line.

As often as he could he would be found floating on the creek or fishing from its bank, Scott spent just as much time with his dad, a farmer, and his mom, an antique storeowner, attending auctions.  That’s when he began appreciating the concept of the auction and the power of the auctioneer.

It was 34 years ago this summer when Scott first put his rafting skills and water current knowledge to the test when he became a rafting guide for Adventures On The Gorge on the New and Gauley Rivers in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

“Every summer I really enjoy hanging up my tuxedos and colorful auctioneer vests in exchange for a wetsuit and lifejacket,” said Scott. “I guide about 35 trips down the river during the rafting season.  But, that’s far fewer than the number of trips I take for the remaining nine months traveling the country as a professional benefit auctioneer.”

During one of his rafting trips last year Scott realized there were several similarities between his career as an auctioneer and his summer job, of being a white water rafting guide.

“The first thought I had when comparing the two was nervous energy,” said Scott.  “I always have nervous energy prior to an auction and prior to launching the raft.  Regardless of the number of auctions you conduct or trips you take down the river you are only as good as your next trip or performance.”

Another comparison can be stated in four words:  Living in the moment.

“It’s impossible to have anything else on your mind but the mission ahead when you are entering into a rapid or conducting an auction.  You must have total focus,” he said.  “And you must think two to three moves ahead – planning where you need to be and what you need to do to get there.”

Then there’s analyzing the audience.  According to Scott, an auctioneer must be able to size up the attendees at a fundraising auction to maximize the charity’s profit. The same holds true for those eight individuals boarding the white water raft.  The guide must be able to size up each passenger and play to their strengths to minimize their weaknesses.

The final two comparisons are Scott’s favorites.

“Everyone depends on my leadership role whether times are good or challenging.  As a benefit auctioneer you must control the action from start to finish. The organizers and attendees of the event depend me to take charge of the auction and see it through to a successful completion.

The same is true when I’m a white water rafting guide.  There is a trust factor and those on the raft must have total confidence that I’m going to get them down the river safely.”

Scott added, “Perhaps my favorite comparison deals with having fun.  Guests at a fundraiser want to have a good time and be entertained in the process.  The passengers on my raft want the same thing – to have fun.  There’s no better sensation than the “feeling of satisfaction” trip after trip or auction after auction.”  

Scott, who turned 56 a few months back, said he has no immediate plans to hang up his wetsuit any time soon.  In fact, he and his wife Mary, who he met while being a guide and is a guide herself, purchased 6 acres about four miles from the rafting company and relocated a 200-year old cabin on the site.

“This is my home away from home,” stated Scott.  “I still love white water rafting as much today as I did when I first arrived 34 years ago.” 

“It’s the same with auctioneering.  I think it’s even more fun now. I simply love the interaction with people, especially the event chairs when their fundraising goals weren’t just met – but exceeded.”

Scott concluded, “I have to admit, if I’m being honest, I truly love what I do.  Whether it’s being a guide on a white water rafting adventure or being the auctioneer for an important fundraising event – I love to lead.  You might say regarding both disciplines, I’m ‘SOLD!’”

 

 

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

2011-11-09-14.15.26-300x225

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

circlechairs

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.

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!!!”

live_auction

 

 

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.

photo

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…