Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Archive for October, 2013



In a previous blog I talked about the value of meetings. Perhaps more importantly, in an effort to prevent volunteer burnout, I talked about the following:


1)   How far in advance the first meeting should be conducted prior to a fundraising event

2)   What decisions should be made during the earliest meetings

3)   The real purpose of a meeting and the need to stick to the agenda

4)   The reasoning behind forming sub-committees that work under the Steering Committee.


Now, here are a few additional tips regarding meetings.


General information should be disseminated to volunteers via emails and memos. However, specific topics such as sub-committee reports, item procurement, audience development and ticket sales should be discussed in a meeting environment.


During these meetings, stick to the agenda and stay on time. Do not allow anyone to take over the meeting with extended and repetitive dialog.


The minutes of the meeting should be distributed to the stakeholders and attendees within 48 hours of the meeting. This will serve as a reminder of the decisions of the meeting and also the tasks assigned. Also it’s important that the minutes from the previous meeting, including any updates, be handed out to the attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Expecting all attendees to bring the minutes that was distributed earlier is simply not realistic. Allow them 5 minutes of quiet time at the start of meeting to review the minutes. This will refresh their minds regarding what was discussed in the previous meetings and get them focused on the task at hand. This also allows a short buffer time for people who are habitually 3 minutes late.


During a meeting, if an assignment is given and accepted to a volunteer or committee member, write down the deadline as to when the assignment needs to be accomplished.  The person who did the assigning should contact the person with the assignment 2 days before the deadline and inquire as to how the assignment is progressing. The person with the task should present his or her progress during the next meeting.

group of cheerleaders cheering

Now, this is key to keeping meetings a positive gathering. Celebrate the wins when good news is shared. However, NEVER embarrass anyone at a meeting for a missed or incomplete assignment or task.  The leader should speak with them privately before or after.


In conclusion, keep meetings as short as possible – have only essential attendees be present – stick to the topics on the agenda – and be sure that the attendees feel, when the meeting is adjourned, that something was accomplished, that the event planning process was moved forward – and their valuable time was put to a good use.

Limiting Meeting Time Prevents Volunteer Burnout (Part 1)



Have you ever wondered: “When it comes to fundraising events, what’s the largest contributing factor to volunteer burnout?”  It’s a question I’m often asked – and my answer rarely comes as a surprise to the event chairs that ask it – Ineffective Meetings!


Let me state upfront, meetings do have value. But, those who schedule them need to keep a few things in mind.


To begin with, the purpose of meetings is to promote dialog and exchange ideas. A meeting is not a place for the event chair to simply provide information to the volunteers and other event personnel.  All general information should be distributed via memos and emails, not in a meeting format.



It’s essential that every meeting has an agenda. It’s also essential the person who calls the meeting or chairs the meeting sticks to the agenda. And if a meeting is scheduled, be sure:


  1. The meeting is worth all the attendees valuable time
  2. Will cause the project to move forward
  3. Begins and ends on time

Another question I’m frequently asked deals with the number of necessary meetings. Simply stated, it really depends on the organization and the issues that need to be resolved.


I’m a big proponent of having several sub-committees working under a Steering Committee. Steering committees should have two to five members who may act as the chair for a sub-committee. This will help in limiting the number of people who need to attend a meeting since the attendees have a specific purpose and role for being there.

Limiting Meeting Time  Prevents Volunteer Burnout (Part 1)

Meet as often as needed, but never meet for the sake of having a meeting. If a scheduled meeting is no longer required, cancel the meeting. Everyone is busy, attending a meeting that is perceived to be a waste of time creates ill feelings and stress.


And speaking of stress, the initial meeting for an upcoming fundraiser should take place 15 months ahead of the scheduled event. You read that correctly – 15 months. This way the next year’s event planning is occurring simultaneously with the current year’s event. The issues that arise during the final stages of the current year’s event can be learning opportunities for the next year.


It’s also crucial to get all large decisions made early so they are completed by the time the current year’s event happens. This includes but is not limited to:

  • The date
  • Venue
  • Theme





By doing this ahead of time these items can be announced at the conclusion of this year’s gala. Please understand I am not suggesting this planning for next year’s event in anyway interfere with implementation with the plans, item procurement or ticket sales for this year’s event. My suggestion is the steering committee for next year’s event get together early to make these decisions.


In an upcoming blog, I will be expanding on the topic of keeping meetings as short as possible – as infrequent as possible – and as focused as possible.


So, until we meet again.  Oh gosh, now why did I go and say that?



When it comes to promoting your auction many of your guests will be looking on your website for the date, time and place as well as other general information.  When it comes to promoting the items you are going to auction off during the fundraising event, nothing beats an old fashion catalog.


I recommend sending out the catalogs two weeks prior to the event – no more, no less.  This will give individuals and couples plenty of time to page through the catalog and determine which items they are interested in bidding on but not allow them time to postpone reviewing the catalog.


Although the first few pages can have a few words from the event chair and some information regarding the charity itself, when it comes to the actual auction items, each live auction item should have a page of its own.


Each page should include a photo of the item and a brief, easy to read description. It’s important to note that color photos are preferred if the printing budget allows for it. Yes, it’s more expensive.  But, we live in a let-me-see color world and fortunately I’ve learned over the 20-plus years I’ve been a benefit auctioneer that catalogs with color pays for itself by raising the level of interest in an item and the level of excitement during the auction. And that translates into higher prices.


Finally, I recommend testimonials be included with an item where appropriate.



Here’s a great example.  Let’s say you are auctioning off a fishing trip to Alaska, which includes a stay at a private chalet and the best fishing captain at the port.  If you auctioned off the same trip the year prior get some quotes from the person who took the trip and let them describe – in their own words – what a fantastic adventure it was.  You simply can’t beat positive personal experiences.


And don’t forget about silent auction items. Although it increases the work load, listing all the silent auction items, in categories provides greater exposure to the profit makers. For instance if you have  golf experiences from various country clubs. The catergory will be “GOLF” with the items listed below with the their respective silent auction number. (see example below) This will allow you spread out the golf trips all around the silent area but group them in the catalog. Pictures are generally not provided for silent auction items.


 Golf Packages


Item number                 Description                            Location

12                        Foursome at Fiddlesticks CC        Ft Myers FL

23                        Foursome at Quail West                 Naples FL

42                        Foursome at Black Diamond       Crystal River FL

66                        Foursome at Bear’s Paw                 Sarasota FL


So, don’t forget to get those catalogs out on time and give each live auction item its own colorful, descriptive page. And be sure to have a copy of the same catalog at the event so your guests can remind themselves exactly on what they want to bid.




Saying Thanks To Participating Businesses

Posted by Scott On October 10th


During my 20 years in the business as a professional benefit auctioneer I’ve had the opportunity to chat with business owners, specifically those who donated an item for a charity fundraiser. Most verified they did receive a thank you card for their participation.  And they were grateful for the recognition they received.

But, there was one bit of information they feel is often left out in the thank you card – “How much did my item raise for the charity?”

It’s a good question.  Nearly every business is proud of their support for a worthy cause – and are happy to give generously. However, not knowing how much they helped seems to drive them a little crazy.

My solution is simple:  Tell them. An exact figure is great, but not always necessary.  The business owner just really wants to know if their participation helped the overall fundraising effort.


Here are a few other ways you can thank businesses, which should always be done in person within days after the event.

1)  Present them with a leftover program and highlight their name.

2)  Take a photo of their donated item – as it appeared during the auction – and present it to them.

3)  Certificates of Participation are a great way to thank a business – which most likely will frame it and place it on one of the walls visible to customers.

4)  If it’s a major donor, a plaque makes a great substitute for a Certificate of Participation.

So, after the fundraising event, send a volunteer to the participating business, armed with a plaque or certificate of participation, photo of donated item and highlighted program and present it to the business owner.  And don’t forget to explain to the business exactly what their donation meant to the fundraising effort and/or how much their item helped raise specifically. In other words put as much effort into thanking them as was done to secure the item.

A thank you – especially one that’s face-to-face – will go a long way in getting the same business to participate in future fundraising events.