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Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Archive for December, 2013

Worth My Weight In “Sold”

Posted by Scott On December 26th

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

During the course of your workday, do you find yourself dividing the day into fractions? You know, those milestones that you look forward to as the minutes tick by.  If you start at 8 a.m. the first milestone is usually 10 a.m. with the second being noon.  After lunch, most people look forward to 3 p.m. which invigorates them as they look forward to heading home at 5.

And then, there are times of the day, when you know you’re doing an excellent job – or just completed a major project – and  think to yourself; “I really earned my keep today?”

Well, to be totally honest, I also feel that way during the course of a fundraising event.

I too see things in fractions.  Every scheduled event that takes place within a fundraiser is a milestone that needs to be crossed. Mine typically consists of arrival and prep – followed by the start and end of the silent auction – to the start and end of the live auction – to thanking guests for their participation as they’re leaving the venue and heading back home.


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

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

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

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

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

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

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

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

The Do’s & Don’ts Regarding Donations

Posted by Scott On December 19th

SWFL Conservancy 2012 purple vest (2)

I’ve said it many times, “I’m here to help you!” I especially love it when I get a good question from a colleague or even an unknown-to-me event chair that has run into a fundraising conundrum.  Here’s one such question – and the answer.

An associate, in charge of procuring donated items for a silent auction, was given a photo/portrait package which was to be included in the fundraiser. The business that donated the item claimed it had a retail value of $5,000.  Even with bids starting at $1,000, the item didn’t receive a single bid.

The following year the same business, unsolicited and not a member of the school committee, donated the same item.

So how should unwanted donations be handled?  It’s quite simple really, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Although they might be well intended, photographers, gyms and hair salons are notorious for donating items that are merely advertisements for the respective businesses. You know the ones.  They are donating “a free sitting fee”, “a one month membership” or “$30 off a cut and color.”


A fundraising event should never accept any donation that has the sole purpose of getting a new client in the door so the business can start running up the actual cost.

Hair salon packages never work.  We are creatures of habit and tend to have the same stylist for years.  Going to another stylist feels like cheating. However, if the donated package is from a salon frequented by many of your attendees – then it should be considered.

Nobody wants a one-month membership at a gym. If the gym wants to donate an entire year – that’s another story.  But, accept nothing shorter.

dos and don'ts of donations

The list of examples of “advertisements-disguised-as-donations” could go on and on. But, I’m sure you get the picture.

The good news is there are ways to turn down donated items so that both parties can walk away with heads held high – and without embarrassment.

Tell the person or business donating the item that, “Although we appreciate your offer our committee has decided to only accept items which have no additional costs to the highest bidder.

Remember, when an item is unattractive, receives no bids or is simply unpopular, it quietly brings down the entire silent auction. Your guests might not talk about it, but they’ll observe the lack of interest – and it’s discouraging.


The last thing you want at a fundraiser are discouraged guests. It’s the auctioneer’s or event chair’s job is to create and maintain a fun atmosphere – one where the guests are happy from start to finish – and totally fired up.  Unwanted donations can be a real downer.

Feel free to send me your tough questions.  It just might make a good blog which will be a big help to others.

The Economy’s Improving! Will Our Bottom Line?

Posted by Scott On December 12th


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Choose Your Fundraising Ambassador Carefully

Posted by Scott On December 5th

Choose Your Fundraising Ambassador Carefully

Twenty years is a long time to be in the same business. Some people may burn out being in a position for such an extended period of time.

I, on the other hand, wake up every day with an unbridled enthusiasm and a passion to – not only get the day going – but to fine tune and review the details for an upcoming auction which I was contracted to host.

I also enjoy assisting other fundraising auctioneers and event chairs  from around the country that have called or emailed me regarding a specific question that arose during the planning of their event. I’m honored to help out any way I can.

I take my job – my career – as a Professional Fundraising Auctioneer very seriously. I do it because I truly love what I do.

But, what matters most are the charities and the amount of money they raise during an event. There’s no better feeling in the world than to help make life a little easier for those who need the help the most.

Don’t get me wrong.  I realize some charities feel they can’t afford a professional benefit auctioneer.  They believe a local celebrity, a local politician or even a volunteer from their organization can handle the demanding duties of being the host and play the role of auctioneer for an event.


I’ve seen some succeed.  But, I’ve also seen a great deal more fail, all at the detriment of the charity. The main issue – they didn’t take the role perhaps as seriously as they should. So, what did they do wrong?  Here are a few examples.

1)   Should the volunteer auctioneer’s performance is less than stellar, the charity has no recourse because the volunteer auctioneer is not getting paid. (Generally the charity is grateful he or she showed up at all.) Event organizers tend to “walk on egg shells” when dealing with higher profile volunteers. That tends to add to the problem since the volunteer auctioneer never receives any real feedback on their performance.

2)    They are often focused on doing what they always do in their normal life and don’t take the time to prepare and complete the background work needed prior to an event. When the decision comes down to “Should I work on my business item or on the charity for which I am donating my time” – guess which choice wins.

3)   They often arrive late after the doors are opened for the event, ask for a list of the items, then the microphone and rely on their “personality” to carry them through. If they do several events per year, they and their family are likely tired of giving up their prime evening time for no compensation.  This makes the event becomes less fun for them and more of a responsibility.  The less time they spend on and at the event the less pain for them and their loved ones.

Exchanging Packages Beneficial For Both Charities

4)   A common volunteer auctioneer tactic, provided they know people in the crowd, is to call attendees out by name and shame them into bidding. Certainly knowing the attendees is a good thing.  But, calling people out to bid……. tacky, which can silently backfire on the organization.

5)   When the auction chairman says “We have spent so much on food, drinks, venue, flowers, decorations, entertainment, etc – so we need to cut back somewhere.” So, the one person, the professional fundraising auctioneer, who can most significantly and positively impact the net revenues of the event, is eliminated in favor of non-profit generating items.

The 5 examples listed above relates to less money for the charity. In the beginning, the “free auctioneer” may look great as a line item on the event budget.  But the reality is many more times than not they actually cost the charity in terms of lost revenue.

In a future Blog I’ll expound on this subject with a list of additional mistakes a volunteer auctioneer makes.

Until then, when it comes to naming who you’ve selected to be your event auctioneer, take all these factors into consideration. A mistake could cost your charity – well – serious cash.


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