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Fundraising Auctioneer

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Archive for May, 2014

Event Producer Worth The Investment

Posted by Scott On May 29th


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.


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.


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.


(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.

Beware of the Board

Posted by Scott On May 8th


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.

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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!!!”