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The Virtual Fundraising Gala

Posted by Jessica Geer On March 17th

By Scott Robertson

Thanks to Sara Rose Bytnar and I being in a close network with some of the top fundraising auctioneers in the country, I’ve been able to spend my waking hours learning all that I can about virtual galas. As we know, information is constantly emerging and flexibility is key in situation such as this.  Here is what I know as of today, March 17, 2020.

These are strange times for our nation.  Many fundraising galas have cancelled or postponed their events as advised by government officials.   If your organization is wondering how you’ll be able to continue funding those you serve with a postponed or even cancelled fundraising event, I encourage you to consider a Virtual Fundraising Gala.

This method may not work for every organization and their supporters, however it’s an innovative way to keep your organizations cause at the forefront of your supporters minds during these unsettling times.

Below are a few tips for conducting a Virtual Fundraising Gala.

Event Details

  • If possible; keep your event date. Your philanthropists have already obligated themselves to the date and changing the date could create additional issues for scheduling.
  • Be decisive – decide on a date, a format, a theme, and stick with it. Just like a traditional gala be expecting suggestions and quick criticism for any and all decisions. Changing your mind to fit committee members whelms based upon what they think may be a good idea will add confusion and in stressful times, no one likes confusion. These are uncharted waters which we are attempting to navigate and everyday/hour we are learning more and more. At Scott Robertson Auctioneers our full focus is formatting plans to help our clients anyway and every way we can, including Virtual Fundraising Galas
  • Prepromotion and email marketing prior to the event is critical, be sure to include specific instructions on how to bid and participate. Social Media is perfect for communicating with your philanthropists.
  • Encourage watch parties to gather friends and supporters in small groups together to watch. This will make it more fun for the viewers as well as help to increase the feeling of comradery to support the cause. If appropriate encourage the watch party participants to come in gala wear and share photos from their gatherings with hashtags created for your event.
  • Remember, even in Florida, people can still get “cabin fever” due to the shutdown of any sort of group gathering. A watch party can be an event people can look forward to attending
  • Delivering party favors, gift bags, or gala beverages etc. a few days ahead of the event will keep the event date foremost in their mind.
  • Stay in contact with your donors. Calling, emailing, or using social media to communicate with your donors, especially a few days before the event, is paramount to success.

Technology 

  • Back of the house video and audio support is critical. Enlisting the help of an experienced team of AV professionals that have the equipment and expertise for live streaming will be worth their weight in gold. Yes, you could do this on your iPhone or android but why take the chance?
  • Broadcast sound, while this is dependent in large part to the users internet strength and speaker grade but the broadcast quality going out will only further enhance or decrease the ability for the viewers to hear. If viewers can’t hear we’re likely going to frustrate and loose them.
  • AV Company can use live shots, recorded videos, power point slides, etc., to promote and discuss live auction items on the live stream and special appeal.
  • Make sure that everyone has a list of phone numbers to call if they are experiencing technical difficulties. Every cell phone in the studio audience should be available for ppl to call in if they’re having challenges.   This is another good reason to have a good AV company in studio.

 

The Broadcast

  • Someone needs to be the director/producer for the broadcast. They make are the decision maker and are charged with keeping the broadcast flowing
  • For live streaming there are several choices, the ones I’m aware of are  Facebook Live, Youtube Live, Vimeo, WebX or other webinar hosting platforms. Additional hosting sites are coming up daily as they retrofit to be useful for virtual galas.
  • You need to have a place to create a studio. It’s likely affective to use pipe and drape in the background. You may already have a “stand and repeat” banner you had planned to use as a backdrop for photos. Your AV company should be able to provide this in additional to other equipment such as lighting, microphones, audio mixing boards, video switching devices, and most important; the knowledge to tie all of this equipment together to make it work.
  • A studio audience is a must. The studio audience should consist of a core group of staff and supporters (team members) i.e. auction chairs, development director, CEO and other known staff that would normally be supporting your gala. This studio audience will be helpful for your emcee and auctioneer  to work in front of.  Late night talk show hosts go into millions of homes but thrive on having a studio audience of 100 or so people so the on-stage talent can have a better feel for timing, laughter, etc.  Here, of course, our studio audience would be 10 or less.
  • The on-air personalities will need confidence monitors to monitor on line bidding, what the live audience is seeing, and what is coming up.
  • Latency – that’s the delay that you have with live streaming. For some providers it’s 10 sec others its 30 seconds. This eliminates the ability for the auctioneer to utilize the live auction chant. This technology is likely to get better but for right now we just have to plan that there is going to be a delay.
  • Encourage the studio audience to engage with the program; applaud, laugh etc.
  • The broadcast should be fun and interesting. This is where your professional fundraising auctioneer will shine.  They know the language, they have no fear of being in front of a camera or large group. They know what to say, and when (and how) to say it.   Other people can be and should be included but be sure to leave the heavy lifting of fundraising predominantly with your fundraising auctioneer.
  • An emcee is needed to keep things flowing, make announcements, and banter with the auctioneer.
  • “Instances” is a live streaming term that essentially means, each viewing element is an instance. The auctioneer, emcee, PowerPoint slides, videos, sponsor slides are all instances. Remember the more instances you have the more opportunity to have something mess up.
  • Good chemistry between emcee and the auctioneer is important for purposeful and humorous banter. The folks watching at home will be quick to pick up if there is tension on the set.
  • Many of the same things you would do at a traditional gala (as far as production goes) will hold true for live streaming. Such as testimonials either live or pre-recorded on video, entertainment, other videos, PowerPoint slides, etc. Just do not make your production too complicated.
  • Remember, when you’re live on air, you’re live. So, practice, practice, practice!  Even with all of our new found technology it is important to practice exactly how the virtual gala will run start to finish.

 

Mobile Bidding

  • Using a mobile bidding platform is a must.
  • Use a platform that has expertise in this area not just the lowest cost option. I’ve communicated with many of the mobile bidding companies and ALL are racing to develop a better platform for virtual galas, but as of today it seems that Greater Giving is leading the way.
  • The mobile bidding platform would be utilized during the silent auction. You should close the silent auction before the live auction so they don’t compete. 
  • The paddle raise/special appeal portion can be done starting at high numbers and working our way down, just as a standard in person gala.
  • Matching gifts are especially helpful at virtual auctions.

As with every fundraising gala, challenges will arise.  However, with the right team, equipment and fundraising auctioneer on your side, a Virtual Gala can provide needed funds to support the organization’s beneficiaries and remind donors why their support is needed now more than ever.

Questions?  Visit our website for more information or contact us, we’re ready to help!

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!

 

 

How I differ from other Charity Auctioneers

Posted by Scott On October 1st

People often ask “So Scott, what makes you different from your competition?”

And really the answer is two-fold. First, there’s my performance the evening of the event (or the day of the event)…whenever it happens to be. So it’s my performance on stage.

But the second, and possibly the most important, is the consulting that I’m able to do with your organization prior to the event.

See, fundraising auctions are all that I do. I eat, sleep, and breathe them all day, EVERY DAY. This is not a side line for me. This is not a secondary type of thing. This is what I do.

When you call, I answer the phone. When you send an email, I respond. And that makes a huge difference in your fundraising success.

You know, there’s lots of tips and tricks and nuances that go on with fundraising auctions and I stay right on top of those trends.

So when you retain my services, not only do you get Scott Robertson the performance auctioneer, you also get Scott Robertson, the fundraising auction consultant.

Not all charity auctioneers are made the same. Some…

Continue reading “How I differ from other Charity Auctioneers” »

Why the Tuxedo at Every Auction Scott?

Posted by Scott On September 4th

Hi, Scott Robertson here and yes, I’m dressed in a tuxedo. I wear a tuxedo every day!

No, just kidding! But I do wear a tuxedo at almost every fundraising event. Why? Because I want people to know who’s in charge when the auction gets started.

See, that’s real important to establish a presence at an event. Not in a dictator manner. But rather just so that people have confidence and understand who’s in charge, who’s leading the event. That’s who you want leading your event is a true leader. And the tuxedo makes me stand out a little more, my voice takes over from there, and everybody wins. We’re all looking for leadership. At a fundraising auction, I consider that my job.

Need America’s leading charity auctioneer to take charge of your fundraiser? Call me at (239) 246-2139 and let’s chat!

-Scott

You know I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the fundraising auction business and I LOVE setting new records for events. It’s absolutely wonderful. And people often ask “So Scott, how can your percentages of establishing new records be so high?’ Well, it’s about confidence…and really, confidence in three areas.

  1. Confidence in the economy
  2. Confidence in the charity
  3. Confidence in your fundraising auctioneer

Continue reading “To set record highs at fundraisers, confidence is paramount” »

Quality Sound is an absolute key component to any and all fundraising events. People have to be able to hear to understand. But I’m going to take that a step further and I’m going to tell you that a sound check with your audio director prior to the event is absolutely critical to success.

Who is going to be there for the sound check?

Obviously the auctioneer needs to be there for the sound check because it’s going to be their voice who’s going to be heard throughout the evening. But who else should be there for the sound check is anyone who is going to speak. If you have anyone giving a presentation, anyone giving an award, they need to be comfortable with the microphone and the sound engineer needs to understand the nuances of the person’s speaking voice so that they can adjust accordingly.

People often say “It’s okay, I’m just gonna get up there and wing it!”

Continue reading “A Sound Check is Critical to Your Fundraising Event’s Success” »

Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions

Posted by Scott On April 17th

I truly love what I do. 

However sometimes my passion at a fundraising event is misinterpreted causing those who’ve hired me to feel as if I’m personally attacking their organization – or a person within their organization.

Scott Robertson AuctioneerThe reason for these hard feelings?  I can see a train wreck coming and I just told the organizers:

  • What type of train it is
  • How fast it’s approaching
  • And when it will hit.

The approaching train wreck comes in many forms.  It could be a gaffe in the timeline or a problem with the speaker about to address the audience.  It could be a Live Auction item, a display issue or even a potential bottleneck due to the layout of the room.

There are so many variables at an auction.

If those variables are done correctly it will enhance the event and there won’t be a train wreck.  If those variables are implemented incorrectly it will hurt the event and create a potential train wreck situation.

Knowing the difference between the two scenarios is the reason for my dilemma. The question is: Do the event organizers want to know a train wreck is coming or not?

When it comes to approaching train wrecks I work with two different mindsets.

Continue reading “Avoidable Train Wrecks at Fundraising Auctions” »

to helm and back - Scott Robertson AuctioneersI’ve always said a successful fundraising event is a team effort. It takes months of pre-planning and an excellent committee and volunteer staff to pull all the pieces together.  Having each individual member know the exact role they will be playing during the event is crucial to its flawless execution.

The Event Chair and his or her committee and volunteers have an advantage over a Professional Auctioneer, such as myself, who does not live in their particular city. They know the key players and the main donors that will be attending.

Since I am the out-of-towner, some Event Chairs and Board Members may consider it a disadvantage to their fundraising efforts if they hire me as their Professional Auctioneer since, in some cases, I’ve never practiced my craft of auctioneering for them before.  They feel I won’t know their audience.

Although it’s an initial legitimate concern, the fact is the “not knowing their VIPs” can be easily overcome.  It’s just a matter of four easy steps:

  1. Create an attendee yearbook
  2. Facilitate some warm introductions
  3. Generate a roster of bidders
  4. Produce informative bidding paddles

Let me start with the first…the yearbook.

Continue reading “How to Help Your Auctioneer Learn Your Audience” »

Success street signIt’s the moment Event Chairs look forward to the most – the “turning off the lights” as their latest fundraiser comes to a close. Exhausted, they reflect back. The guests had fun. The event was a success.  Lots of money was raised.  Now it’s time to relax until the planning begins for next year’s event. HOLD ON!  NOT SO FAST. There’s one more step to go.

Just as important as the event’s pre-planning and execution is the debriefing meeting.  Preferably this meeting should take place within 3 days of the event – but never more than 2 weeks.  Remember, the earlier the better. This way everyone’s memories of the event are still vivid and wouldn’t have begun to fade with the passage of time.

Knowing what went right and what went wrong during an event is crucial to building even more successful fundraisers in the future.

So, it’s also very important for those involved in the event to write their thoughts down on paper – both positive and negative – within 24 hours of the event and then to bring those notes to the debriefing meeting.

These thoughts should span the time frame from before the doors opened until the last guest departed. Every element of the program is fair game. That includes the registration process, the cocktail hour, the silent auction, the dinner, the live auction, the entertainment, the checkout and the valet line.

As a guide to help you along your way – and to keep the conversation civil and on topic – I’m happy to present the format your debriefing meeting should take, how it should be conducted and who should be involved.

By the way, the debriefing meeting should be scheduled weeks prior to the actual event.  This way everyone associated with the fundraiser has it on their calendars and know when it’s going to occur.

To reiterate, the debriefing meeting should take place within 3 days of the event.  Under no circumstances should it ever take place more than 2 weeks after an event.

Now, as to who should attend the meeting…

Continue reading “Why Debriefing Meetings are Essential to the Success of Your Future Fundraisers” »

Event Coordinator’s Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Scott On March 19th

I’ve said it many times – the Event Coordinator is the key to a perfectly planned and executed fundraiser. (Note:  For the purposes of this article, I’m describing the person in charge of the event the Event Coordinator.  This person may be a trained professional, a staff member or a volunteer.)

With that clarification, I’m happy to reveal my list of 4 Do’s & Don’ts for Event Coordinators on the night of the event.

One of the mistakes they make is not getting ready for the event in a timely fashion.

Chances are, on the day of the event, the Event Coordinator has been at the venue since early to mid-morning.  And, the closer time gets to the doors opening, the more the Event Coordinator becomes increasingly nervous.

So, here’s my first helpful suggestion. Sign that says "Help!"

1. DO get ready for the event in a timely fashion.

If the event begins at 6 p.m. the Event Coordinator should have eaten and gotten dressed by 4:30pm and re-arrived at the venue between 60 to 90 minutes ahead of the doors opening.  That should give him or her plenty of time to relax prior to the event and then to deal with any loose ends once (s)he returns to the venue.

Too often the Event Coordinator delays getting themselves ready until the last minute and by the time (s)he arrives, panic sets in because of all the final details which still need to be addressed. This creates too much stress on the Coordinator, as well as the staff and volunteers. You do not want your guests arriving to a panic-filled room.

2. Don’t assign yourself duties the night of the fundraiser.

Most people know the line of thinking, “It’s just easier to do everything myself.” Well, that might be true, but it’s not the best use of the Event Coordinator’s time.

Far in advance of the event, the Event Coordinator should have delegated duties to another committee member or volunteer. Running around looking for a replacement silent auction bid sheet is not good use of the Event Coordinator’s time. Delegate that responsibility. This will give the Event Coordinator time to focus on the bigger issues that may be looming on the horizon.

Here’s a great tip.  The Event Coordinator should be given a designated area within the venue during the final hour or so before the doors open.  This will give the staff and volunteers a specific location to go to in an effort to get their questions answered quickly. When the doors open, the Event Coordinator should remain in this area for the same reasons.

Continue reading “Event Coordinator’s Do’s and Don’ts” »