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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!

The Day After an Event is No Time to Relax

Posted by Jessica Geer On March 7th

You just hosted a great event the previous evening. You feel really good. The event exceeded expectations for fundraising. Everything went smoothly. You’re feeling very proud of yourself and your team. And you should feel proud. Congratulations. That was a job well done.

However, if you’re thinking; “Now that that’s behind me I can take the day off to get some rest. I’ll deal with all those small details that we need to take care of in the next week or two. I deserve a little break.” Think again!

The day after the event there are two very important things that need to be done.

One is to write down everything that went well and everything that was challenging or needs improvement. This information will be revealed during the debriefing meeting that will be held in the near future and executed during next year’s event.

The second thing, and perhaps even more important, is to get on the phone and call the generous people who donated to your cause – who made the event so successful – and to say thank you.

It doesn’t have to be a long phone call. It doesn’t have to be from the CEO. It can be from volunteers. It can be from board members. It can be from almost anyone. Just call.

Remember, a timely phone call placed the day after the event is not interfering in your attendees’ lives – it’s going to make them feel very grateful for attending and giving. Pre-write the script and keep your thank you short. Have just a few talking points and remind them where the money is going. But most of all, just extend your gratitude.

We all know that everyone is busy and not always at home or in their office. This could mean your call will be forwarded to voicemail. That brings up the question; “Should I leave a message of thanks, or call the donor back at a later time and talk to him or her in person?” Now this answer may surprise you – Leave the Message.

Voicemails work even better to your favor because you’re going to be able to say what you wish to say and extend your gratitude, and it’s going to take less time. Leaving a voicemail is just as good as speaking with the person on the phone. Don’t be afraid to do it.

The important thing to remember is to extend your gratitude to the donors immediately the next day – while they still have the euphoria for giving. Two weeks down the road, your event will be a past memory.

And don’t ask them for their support next year, just stay in the present. Extend your gratitude for this year. If you do that, you and your charity will be viewed as people who truly care and are truly grateful.

So, write that short script. Then burn up the phone lines. If they’re not home, leave a message. It will pay off in dividends for years to come. And, hey, it’s the right thing to do.

 

Frightful Fundraising Tales

Posted by Jessica Geer On October 31st
In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share a frightful tale of a fundraising event gone wrong.
I decided to attend a high profile fundraising event as a guest with a good friend of mine.  I was there as a guest because the organization had decided to use a volunteer auctioneer to ‘save money’.  Upon arriving, we were  immediately confronted by two ‘greeters’ who were selling raffle tickets. We were told we could buy one ticket for $5 or 3 tickets for $10 and once we purchased a ticket we’d receive a blinking light up pin so that no one would attempt to sell us any additional tickets.  The scary part was the first impression.  Instead of being greeted and seated, we were confronted and intensely encouraged to purchase these raffle tickets that were being sold for very low  prices. This took away from the elegance and overall feel of the evening.  We came out dressed in black tie attire ready  to donate to a great cause but when we arrived it felt more like a fair when the game leaders are trying to get you to play their game; “3 tries for $5!”
Putting this aside, my friends and I found our table and sat down. The event décor was well done, with the exception of the centerpieces.  We would’ve been seated to have a great view of the stage, but the centerpieces, though beautiful, were tall and bulky and obstructed the view for a few people at our table.
And then the live auction began.  The volunteer auctioneer, I’m sure had the best of intentions by donating his time to be the auctioneer at this event. However, he had no auctioneer experience.  The bidding for each item started off at $100, regardless of if it was a bottle of wine or a weekend get away.  This caused the bidding to get stale quickly.  There was even a point where someone bid $1,500 on a piece of art work and then called the auctioneer over to whisper in his ear.  The auctioneer then announced that the current high bidder had resigned his bid, therefore the piece would sell for $1,400.  We were within earshot of the person who bid $1,400 and she wasn’t happy.  She felt if the other person has resigned their bids, she should get it at the price she bid before the resigned bids came into play.  For the remainder of the night this guest did not raise her hand to bid again, nor did anyone at her table. The live auction had 7 items and took almost 2 hours.  People seemed bored and not at all engaged.
The special appeal came next.  As it began, people were raising their hands and pouring money into the need of the charity.  But then, dessert was served; during the special appeal!  Needless to say, the donations ceased because people were distracted by the wait staff and the delicious dessert in front of them.  There was a lot of money left on the table because of a distracted audience.
These are just a few of the points that stuck out.  So, please, unless you’re going for a frightening theme, remember these tips when hosting your next fundraising auction:

 

1.  First impressions are important and set the tone for your event.  When guests walk through the door, remind them why they are there and make them feel appreciated for attending.

 

2.  Hiring a fundraising auction professional is a no brainer.  In this case, the organization thought they were saving money by using a volunteer, but they left a huge amount of money on the table by not having someone who knew how to engage the crowd and effectively run the live auction and special appeal.

 

3.  No distractions during fundraising.  It is important, especially during the special appeal, to keep your audience engaged.  Wait staff walking around and food being placed on tables is an easy way to loose your audiences’ attention fast.

 

Want more information on the do’s and don’t of fundraising auctions?  Contact me and let’s discuss all the ways you can make your next event a great success! 

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!

 

 

2016; Another Record Breaking Year

Posted by Jessica Geer On February 24th

Well, another year has come and gone. And I’m happy to report 2016 was another record-breaking year for Scott Robertson Auctioneers.

We hosted 68 fundraising auctions during those 52 weeks.  And as New Years’ Eve turned into New Years’ Day, the combined total of those auctions reached $35,319,700. Our previous record, which was set in 2015, was just under $29,438,000.

When 2012 started, Sara Rose Bytnar and I had set a personal goal to raise $50 million for charities and organizations within four years. In March of last year, we crossed the $100 million mark. That doubled our original goal in just four years and three months. Here are the actual annual totals for the past five years.

2012 – $14,853,100

2013 – $21,757,360

2014 – $28,152,250

2015 – $29,437,980

2016 – $35,319,70

Total:  $129,520,390

 

Although we are proud of every auction we host, we are especially delighted in six auctions. They include:

  1. *$4,600,000 raised at the Sonoma Wine Weekend Auction, in Sonoma CA.
  2. *$3,205,500 raised at the Philbrook Museum of Art Wine Experience in Tulsa.
  3. *$2,800,000 raised during the Southwest Florida Wine and Food Fest in Fort Myers.
  4.  *$2,300,00 raised at the Immokalee Charity Classic in Naples.
  5.  *$2,057,000 raised at the FARA Energy Ball in Tampa.
  6.  *$1,200,000 raised at Magic Under the Mangroves for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.

In addition to raising record-setting dollars, 2016 held some other highlights for Sara and I.

To start with, Sara competed in the International Auctioneer Championship, and was named First Runner-Up. In the world of auctioneering this is a huge honor.

I was selected to be on the Education Committee for the National Auctioneers Associations’ Conference & Show which will be held in Columbus, Ohio in July. I’m currently lining up presenters on my favorite subject – and passion – “How to Make the Most of Your Benefit Auction.”

In August, I presented at the Benefit Auctioneers Summit, sponsored by the National Auctioneers Association and held in San Diego, CA. One hundred twenty four of the top fundraising auctioneers in the USA attended this year’s event.  

Speaking of the National Auctioneers Association, at last summer’s Conference & Show, I took a 3-day course on Social Media marketing. The class dealt with Facebook specifically and was very educational. Sara had taken this class previously and convinced me of its importance. We are firm believers that you need to constantly be reinventing yourself by keeping up with the times. And you simply cannot ignore the impact social media has on today’s world. Even the world of Benefit Auctions.

And finally, I was selected to do 3 live webinars on the subject of Time Lines for Benefit Auctions. These webinars are co-hosted and sponsored by Winspire, a company that offers travel and trip experiences for auctions and other charitable events on a consignment basis.

My first webinar was held in December. It dealt with the subject of Silent Auction timelines and more than 650 people, from around the country, registered for it. On Tuesday, January 17, I’ll be discussing the topic of timelines for Live Auctions and on Tuesday, January 31, I’ll be discussing the topic of timelines for Special Appeals aka Fund-a-Need. Each webinar lasts an hour-and-a-half.

For more information regarding the webinars and to register to listen to them once they’re recorded and aired live, go to our website www.thevoe.com.

So, that wraps up 2016. It was a very rewarding and satisfying 365 days. But, a new year is now upon us. We have new challenges to meet. More money to raise. And more children, families, and animals to help.

 

 

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” »

You know it seems like 50% of the time when I’m doing an event for the first time, the same question always comes up, right in the heart of the event.

When the silent auction is going on and it’s about to be closed down, someone will come rushing up and say, “Wait, wait! We can’t close the silent auction. We don’t have enough bids!”

Well I’m telling you, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t follow your timeline, if you don’t close on the timeline…BIG, BIG MISTAKE.

Continue reading “Why You Should Never Delay the Silent Auction at Your Fundraiser” »

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

Say No to Status Quo

Posted by Scott On August 7th

Today we’re gonna talk about “saying NO to status quo.”

You know, fundraising events need to be fun and they need to be fresh. And they need to be tweaked every year to make them fun and fresh and exciting for your guests to attend. You know 93% of people who attended fundraising events surveyed replied that the reason they attend is because of fun. And fun generally translates into “fun and fresh” which means saying no to status quo.

You know, fundraising events trend. And fundraising ideas trend. Where do you get these new ideas?

Continue reading “Say No to Status Quo” »

Today we’re gonna talk about the differences between a commercial auctioneer and a fundraising auctioneer. One of the main differences is the auction chant. See, a commercial auctioneer is selling product and a fundraising auctioneer is really selling to people. There’s a distinct difference.

At commercial auctions, people are generally auction savvy. They attend auctions on a regular basis and that commercial auctioneer is able to go much faster. In fact when I was selling at a commercial auction, I would generally sell 80 to 100 items an hour. That’s fast! At a fundraising auction, the rate is generally around 20 items per hour. Let me give you a difference in the chant. At a commercial auction it would sound more like:

(spoken in a rapid cadence)

“Two thousand dollars is bid, now three thousand, three thousand and four. Four now five. Five now six and seven thousand. Seven thousand now eight. Eight thousand? Sold! Seven thousand dollars!”

And at a fundraising auction it would go more along the line of…

Continue reading “Difference between commercial & fundraising auctioneers” »