Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Raffles at a Virtual Fundraising Gala?

Posted by Jessica Geer On September 25th

Raffles at Virtual Fundraising Galas can be a good idea.

Surprised?  Many of you with whom I’ve worked in the past are probably thinking  “Scott hates raffles, there’s no way he’s going to want it to apply to a Virtual Fundraising Gala.”

However; I stick to my previous statement; raffles at Virtual Fundraising Galas can be a good idea.

Here’s why. The primary reason I dislike raffles at fundraising events is the method of raffle ticket sales. Typically, once you arrive at a fundraising event and get through registration, the first person that you see is someone coming up attempting to sell you a raffle ticket. They ambush your supporters before they can even get their first cocktail.

At this point your chances of offending someone are great; which sets the wrong tone for the evening. The additional downside is by donating a little bit of money for a raffle ticket, there’s a chance the supporter will feel like they have done “their part” in supporting the charity. Think bigger picture.

What happens with raffle ticket sales at a virtual event and why is it different?

Well, first of all, unless they are a late registrant, you’re not going to ask people the night of the event to buy raffle tickets. The supporters are going to be offered the opportunity during online registration.

Chances are registration for a virtual gala is going to happen a week or even two weeks before the event. Then when it becomes the night of the event they remember they bought a raffle ticket but they’re really not feeling the pain of buying the raffle ticket and no one ever made them uncomfortable.

That’s found money for the charity.

Then during the course of the live event we activate the digital wheel of chance.  This wheel will contain all the names of ticket buyers and be displayed on a big LCD panel behind the auctioneer.  We build the excitement, spin the digital wheel, then we have a winner and celebrate.

It’s no fuss and it’s done rather efficiently and quickly. If you were to give out multiple raffle prizes, it’s really easy to remove a name from the wheel, (it can be done in less than a second) and we spin the wheel again

Instead of it being a long drawn out process it’s quick, it’s immediate, it’s fun.  People will be eager to their names on the wheel as it’s spinning, which is a wonderful thing.

This generates excitement and engagement for the audience!

When we get back to traditional galas, am I still going to love raffles? The answer is likely no, for the reasons that were stated above. But for virtual fundraising galas, I say “go for it” as another stream of income for your charitable event

Ready to learn more about how a Virtual Fundraising Gala can help your organization raise funds?  Contact us today!

 

When is the Best Night for a Virtual Gala?

Posted by Jessica Geer On September 22nd

For years, I’ve been promoting the idea of having your fundraising event during the week as opposed to a Friday or Saturday night because of the reduction of competition from other fundraising events and social gatherings.

Well, with virtual, that has only gotten larger.

In today’s COVID world, none of us have very much happening socially… we just don’t have very much going on at all. However, if we do have something occurring, such as a family visit, dinner with friends, or other small gatherings, or even football games, it’s probably going to be on a Friday or Saturday night, thus, competition.

If you have your virtual gala during the week, chances are you’re going to be holding it early enough in the evening that people can enjoy the virtual gala, eat dinner, and go to bed at a respectable time.

As attendees are not going to be out till 10 o’clock and then have to go to work the next day or whatever their schedule has them doing. (Retired people have busy schedules too.) Thus, what we’re finding is that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are actually producing better results than Friday and Saturday, and it’s all because of competition. This trend is happening nationwide.

So, if you want to eliminate the competition, pick a night when little else is occurring. Your virtual gala will be the best show in town.

Name Tags: An Easy Solution to a Registration Table Issue

Posted by Jessica Geer On December 14th

It’s really no secret; nearly everybody planning or conducting a fundraising event dislikes the registration process. From auction chairs, to event planners, to registration table volunteers. They all hate it.  Now, you can add one more group to that list – the guests. Especially your VIPs.

 Let me begin by saying – thank heaven for volunteers. In many instances they are the free wind that keeps the event sailing along. They also fulfill a key position that allows the event organizers and executive committee members to mingle with their guests.

 But, as much as we appreciate the well-intended volunteer’s participation, they often don’t know who the attendees are – especially when it comes to the top donors.

 Those top donors walk up to the registration table and are perplexed when the volunteer says, “Hello, welcome to our event. What’s your name?”

 That top donor will look at the volunteer and think to himself or herself. “What? You. Don’t. Even. Know. My. Name. Wow. I thought I was a VIP around here. Maybe I’ll give less if this is the way they’re going to treat me.”

 A VIP is exactly what they should be – and treated as – a V.I.P. So here’s a little tip that will make it so much awkward for your VIP’s and less awkward for the volunteers managing the registration table.

 On a table, just prior to the registration table, have a table with names tags on it, in alphabetical order. Encourage guests to pick up their name tag and put it on or place the lanyard around their necks prior to reaching the registration table.

 Now, when the volunteer looks up and sees them, they’re able to read the person’s name, and call them by name with a warm greeting. “Well, good evening Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. So good to see you here tonight.”

 To begin with, there is no awkwardness. Conversations start smoother. The line moves faster. And most importantly, the guest feels like a VIP and heads into the fundraising event feeling positive. It seems like a small thing, but believe me, it’s a big thing. And, it’s simple, fast, easy, and effective.

 Remember, a happy top donor, who is recognized and appreciated, is more likely to open up his or her pocketbooks a little wider. 

 

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!

 

 

Not All Items Belong in the Live Auction

Posted by Jessica Geer On April 6th

After 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer, I’ve seen charities and organizations make plenty of mistakes when it comes 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 will meet 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 – $5,000 vs. an item in the $20,000 – $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.

 

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” »

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” »

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I mentioned in several previous blogs that keeping focused during the course of a live auction is one of my highest priorities.  That’s why around 20 minutes prior to an event I place myself in my “performance zone.”  I need this “alone time” to gather my thoughts and review the program in my mind.  Any interruption could derail all the hard work that started weeks or even months earlier.

What’s even a bigger challenge is to stay focused during the live auction when event chairs or event volunteers try to communicate with me.

During the live auction, my brain, like my vocal chords are racing at 100 mph. If someone attempts to talk to me – to give me a message during the live auction – one of two things happen.

  • My brain screeches to an abrupt halt forcing me to go off message as I search for an answer or response to the communication.
  • My brain continues racing along as I stay focused on the mission and unfortunately must ignore the message.

Neither option is productive to serious fundraising.

What I’m saying may make it appear as if I’m antisocial during the course of a live auction – or worse yet – a Prima donna.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The charity and I have but one goal – and that is to raise as much money as possible in a relatively short period of time. My preferred method of making that happen – limiting the number and timing of interruptions – helps me accomplish our mutual goal.

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With that said, here’s what works for me and hopefully will help your emcee or auctioneer if and when these situations arise at your event.

I find if someone will write me a note, sticky note preferred, and attach it to my auction binder located at the podium I can read the note without derailing my thoughts or interrupting the momentum of the live auction.

This is why at each auction I request that one cool-headed person be designated as my contact. This gatekeeper will be the only person to share information with me. This makes for better productivity for everyone and will increase the results of the auction.

That which I just described is a controllable situation.

In my next blog I’ll discuss the uncontrollable – the unexpected situation – when a drinking guest interrupts the flow of the live auction by presenting what he or she believes is a “great idea.”

Here’s a hint!  There’s no easy answer. Until then…

 

 

 

Decorating the Venue Part 1

Posted by Scott On March 20th

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There’s a reason Hollywood hands out awards in the category of “Set Decoration” or “Art Decoration.” The visual effect of the set plays a key role in a movie’s authenticity and really sets the stage – forgive the pun – for the actor’s role to come to life and the audience to accept what they are seeing as real which enhances their theatre-going experience.

The same holds true for a charity fundraiser. The way in which a venue is decorated can play a key role in setting the stage for a success event. Now here comes the ironic part – I have nothing to do with it.

We all have our strengths. Mine is not in the realm of planning decorations for a gala. Not only am I decorating-deficient, I simply don’t have the time due to my auction schedule and consulting for many other aspects of a fundraiser from pre-planning to post-event analysis.

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Trust me, I fully appreciate and marvel at a beautifully decorated ballroom. I even attempt to match the tuxedo vest I wear the night of the event to the decor. But putting it all together – me actually getting involved with the decoration theme or process – is akin to allowing a bull wander around in a china shop.

However, with that said, I do inform clients there are some decorating basics they should follow for fundraising auctions.

I will go into detail in a minute – but here are three decorating basics all Event Chairs should adhere to:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission

Let’s begin with the subject of tall centerpieces. They may look great on a table but they interfere with the patrons seeing the auctioneer and/or the auctioneer seeing the patrons.

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Audience analysis, a term I use on a regular basis and one of the keys of my success, is hinged upon my ability to closely observe the faces of the bidders and potential bidders. Due to this clear vision path I often know in advance when a person is going to bid or bid again long before they raise their paddle.

In addition, there is nothing more frustrating to a bidder than to raise their hand or bid paddle and then not being seen by the auctioneer or their ringman due to a centerpiece blocking their view. So keep centerpieces low.

Another important basic is: Don’t overspend on decorations. In my 20 years experience I’ve discovered the portion of the event budget that most often goes over budget is the decorating allowance. Too often the decorating committee gets carried away with hosting a lavish party and forgetting the purpose of the gala is to raise money – not waste it.

Decorations can: Set a nice tone for an event – Can make the attendees feel welcome – And make for great photo opportunities.  But they seldom add significantly to the bottom line. Besides, you don’t want your guests to feel as if their donations from the previous year were being used wastefully on unnecessary and extravagant decorations.

And finally, the decorations should enhance the event by helping to permeate the mission of the charity whenever possible. For instance, if your mission is to supply needed educational tools to school children then decorate the tables with educational manipulatives that are age appropriate for the children you’re trying to serve.

If your mission is to feed the needy, than use strategically placed canned goods and other packaged food items – that can also be used after the event to nourish the hungry – on the tables as decorations. Donors will love the fact that you are getting double duty from the decorations, therefore stretching their donation dollars.

In my next Blog I will talk about how “Uplighting” at an event also plays a key role in setting the mood and can be an integral part of the decor.

 

 

The Pros and Cons of Electronic Bidding

Posted by Scott On January 23rd

 

pros and cons of electronic bidding

Anyone involved in fundraising is probably familiar with how a silent auction is conducted.  For those unfamiliar, guests go up to tables – grab a pen – and write down on a bidding sheet how much they are willing to bid on a specific silent auction item.  If another guest writes down a higher offer, the other bidders are able to revise their old bid.  At the end of the silent auction, the item goes to the highest bidder.

For many years the pen-and-bid-sheet method has proven to be both fun for the guests and beneficial for the charity.  But alas, the silent auction’s “pen and paper” days may be numbered.

Why?  Well, e-Bidding is beginning to infiltrate the world of fundraising.  Down the road, a few years in our future, it will probably be commonplace. As for now, charities will need to decide if utilizing Electronic Bidding is right for their event – and especially – their guests.

There are advantages and disadvantages of using e-Bidding, which is typically done on Smart Phones or the Apple I-Touch. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the pros and cons in an effort to allow charities to determine if e-Bidding is a good fit.

pros and cons of electronic bidding-fundraising auctioneer

Let me start by saying that e-Bidding is not a fad.  It is the future of silent auctions. However, at this time, e-Bidding may not be a practical or effective fundraising avenue to travel down. That’s because the largest objection to Electronic Bidding is the cost.

I have no doubt that the pricing is destined to be reduced as technology increases and more vendors get in the game. So for now, here are a few factors I feel must be in place before a charity decides to invest in electronic bidding.

1)   A charity’s silent auction revenues must exceed an amount which justifies the additional cost.

2)   The charity’s age demographic embraces technology. E-Bidding is not difficult, but some attendees resist anything related to technology.

So, who loves e-Bidding?

1)    Attendees in the 20s and 30s love the use of technology in the silent auction.

2)    Tech-Savvy individuals who always buy cutting edge technology.

3)   Males who hate to shop, but are competitive in nature.

4)   Individuals who like to win on eBay.

Who dislikes Electronic Bidding?

1)    Older individuals who did not grow up with technology.

2)   Individuals who purposely do not have Smart Phones.

3)   Sniper bidders who are always seeking a bargain and love to swoop in at the end of the auction to make a last minute bid. (This occurs sometimes after the bidding is closed)

bidding

In my next blog I’ll discuss the limitations of e-Bidding and the additional advantages and disadvantages of utilizing such a “high-tech” system.

In the meantime, I’ll grab a pen and a piece of paper – or should I use my I-Phone – to jot down a few other factors that might help you in your “should I” or “shouldn’t I” decision. Until then…