Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

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.

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.


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” »

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” »

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.




Supportive Bidders

Posted by Scott On July 26th

supportive bidders

At any live auction there are usually three types of supporters in the crowd.  The first is a guest who feels the price of admission was enough charity and doesn’t plan to bid on any item.  The second is an enthusiastic guest that has money in his pocket and is willing to bid as high as necessary to get an item and help the charity in the process.  The third is what I refer to as a “supportive bidder.”

Supportive bidders are there to have fun. And, they are there to help the charity maximize its fundraising effort by bidding on items simply to get the price of the item up.

I’m not referring to a “plant” or a “shill.”  A charity should never place a person in the room whose only purpose is to compete with other bidders with the intention of never actually winning a bid.

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

A supportive bidder does this on his or her own accord. They are really “soft bidders.”  By that I mean if they bid on an item and would happen to get it they are happy.  But, their real purpose is to make more money for the charity by getting others to bid higher – especially if they feel the current bids are below the items true value.

An auctioneer often doesn’t know who the supportive bidders are until the live auction actually starts. However, by reading a bidder’s body language and mannerisms a professional benefit auctioneer can spot them rather quickly and use them to the charity’s advantage.

When bidding on an item is slow or if a current bid is far below what I think an item should sell for I find myself drifting towards the supportive bidders as a means to get the ball rolling a little faster – and the bids a little higher.  I think most of the time they know that I know what they are doing and they usually play along.

So remember, no “plants” or “shills.” But keep in mind supportive bidders are in the room and can play a key role in your fundraising success – if the auctioneer knows how to spot them – and use them for your benefit.

Space Invaders

Posted by Scott On May 30th

space invaders-fundraising auctioneer

We’ve all heard the phrase, “personal space.” Wikipedia defines personal space as “the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs.  Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space in encroached.”

Who of us have not felt the discomfort of someone invading what we perceive as our personal space?  And what distance from a person is that border – that invisible fence – the stay-this-far-away-from-me property line? It’s not an easy question to answer since – to be totally honest – it really varies from person to person.

That’s the dilemma professional auctioneers and other benefit hosts face during a fundraising event.  They are constantly asking themselves, “How close can I get to a bidder without making him or her uncomfortable?”

I wish I had a definitive answer.  I can only tell you that you have to be constantly aware of a person’s body language. You must know how to read their signs.  And then hope that your “I’ll-pat-you-on-the-back” or your “stay-this-far-away” calculations are correct.

“Instant Purchase” Option Gaining Popularity At Silent Auctions

My experience tells me the more fun a person is having the closer you can approach them.  Those that are having fun – and enjoy being the center of temporary attention – usually don’t have a problem with an auctioneer being by their side. In a way, having the emcee of the event near or in their personal space, helps to shine a brighter light on the bidder.  They truly enjoy the spotlight and their participation adds to the fun factor and entertainment of the event.

On the other hand, some bidders prefer to remain hidden in the shadows and are uncomfortable with any notoriety. Again, by reading their body language – if you feel any negative vibes – if he or she avoids eye contact – you should instinctively stay a distance away.

Every crowd is different and every person is different.  Defining a person’s personal space – their approachability – takes keen observation.  It’s a skill that can be learned, but it does take time. Remember, “When in doubt – from his or her personal space stay out.”

In a future blog we’ll discuss another dilemma that faces a benefit auctioneer – when to push or not push a bidder to a higher bid.


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Treat Your Celebrity Talent as A VIP

Posted by Scott On May 23rd

treat your celebrity talent like a vip-fundraising auctioneer

At many local fundraisers you’ll see local TV news anchors and reporters assisting the charity – by not only promoting the event on air – but by participating in the actual event itself. Since they are easily recognizable personalities their presence automatically increases the significance of the event in the minds of the other guests in attendance.

That’s why I have two basic rules when it comes to local TV personalities who volunteer their time to join you at your worthy cause.  1) Treat them like a VIP. 2) Make it as easy for them as possible.

Since many fundraising events start in the early evening hours – and the news anchor or reporter will be arriving late due to the fact they just got done with their early evening newscast – have a reserved parking space for them as close to the venue entrance as possible. An orange cone is always an easy target for them to spot and it reserves the parking space.


Keep in mind – if you don’t have a reserved parking space for them they end up parking in the last spot in the lot because they’ll probably be the last to arrive.  They’ll also have to walk the furthest once the event is over. So keep them close – even if you do offer valet parking.

Here are several more helpful hints on how to treat your local celebrities.

Make sure they receive an auction catalog ahead of the event.  This will give them time to study it at their leisure.

Upon their arrival they should be greeted by a charity representative and handed a 3-ring binder with the auction items, notes and timeline clearly spelled out – with their portion highlighted.

And don’t forget to give them a pen to write with or a bottle of water to refresh them.

The celebrity should be escorted to his or her table – preferable as close to the stage as possible.

Time is a precious commodity for everyone. Typically when a celebrity is donating their time, a 2-3 hour commitment is the expectation on their part. If their presence is needed for a longer period of time, this should be discussed in advance.

And finally, present them with a gift card at the end of the event. Remember, not only are they donating their time and talent, but they do have expenses such as travel, hiring a babysitter and buying new clothes – to name just a few.

So treat your local VIPs like the celebrities they are.  Their presence will boost your exposure and make your guests feel they are hobnobbing with TV stars.