Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

live_auction

 

 

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…

 

 

 

Setting: An Example (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On March 27th

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In my last Blog I discussed the subject of decorating a venue. In it I had to confess I don’t get involved in the process because it’s not my forte. Just ask my wife Mary. When guests walk through our home we receive many compliments which I have to quickly deflect in Mary’s direction. Sure, I can hang a curtain rod, but she’s the one with the eye for interior design.

However, I did make a few suggestions regarding what to do and not do when decorating a venue.  Those suggestions included:

1)               Never use tall centerpieces

2)               Don’t overspend on decorations

3)               The decorations should make a statement about the mission. If your mission is to feed the hungry, then decorate the tables with canned food items that will remind the donors why they are there.

I do have one more suggestion when it comes to setting the mood at a fundraising event – and that’s the use of “Uplighting.”

uplighting

Uplighting is the process where theatrical lighting fixtures – such as Par Cans (mostly widely used lights for concerts, nightclubs and touring productions) and Color Bars are used to add color to a room.

These light fixtures are placed on the floor pointing up and project color on surfaces such as columns, alcoves, corners and any other piece of architecture that you want to stand out. The good news is these lights can add any color you wish and may be programmed to change colors throughout the evening.

Perhaps the best part of Uplighting is that it can be achieved at a minimum cost and yet have a maximum impact.

At an event I did last year the decorating committee used Uplighting extremely well.  The effects were amazing and I dare say that most of the crowd had no idea the beautiful and colorful lighting effect was simply an Uplight on a regular household screen.

Let me conclude this 2-Blog subject by reiterating that I am in no way suggesting that decorations do not play an important role at a gala. It does. It’s just not my field of expertise.

I really enjoy watching the guests arrive – and when they walk into the venue for the first time – listen to their Oohs and Ahhs as they head to their assigned tables.

The decorations also play a key role in recruiting for next year’s event. Remember, your guests are paying a significant amount per ticket to attend the event, $100 – $500 per person at most of the events I conduct.  They don’t want to feel as if the charity “went cheap” and lessened the quality of the event and their experience at the fundraiser.

But there is a balance. It’s up to the decorating committee to understand where that balance is so both parties – the charity and the donors – go home feeling great about the hours they just spent helping others in need.

 

© 2014 Scott Robertson Auctioneers. All Rights Reserved. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.

 

Treat Your Celebrity Talent as a VIP

Posted by Scott On March 10th

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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. This accommodation will only take up one spot, and chances are the celebrity will be leaving as soon as the event is over so their vehicle will never be in the way of guests.

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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 notes, a colored highlighter to identify key elements of items, and 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.

Video Marketing A Growing Trend (Part 2)

Posted by Scott On February 12th

video marketing a growing trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

In our last blog we talked about the trend regarding the use of videos in promoting fundraising events. We also reviewed what the videos could promote including; the specific mission of the charity, the items up for auction and how past events helped change lives and made the community better – to name just a few.

Also discussed was the length of a video.  “Keep it short” was a repeated theme.  Some could be as short as 30 seconds – while others could run up to 2 minutes – but no longer. Remember, people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

Now, it’s time to get your video on the Internet. It’s a relatively simple process – so don’t panic.

The easiest way to get your video on the Internet is by using YouTube and creating your very own channel.

To get started, go to www.YouTube.com. On the upper right hand side will be a blue icon that says “Sign In.” Click it. The next thing – in the same position – is a red icon that says “Create an Account.” Click on it and fill out the form.

 

When you finish the “set up process” your channel will have been created.  You can than begin to upload your video or videos to your new YouTube channel.

video marketing trend a growin trend-Scott Robertson Fundraising Auctioneer

Now, there are 2 different ways to connect your new YouTube channel to your website.  The easiest is to have your website administrator set up a YouTube link on your site.  By doing this anyone on your website can click on the YouTube link and go directly to your YouTube Channel to view the videos.

The other is to have your website administrator actually click on one of the videos on your YouTube channel.  Directly underneath the video will be the word “Share”.  Click it. At this time 3 new icons will appear including the word “Embed”.  Click it to expose the actual “embed code.”  Your website administrator can now copy and place that code directly on your website for immediate viewing.

For those who shoot video with their cell phones – it gets a little tricky.  That’s because all cell phones aren’t exactly alike, but here’s the general concept.

After you shoot your video with your phone, plug your phone into your computer and download the video by following the prompts that appear.  Once the video is downloaded you can upload it on your YouTube channel.

 

Some Smart Phones however allow you, once the video is shot, to simply select the video and share it on YouTube directly.

This may all sound complicated to the video novice – but it’s not.  And the payoff could be – well – blockbuster.

Video Marketing A Growing Trend

Posted by Scott On February 6th

video marketing a growing trend-scott robertson auctioneers

I had lunch a few weeks back with a friend who produces and hosts business and real estate videos for the Internet. He mentioned that such videos are a growing trend due to the fact the majority of “Web Surfers” prefer to be entertained and informed in a short video presentation format rather than having to read paragraph upon paragraph of copy. What he said made perfect sense.

This new video trend is also beginning to gain momentum in the world of fundraising.  If you are not promoting your event with the use of video let me help you get started.

Nearly every cell phone these days not only takes photos, but also video. Although this could do in a pinch, I’d recommend using a regular digital camcorder due to the fact the quality is much better.

Once your video is recorded it will have to be imported from the camera to a computer, edited, and then uploaded to YouTube or other video-sharing sites. This may sound complicated – but trust me – someone on your staff will be happy to take on this task.

 

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So, what should be explained or shown in a video format?  Well, just about anything.  But, here’s a good place to start.

1)    Use video to better explain the mission of the charity

2)   Use video to promote the items in the auction

3)   Use video to help sell tickets

4)   Use video to show how the previous year’s event helped  change lives and made the community better

5)   Shoot video during your current event (when appropriate) of people having fun as promotion for next year’s event

Now, here’s perhaps the most important advice I can give regarding these videos – KEEP THEM SHORT!

People’s attention spans are short – so keep every video you produce short.  Some videos should run as short as 30 seconds while the longest they should run is 2 minutes – and that’s pushing it.

In the months to come you will be seeing more and more fundraising events promoted with the use of videos on the Internet.  So grab those digital camcorders and start shooting. Who knows – you might be the next Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg.

In our next blog we’ll discuss how to link your videos to your website and to YouTube.

 

 

electronic bids

In my previous blog I discussed the growing trend of utilizing an Electronic Bidding system during silent auctions.  I also talked about its current cost and discussed some of the pros and cons of using e-Bidding. Now, let’s delve into this subject a little further.

As I see it, the e-Bidding system does have some limitations. Here are a few.

1)   Your attendees have less “window shopping”. opportunities to see items that have a low number of bids.

2)   There is no bid sheet to see the items that are not getting much attention.

3)   With e-Bidding there is usually a list of items with no bids. But once the item receives a bid the attendee has to search for the item on the device to see the current price.

4)   The attendees have less interaction with other attendees and tend to stay clumped in groups with friends.

5)   The BANDWIDTH of the facility is CRITICAL. Depending upon the location there might not be enough bandwidth to support all of the mobile devices in a small area. If this is the case an auxiliary system is brought in by the e-Bidding provider to supplement the house system.

6)   Smart Phones and other electronic devices have limited battery life. This could create a problem if the bidding extends past 3 hours.

Here are some additional advantages to using the e-Bidding system.

1)   If the silent auction area cannot contain the number of attendees, this method allows them to make one pass through the silent auction area, determine the items on which they desire to bid, and then retire to a larger area to congregate and continue to bid.

2)   Attendees can chat with their friends and be notified immediately when they are outbid.

3)   Reconciling the silent auction is automatic as the bidding devices interface directly with most computerized auction software.

4)   Everyone automatically knows if they have “WON” a silent auction item.

pros and cons of electronic bidding

So now, let’s recap.  The main disadvantage of going to the e-Bidding system is the cost. Your silent auction should raise enough money to a good return on investment before considering making the change. Other disadvantages include: Older attendees tend to shy away from technology. It takes the human factor out of bidding.  And strolling past the item does not allow the bidders to see the popularity of the item.

The main advantage of going to the e-Bidding system is speed. This is especially true during “check out” since all the information is already interfaced with the computer. This is a big plus when your event has more than 400 attendees.

Now, I must give you fair warning. Electronic Bidding is fun and different.  And once you use e-Bidding you will likely have to bring it back year after year since your attendees will demand the service.

Feel free to contact me for additional clarification or for information regarding who provides this service. You could send me a letter – but doing it electronically will sure be a lot quicker.

 

© 2014 Scott Robertson Auctioneers. All Rights Reserved. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.

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.

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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)

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

Expectations of the Front Man

Posted by Scott On January 16th

 

expectations of a frontman-fundraising auctioneer

I often refer to a professional benefit auctioneer as the “front man” of an event.  Sure, I am the host and chief money-raiser, both rolls by the way which I cherish tremendously.  But, I’m also so much more.

In fact, I often think of myself as an on-course official at a professional golf event whose sole job it is to monitor a player’s or group’s “pace of play!” Those officials are out there to assure the daily schedule is adhered to and that everything runs on time, as smoothly as possible, without feeling rushed.

I do the same as a professional benefit auctioneer. But, rather than constantly watching a timepiece – I trust my inner clock – my instincts – to keep the event moving along at the pace the guests expect.

Let me state emphatically – Pace is Crucial. Here’s why!

When attendees pay large money to participate in an event – they have the expectation the event will flow along in a smooth and effortless manner. One must remember, these VIPs are often heads of corporations, major local business owners and other “movers and shakers” within the community. Their businesses are well-oiled machines.  And they expect the fundraising event to be the same.

So please remember, the minute your attendees walk through your gate – whether it be a door or an opening to a fashionable tent – their time is valuable.  So keep your event paced from start to finish.

Now, here’s another piece of advice. At the beginning of this Blog I said I was the “front man” of an event. If you’ll notice, I never used the word “Star” and never have used the word “Star” to describe my role.

In fact, I am not the star of any event I host.  That title goes to your attendees – and they should be treated as such from the moment they arrive to the moment they depart.

The bottom line:  Your event should flow along in a smooth and effortless manner. Anything else makes your guests uncomfortable and they can easily start to wonder – “If the event is disorganized and has minutes of hesitation and large gaps of indecision – how is the organization or charity we are supporting run.”

And treat your VIPs like – well – VIPs. By doing both, your financial goals will not only “stay on pace” with your expectations – but exceed them.

 

 

 

 © 2014 Scott Robertson Auctioneers. All Rights Reserved. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.

Worth My Weight In “Sold”

Posted by Scott On December 26th

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

During the course of your workday, do you find yourself dividing the day into fractions? You know, those milestones that you look forward to as the minutes tick by.  If you start at 8 a.m. the first milestone is usually 10 a.m. with the second being noon.  After lunch, most people look forward to 3 p.m. which invigorates them as they look forward to heading home at 5.

And then, there are times of the day, when you know you’re doing an excellent job – or just completed a major project – and  think to yourself; “I really earned my keep today?”

Well, to be totally honest, I also feel that way during the course of a fundraising event.

I too see things in fractions.  Every scheduled event that takes place within a fundraiser is a milestone that needs to be crossed. Mine typically consists of arrival and prep – followed by the start and end of the silent auction – to the start and end of the live auction – to thanking guests for their participation as they’re leaving the venue and heading back home.

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But, more importantly, when a fundraising event is over, if I can’t point out at least four or five separate occasions during the course of the auction where I fully paid for myself, I am disappointed. I’m very proud to say, this rarely happens.

The organizers and attendees may not always recognize when this occurs, but as the front man in the room, I certainly do.

I wish I could pinpoint ahead of time exactly when this will happen during the course of a fundraising event.  But, more times than not it happens in an unexpected place – and more times than not – in an unexpected way.

So you might be asking yourself; “Why is this important?”

worth my weight in sold-fundraising auctioneer

Well, the answer is easy.  As a professional benefit auctioneer I sometimes hear from Event Chairs that the charity decided to use a non-professional or volunteer auctioneer for their fundraiser as a way to save money. I try to explain I don’t cost the organization money – I make them money. But for some, the message falls on deaf ears.

For the record, when I’m hired to be the front man for an event, my record for 2013 show I help the charity reach its fundraising goal 95%  of the time. And 83% of the time I exceed the previous record for the auction.  No brag.  Just fact.

So, if you’re looking for an auctioneer for your event consider hiring a professional benefit auctioneer. They pay for themselves by helping charities raise more than they thought possible.  Or as the headline to this Blog proclaims, “We’re worth our weight in ‘Sold.’”

The Do’s & Don’ts Regarding Donations

Posted by Scott On December 19th

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I’ve said it many times, “I’m here to help you!” I especially love it when I get a good question from a colleague or even an unknown-to-me event chair that has run into a fundraising conundrum.  Here’s one such question – and the answer.

An associate, in charge of procuring donated items for a silent auction, was given a photo/portrait package which was to be included in the fundraiser. The business that donated the item claimed it had a retail value of $5,000.  Even with bids starting at $1,000, the item didn’t receive a single bid.

The following year the same business, unsolicited and not a member of the school committee, donated the same item.

So how should unwanted donations be handled?  It’s quite simple really, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Although they might be well intended, photographers, gyms and hair salons are notorious for donating items that are merely advertisements for the respective businesses. You know the ones.  They are donating “a free sitting fee”, “a one month membership” or “$30 off a cut and color.”

 

A fundraising event should never accept any donation that has the sole purpose of getting a new client in the door so the business can start running up the actual cost.

Hair salon packages never work.  We are creatures of habit and tend to have the same stylist for years.  Going to another stylist feels like cheating. However, if the donated package is from a salon frequented by many of your attendees – then it should be considered.

Nobody wants a one-month membership at a gym. If the gym wants to donate an entire year – that’s another story.  But, accept nothing shorter.

dos and don'ts of donations

The list of examples of “advertisements-disguised-as-donations” could go on and on. But, I’m sure you get the picture.

The good news is there are ways to turn down donated items so that both parties can walk away with heads held high – and without embarrassment.

Tell the person or business donating the item that, “Although we appreciate your offer our committee has decided to only accept items which have no additional costs to the highest bidder.

Remember, when an item is unattractive, receives no bids or is simply unpopular, it quietly brings down the entire silent auction. Your guests might not talk about it, but they’ll observe the lack of interest – and it’s discouraging.

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The last thing you want at a fundraiser are discouraged guests. It’s the auctioneer’s or event chair’s job is to create and maintain a fun atmosphere – one where the guests are happy from start to finish – and totally fired up.  Unwanted donations can be a real downer.

Feel free to send me your tough questions.  It just might make a good blog which will be a big help to others.