5 Criteria for hiring a fundraising auctioneer
In addition to personally consulting our own clients, each year I have the opportunity to conduct several seminars, Lunch & Learns, and educational webinars for non-profit organizations from all across North America, and I always look forward to the challenge of providing (hopefully) an intelligent answer to the many questions that are asked. And one question that seems to be popping up more these days is, “What should we be looking for in an auctioneer?”
Thankfully, it seems more non-profits are accepting the reality that the most important person at a fundraising auction is, in fact, a professional fundraising auctioneer. Not a local media personality, not a local celebrity, and certainly not a member of your organization who simply loves being in the spotlight.
When compared to farm, equipment, livestock, art or auto auctions, benefit/fundraising auctions stand alone as a unique beast and, therefore, require a unique approach. Simply put, the most successful charity auctions are those conducted by professional fundraising auctioneers who “play in this sandbox,” the highly specialized world of benefit auctions, each and every day.
And so here are 5 criteria for choosing the RIGHT auctioneer for your next benefit auction event:
1. EDUCATION – Has your auctioneer graduated from an accredited auction school? If not, beware. If so, he/she will not only know the latest rules and regulations that could impact your event, but will subscribe to the National Auctioneers Association Code of Ethics. And not to be overlooked, they can legally conduct an auction. Say what? In certain jurisdictions it is against the law to allow anyone other than a certified and licensed auctioneer to conduct a public auction.
Additionally, many fundraising auctioneers hold a special BAS (Benefit Auctioneer Specialist) designation accredited by the National Auctioneers Association. These individuals receive ongoing training and education in this highly specialized field, regularly engaging with the BAS community to share exciting new ideas, techniques, and up-to-the-minute strategies that translate into additional profits (and protection) for their clients.
2. EXPERIENCE – Be it a plumber, pilot, or doctor, given the choice I’d rather deal with someone who has had a LOT of experience doing what they do for a living. Does the auctioneer you’re considering have a successful track record? How LONG have they been doing this and how OFTEN do they conduct benefit auctions? Do they SPECIALIZE in the this field? Do they have TESTIMONIALS and REFERRALS that can be confirmed? While BS baffles brains (as my grandpa use to say), genuine success is easy to measure and simple to verify. Do your homework.
And most importantly, does the auctioneer you’re considering have experience conducting Cash Appeals (aka Fund-an-Item or Fund-a-Need)? These are a huge opportunity to generate insane amounts of money in a matter of minutes (I once raised $350,000 in 90 seconds at a cancer event – watch the video at www.dannyhooper.com). I can assure you it’s not easy asking for cash pledges, but when it’s done properly, with finesse and diplomacy, it can work magic.
And then there are other big moneymakers like WildCard Auctions, Legacy Auctions, Triple Chance Raffles, Double-ups, Instant Underwriters, etc. You need someone who knows this stuff.
3. ENTERTAINMENT – People crave entertainment, and if it’s not happening on the stage at your event, they’ll turn to their smartphones, table chatter, and other distractions, and now you have a room that’s out of control. The best fundraising auctioneers are also great entertainers. They have the “it factor” that Simon Crowell talked about as a judge on American Idol. Livestock, auto, and art auctioneers are less concerned about entertaining bidders, but at a fundraising auction it’s an absolute necessity. Your guests deserve a FUN and entertaining event that will not just open their wallets, but lure them back again next year.
4. ENGAGEMENT – A professional fundraising auctioneer is like a circus Ring Master, able to hold the crowds’ attention and keep the momentum going and the event flowing. Do you have a better plan for controlling your audience and keeping them engaged?
5. EXTRACTION – As with any specialized profession, there are countless tricks of the trade, techniques and strategies for achieving an awesome outcome (as measured by the amount of money extracted during your event). Remember, holding a fundraising auction is like opening a store that’s only going to be open for a few short hours before closing again for another year. Therefore it’s essential to explore EVERY extraction option with your auctioneer beforehand, rather than regretting the opportunities that were missed and all that money that walked out the door during the post-event debrief.
Hiring a professional, experienced, entertaining fundraising auctioneer is never a cost, just a smart investment.