Meeting with a benefit auctioneer


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November 3, 2017 To Change or Not To Change (Professional Fundraising Auctioneers); That is the Question (Asked by Nonprofits)

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Here’s a common question nonprofits ask – “Should we rehire the same professional fundraising auctioneer who performed for our previous event for next year’s event?” I’d like to offer some counsel from one of those fundraising auctioneer’s perspectives.

Satisfaction in their Performance – Do you have a good partnership with your fundraising auctioneer?  Do they offer you the services and performance that you desire? Do they understand your organization and your mission?  These are important questions to ask yourself and your event team when evaluating your auctioneer.

Enjoying who you work with is important in any situation. You need to be teamed with a professional auctioneer who has your back when you face opposition from your board, staff and committee volunteers.  Event night they should be engaging and effective, raising the most money possible.  When things don’t go exactly the way you’d hoped, talk with your auctioneer to identify what went wrong and why.  Communicate with them the things you did like and what you didn’t like regarding their consulting and their performance event night.  If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.

Time to Change Things Up – Some groups want to keep their event fresh. They might think they can accomplish this by switching up their choice of professional fundraising auctioneer. But I caution you here, and this is why.

When I work with an organization for the first time, my goal is not to make too many changes the first year. I like to relate a nonprofit client’s relationship to their auctioneer somewhat like dating; the first year we are doing the song and dance, getting to know each other and I’m not upsetting the apple cart. The second year working together, we are “engaged” – we’ve gotten to know each other well and you are open to incorporating more ideas that can help raise more money. We are working together to begin making a bigger impact on the event. In the following years, after we have developed a great foundation, our work is focused on keeping your event fresh and exciting. OK, yes, I know, this sounds like a marriage!

When a professional fundraising auctioneer first begins working with a nonprofit, it takes some time for them to understand the organization, the internal politics, the staff/volunteers’ personalities and frankly, the dynamics of the event. I recommend that you work with your auctioneer for a minimum of 5 years (if you enjoy working with them). Longer is even better. And remember, when you ARE ready for a change to your fundraising auctioneer, have a frank discussion with your current one. Tell them you are ready to mix it up. If they hold the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) designation through the National Auctioneers Association, they have a huge network of qualified fundraising auctioneers they can recommend. Don’t be afraid to have this conversation. Your current auctioneer would know who best in their (BAS) network would be a good fit as your new auctioneer. I know of very few of my colleagues who would not welcome this sort of conversation.

Consulting – Not only is your professional fundraising auctioneer the person who talks fast and sells your items auction day, this auctioneer should also be consulting with you during your event planning process.  Topics they should be discussing with you should be: what live auction items are selling best; what new revenue generating games/raffles you might consider offering; what the flow of evening should look like; what should happen when and for how long; if mobile bidding is a good fit for your guests and your organization; how to set up an effective Fund-A-Need/Paddle Raise; etc., etc. All of this is a huge part of the planning when it comes to a successful fundraising event!

Fees – The fees paid for a professional fundraising auctioneer are not standardized. Pricing will vary due to your geographic location, the size of your event, the amount of money raised and the amount of consulting needed. Remember, as with any professional service, you often get what you pay for. Less expensive might very well mean less effective.

Take everything into consideration before making a change as big as securing a new professional fundraising auctioneer. And if you do decide to make that change, get feedback from the auctioneer you’ve most recently employed. You will probably be surprised at just how very helpful they can be when asked for their input.

Make every minute a revenue generating minute!


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