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  • Writer's pictureTammy Miller

When to hire a professional charity auctioneer

The number one goal of a charity auction is to raise money. In many instances, volunteer boards of directors and/or fundraising committees translate that goal to cutting costs for the event itself. Unfortunately, those cuts can come at the expense of improving the net proceeds for the event and at the expense of adding much needed support to a critical cause or program.

I have a colleague who worked as the executive director for two different nonprofits. One was very small with a small budget and limited resources. There, it was necessary to employ what she called "sweat equity," to manage the organization. That is, she used volunteers and staff who were not in any way trained or qualified to manage the organization's special events, marketing and outreach. Then, she was hired to run a much larger nonprofit. Because she was new to the concept "fundraising resources," she spent the first year of her new tenure continuing the tradition of relying on "sweat equity" to manage things. At the end of the year, despite expectations that as a "breath of fresh air" she would take the organization to new fundraising heights, they just barely attained the previous year's results. So, she sat down with other non-profit executives and asked them to help her analyze what went wrong. To a person, they all surmised that she had relied too heavily on that "sweat equity" factor. She was using staff and volunteers who had limited experience and no training for charity fundraising and the results showed it.

It's in these situations that we encourage you to hire a professional charity auctioneer. The final outcome will be better for your organization. You will be more likely to improve your net proceeds, engage new donors, and re-engage and energize long-term donors. That's not to say that you must spend a fortune...many auctioneers who hold the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) certificate work at reduced rates compared to their for-profit work (including us!). As BAS auctioneers, we have special training that will improve the outcomes of any charity event. For those of you who rely on silent auctions, we encourage you to consider a switch to a BAS run live auction. It is impossible to improve donor connectivity for your cause via a paper bidding sheet that emphasizes "Win this item," vs "Support this cause."

Let's face it. At a live auction, charity or otherwise, who is the most important person in the room? Your auctioneer! In that role, we are trained to handle the unique needs of a charity auction. Unlike a non-fundraising auctioneer, we are required to assess and act on the following tenet: "How much money is in the room and how can we get these folks to donate the greatest amount possible?" Bidding at a charity auction shouldn't be an exercise in getting a good deal. Instead, it should involve responding to the auctioneer's call to fund the cause or program. Part of the skill set that makes us successful is recognizing and interacting with the participant who is passionate about your cause. Being able to successfully make that assessment always improves the final outcome.

To succeed in engaging your donors, we use a diverse set of skills and techniques. First, in direct opposition to the non-charity auction, we work to slow things down. We accomplish this by throwing in a bit of entertainmet and using banter back and forth with your donors -- and we have special training to recognize those donors and how to engage with them. As a result, we make certain the donor is focused on the cause and not just the value of the item. It encourages them to "bid" more so that they can give more to the cause ... not just so that they can win possession of an object.

A good BAS will also assist in setting up your room to maximize their potential to interact with your bidders, will help you make certain that the flow of people moving through the room maximizes access to items being auctioned, and will help you identify items that tend to bring in the most proceeds in a charity environment.

Please contact us today to learn more about what we can do to support your charity event. We believe we can take your fundraising to the next level ... and it will cost nothing to sit down and talk about it.

Tammy Miller, CAI, AARE, BAS

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