How Important Is the Fundraising Auctioneer to the Success of Your Event?

I want you to think about the term “Fundraising Auction”.

A “Fundraising Auction” is an event where items of value are gathered, and then sold in a competitive bidding situation, either in a Silent Auction format, or in a Live Auction format by a Live Auctioneer. And since typically the best items are saved for the Live Auction, arguably it is the Live Auction that should generate a significant portion of the proceeds in any Fundraising Auction.

So why do so many non-profit groups consider the Fundraising Auctioneer to be the least valuable component in a Fundraising Auction?

The Hosting Facility gets paid.
The Printer gets paid.
The Caterer gets paid.
The Liquor Store gets paid.
The DJ gets paid.
The Florist gets paid.
But the Auctioneer … the individual who is expected to raise the lion’s share of the event’s proceeds… is expected to work for Free. And is usually under-appreciated for the professional services he/she provides.

I’m not trying to underscore the value of the invitations & programs, food, booze, music, and decorations. All are important in their own way. But each of these are “Expenses”. It is the Auctioneer who is going to bring “Revenue”… and thus, the “Profits”… into any event. Which is the ultimate objective of any Fundraising Auction.

Here is a real-life example of how under-appreciated the Auctioneer can be. In two comparable events we worked last year, during the dinner portion of the event one non-profit group sat the Auctioneer (me) at a table with the DJ, the Interns, the Volunteer Staff, and other event “Help”. The 2nd non-profit group sat the Auctioneer (me) directly next to the CEO of their organization, where we chatted about how important the pending revenue would be to their organization. Which group do you think valued the services of the Fundraising Auctioneer more?

Don’t ever under-estimate the value that a professional Fundraising Auctioneer can bring to your event. The Auctioneer adds value as a pre-event consultant. And the Auctioneer can change an event from a moderate to a huge success.

A Case Study Once I was scheduled to call an Auction for a major local non-profit group. They represented a very good cause and they had a strong and dedicated following. Their event was sold out, quality Live & Silent Auction items had been solicited, and the Special Pledge Appeal had been choreographed and was ready to go. The facility was first class, the appropriate caterer was booked, and the food was ready to cook.

But quite unexpectedly, some unseasonably inclement weather forced the event’s cancellation. Despite all of the committee’s hard work, cancelling the event was the proper decision considering the circumstances.

So the Event Committee scrambled to re-schedule the event for the following weekend.

They confirmed with the Hosting Facility.
They confirmed with the Caterer.
They confirmed with the Liquor Store.
They confirmed with the DJ.
They confirmed with the Florist.
Since they already had the Mailing List of those scheduled to attend, no new invitations had to be printed as all were contacted by email or telephone. So with everything in place, the group went ahead and re-scheduled the event for the following weekend.

But guess who they failed to confirm? You got it… the Professional Auctioneer. They thought so little of the Auctioneer’s contribution that they “assumed” that the Auctioneer would be available and at their beck and call.

But the Auctioneer already had another Fundraising Auction booked for that date with another non-profit group. It was only hour away from the re-scheduled event, and things could have been easily worked out. All Group #1 had to do was start their event one hour earlier, or one hour later, than the Group #2, and the Auctioneer could have helped both groups on the same day.

But because Group #1 failed to anticipate a possible Auctioneer conflict, because they failed to confirm with the Auctioneer before re-scheduling their event, their preferred Auctioneer had to bow out and they had to scramble to locate substitute “Volunteer” Auctioneer only days before their event.

And it cost them.

Learning Points

The Live Auction is usually where the profits are made at any Fundraising Auction.
A Professional Fundraising Auctioneer can be vital to the success of any Fundraising Auction.
The better Fundraising Auctioneers usually get booked quickly.
You need to recognize the important contributions that a good Auctioneer can make to your event.
Michael Ivankovich is a Bucks County Fundraising Auctioneer based in Doylestown PA, and serves the Great Philadelphia PA area. He has been a professionally licensed and bonded Auctioneer in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years, has been named Pennsylvania’s Auctioneer of the Year, and has considerable experience in conducting Fundraising Auctions. Michael loves helping groups raise needed funds for good causes and one of his specialties is the “Special Pledge Appeal” or “Fund-A-Cause Appeal” which usually enables clients to double their revenue in a single evening.

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