"Charity auctions are fundraising events that turn into social events, not social events where you hope to raise money. If done correctly, your guests won't know the difference."
- Keith Jones, benefit auctioneer
A surefire strategy to entertain your audience AND raise as much money as possible for your cause? Turn to a professional benefit auctioneer.
Working with a pro is an investment that hauls in 50% higher bids per item, ensuring your organization maximizes its return from the fundraising event.
Read on to learn 5 key questions auction organizers ask when seeking the best auctioneer for their event, goals and mission.
1. How involved are you in the planning of the event?
Depending on a certain auctioneer's training or experience, their approach to similar fundraising events can be vastly different.
What is the auctioneer's availability? How involved do they get with planning? And more importantly, what level of participation are you seeking from your auctioneer?
Smaller organizations or new auction planners have much to gain from an auctioneer who provides pre-event services and consultation. Experienced auction planners and larger organizations may only need an auctioneer who will familiarize themselves with the items, come in on auction night and bring the house down.
2. Do you advise on the creation of auction items?
This question piggy-backs off our first point. You want unique items that cater to your particular audience. The more exciting and exclusive your auction packages, the more bids they'll receive.
Depending on the level of pre-event consultation offered, your benefit auctioneer may assist in the brainstorming and procurement process.
Who better to ask what bidders want today than a professional - especially if they're local and/or familiar with your demographic?
The auctioneer can share a "home run" auction item that sold multiple times in an event last month. They can caution against certain categories of items that tend to be duds. They may have connections you can contact on behalf of your nonprofit.
The end result: brand-new auction items that delight and surprise your donors.
3. How do you suggest presenting our Fund-a-Need?
The fund-a-need, also known as a special appeal or fund-an-item, is a call for on-the-spot donations that go towards a specific item or campaign.
Fund-a-needs are increasingly becoming a key component of live charity auction events, to the point where they are drawing in as much or more than the auction portion! So you want someone at the helm who knows what they're doing as they stand on stage and ask for gifts.
First, after learning more about your event and audience, does the benefit auctioneer recommend having a fund-a-need? Do they have experience leading cash appeals, and if so, what is the typical response from similar events?
Finally, what is their style of conducting the fund-a-need, and what do they need from you? Successful fund-a-needs rely on creating an emotional environment conducive to giving. Your prospective auctioneer may request an inspiring speaker or video to introduce this vital portion of the night.
4. How many people do you bring with you to the event?
How many of their own staff or assistants should you anticipate at the event?
"We come in with a crew: not just volunteers who point people out, but professional bid spotters or ringmen," benefit auctioneer Keith Jones noted in a recent webinar (see 'The 6 Most Important Chairs for Fundraising Auction Success'). "It is a profession, and they do this every day of their life."
Benefit auctioneers often describe ringpeople as an extension of their services.
"They know the live auction items as well as I do. They can answer bidders' questions where I may not be able to hear them from the stage. From my experience, bid spotters drive bids higher and create buzz and excitement in the room so critical to success," Jones asserts.
That said, many auctioneers do come by themselves and train a nonprofit's available volunteers.
The best choice for your event depends on your audience size, goals, and if you have outgoing personalities that can assist.
5. Do you employ other revenue generators besides the live auction and Fund-a-Need?
We've discussed the two "meat and potatoes" of charity auctions - the live auction and fund-a-need - but there's plenty of opportunity to raise more money and have fun while you're at it.
What other revenue enhancers is the auctioneer familiar with? Do they have any new or cutting-edge ideas? For your event, do they recommend conducting raffles and games, hosting a silent auction or setting up a wine pull?
For more ideas, see...
We hope this list of questions is helpful as you vet potential benefit auctioneers for your next event. Winspire works with benefit auctioneers across North America. If you would like recommendations for an auctioneer in your region, click or leave a comment below.