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How to find a fundraising auctioneer for your charity auction

How to Find a Fundraising Auctioneer for your Charity Auction

Copyright (c) 2010 Red Apple Auctions LLC

If you’re new to charity auctions or new to working with auctioneers, you might be unsure of how to go about finding and selecting a charity auctioneer.

Here are six steps auction planners can use to not just survive the selection process, but actually enjoy the conversations.

#1: Locate some auctioneers

If you’re starting from a blank slate, visit the National Auctioneers Association website* and use their «Find an Auctioneer» search tool. Auctioneers with a «BAS» credential indicates that he or she has had specific training and testing in fundraising auctions. It’s a good way to start weeding through the masses.

Similarly, if you research your state auctioneers association, many state groups also have a similar search tool useful for finding area auctioneers.

Another great option is to call other organizations whom you respect which are conducting their own charity auctions. Ask them who they use, and why.

#2: Research and compare auctioneers by studying their websites

To be frank … in today’s society, if a business doesn’t have a website, they aren’t doing much business. You can glean a lot from how serious a company is simply by reading what they have posted online. — Is the content fresh? — Do they showcase videos? — Are they active in their communities? — Are they even … relevant?

Almost weekly, I have auctioneers who contact my company, inquiring as to whether I’m hiring contract auctioneers. Before calling them back, the first action I take is to Google them and see if I can find their website. If I can’t find a website …and/or a photo … and/or a video … I’m not interested.

When I emailed back one auctioneer to inquire if he had a video, he said, «Sure. Search on YouTube.» What?!? Are you kidding me? This guy wasn’t even going to make an effort to provide me — his prospective employer — with a direct link to a video he would prefer for me to watch? Gosh, that made for an easy «delete.» I immediately knew that his customer service wouldn’t be a match for my company. Trust me, you’ll be able to pick up on similar cues.

Here’s something else to watch: If an auction firm’s home page seems less focused on fund raising auctions than it is on real estate auctions (or auto auctions … or consignment auctions … or antique auctions … or … whatever), then the firm probably is more knowledgeable about real estate. This might a perk for you … but only if you plan on selling some land and chattel in your benefit auction.

#3: Create a form with standard questions, and call some auctioneers

I tend to think it’s best if you can talk with all of your candidates within the same time period so you can compare them in one swoop.

Key questions you might want to ask include: — Are you available on our gala date? — How many events do you conduct per year? — How many events have you overseen with our guest count? — Could you describe the way you work with clients? — Do you have a video? (If they don’t, ask when you can watch them next perform.) — Can I speak with some of your clients who hold events similar to ours? — Could you explain your service offerings and pricing structure — … and whatever else is relevant for your event (emceeing, for instance)

HINT: Don’t begin by asking, «How much do you cost.» In most cases, a charity auctioneer will need to know a bit about your event before quoting a price.

#2 HINT: If you’re familiar with the Kepner-Tregoe ranking and weighting method for making decisions, it might be fun to use that process to help you decide. (Did I just type Kepner-Tregoe? Oops! My years spent in the corporate world are oozing onto the article…)

#4: If the auctioneer has given you referrals, you can call them

When you call the referral, ask if he or she is — in any way, shape or form — related to the auctioneer.

If they aren’t, ask about the auctioneer’s communication and performance style. We already assume the group liked the auctioneer (hence, they are a «referral,»), but we want to find out if the auctioneer’s style would fit in with our guests and organization. Ask questions focusing on that.

#5: If you want a proposal or need a final interview, set it up.

Request a proposal only if you’re serious about the auctioneer.

If you need the auctioneer to meet key decision-makers face-to-face, set up the meeting. Keep in mind that meeting face-to-face isn’t always an option due to distance. But early on, I did conduct a lot of in-person sales calls, especially if the Board was responsible for approving the hire.

#6: Ladies, it’s OK to say no.

(Hm. Haven’t we heard that before in a different context?) If you’re not into an auctioneer or know that you definitely don’t need his or her services, don’t ask for a proposal. Know that it’s completely fine to say «no thank you.» You won’t burn bridges or hurt feelings unless you drop the ball. But if you’ve moved along in the process and you’ve received a proposal, it’s only polite to let the auctioneer know when you opt for someone else. Give them a call (gosh, use SlyDial if you find it that awkward) to thank them for their proposal, and let them know you’ve opted for another candidate but will keep them in mind for next year.

When I worked as an event planner at GE, I always called my vendors to deliver the bad news. It seemed to be the polite thing to do. And besides, I might want to work with them later and I knew my courtesy would be remembered.

Good luck!

* National Auctioneers Association website is http://www.auctioneers.org/

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