You wouldn’t ask a bike mechanic to do your dental exam, So why are you letting an untrained auctioneer ask for money during your fundraising events?

The case for hiring a professional auctioneer for your fundraising event.

Below is a fairly typical conversation with a potential client after they completed their annual fundraising event and had a volunteer auctioneer take to the stage and ask for money.

Client: Hello, we need a new auctioneer so what do you charge? We don’t have much of a budget but you would receive a lot of exposure as there will be other organizations in the room that might also need your services.

Me:  Thank you for reaching out. How did you raise money at the event last year?

Client: Last year, Pam, one of our biggest donors told us she served as auctioneer at a school event and had a hoot. She volunteered to do our event and we were grateful because we didn’t have the budget for a trained auctioneer.  Turned out she did in fact love the microphone, and vodka, and when it was time to ask for money she began to shout and shame our crowd into giving.

Me: I am so sorry that happened to you and I want to reassure you that you are not the first organization to have a ‘Pam’ play the role of the auctioneer and I understand your frustration. You invited 100+ guests, paid for the venue, food, alcohol, glorious centerpieces, entertainment, etc. You and your staff invested so much in emotional labor and you are left feeling disappointed because you didn’t see the return on investment. This typically happens when hiring a professional auctioneer wasn’t a priority when it came to budgeting for the event. I wish this was a one-off conversation but sadly this happens more frequently than not and I understand why it continues to happen. A professionally trained auctioneer makes the job look easy and anytime someone makes a job look easy people begin to think that anyone can do that job and so they go that exact route, letting anyone take on the role of auctioneer.

They trust their fundraiser to someone who does in fact LOVE the organization but who has no experience in conducting an appeal/paddle raise/fund a need, from the stage or running a live auction. When I sit down with potential clients and ask them if they would allow their neighbor, who LOVES to cook a big dinner for the family, once a year for their holiday meal, take on the task of feeding 200+  people, the answer is “NO”.

When I ask if they would trust their preteen nephew and his cell phone to function as AV, the answer is “NO”’.

When I ask if they would trust the centerpieces to Marge who LOVES  to make animals out of toilet paper rolls, the answer is,, “HECK NO”!

So why then do you trust someone who has no experience conducting  an appeal and leading a live auction to take on the role of auctioneer? Most clients spend a bit of time on this question but their answer always ends up being the same. They don’t fully understand the value that a professional auctioneer brings to their event.

Almost every other part of the fundraising event has a line item in the budget, except for the professional auctioneer.  Sure, it’s not hard to find someone who loves to talk into a mic and has no problem getting on stage but that tends to be where the similarity ends. A trained professional fundraising auctioneer should be involved with the planning process of the event from the very beginning. Auctioneers have a very specific lens which we look through and it is the lens of, how do we create an event, from the physical space all the way to the emotional space so that the guests feel motivated to give.

It’s not a complicated formula but getting it right and being able to flawlessly execute it is the difference between someone shaming your guests to give vs. a trained professional guiding your guests along a journey of falling in love with your mission and therefore giving from a heart-centered space.

It is the difference between someone using inappropriate humor to connect vs. a trained professional who understands how to effortlessly read the crowd and adapt accordingly. Humor is a wonderful tool and when wielded skillfully can impact fundraising efforts in beautiful ways. 

It is the difference between having someone show up right before show time and take to the stage without a clear understanding of what is at stake vs. a professional who is deeply committed to their craft and treats every organization as if it was their own non profit.

The fundraising event is often the one time a year when you  bring so many people together to learn about and support  the mission of your organization. And because the stakes are so high when it comes to fundraising, it makes sense to budget for and hire a trained professional auctioneer who has the skill set to encourage your guests to give in a way that leaves them feeling valued, an integral part of the success of the organization, and excited to come back next year.

About Debbie Scheer

Debbie Scheer is a humorist speaker in Denver and she is also an event emcee in Denver as well as across the country. She is also a professional speaker, humorist, emcee, and auctioneer whose mix of heart and humor brings inviting energy to every event she hosts. Her magnetic presence draws in audiences and makes a room come alive with purpose, connection, and laughter. If you are interested in hiring Debbie, please contact her today!