I have been suffering from a delusion for the past 10 months, or so. And my guess is that hundreds of fundraising auction planners out there—maybe even you—are afflicted as well. What’s the diagnosis? It’s called:
The I’ve-Watched-So-Many-Sherry Truhlar-Auction-How-to-Videos-that-I-Actually-Believe-She-Is-My-Friend, SYNDROME.
Sherry Truhlar is the founder of Red Apple Auctions. An auction wizard who is generous of spirit and likeable in every way, Sherry Truhlar has published dozens of free and friendly online videos with incredibly practical and impactful ideas that are transformational for auction fundraisers.
Fortunately for me, I no longer suffer from this condition because
I AM NOW FRIENDS WITH SHERRY TRUHLAR!
We met a month ago in New Hampshire at the SPCA Annual Auction for the Animals. After delighting both the guests and the SPCA with her auctioneering and fundraising skills, Sherry and I sat down together and had a nice chat over Cucumber Ginger Martinis at the hotel bar.
I had so much FUN with Sherry. We had loads of great conversation about auctions and marketing, and well, life in general. Nearing midnight, I finally managed to cover off on the blog topic that I wanted to ask her about.
“So, it would be great if everyone could hire Sherry Truhlar for their auction. But, knowing that’s not exactly possible, what advice do you have for auction planners on hiring a professional benefit auctioneer?”
Like all her videos, Sherry’s answer was simple, clear, and easy to apply to your event. Here are the five great tips she reviewed with me.
1. Start the auctioneer selection process early.
This is a big decision with lots of opportunity and potential risk tied to it. Give yourself time to select methodically. Plus, the scope of a benefit auctioneer’s services can range from a simple on-site auctioneer to an all-encompasing gala consultant. You may not know what you need at the start of your selection process. Keep an open mind and explore all options.
2. Contact at least seven auctioneers.
Seven??? Really??? Yes. Sherry’s point of view on this is that with each auctioneer you call, you will get a better understanding of what to ask and what to look for. You are educating yourself in the process. In the end, you will have a very clear understanding of what you want, as well the confidence you need to make a recommendation.
One source for identifying auctioneers is the National Auctioneers Association. They have a Find An Auctioneer page where you can select your state as well as indicate the specialty of “Benefit & Charity.”
Note: There is a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) designation that requires an auctioneer to complete 21 hours of classroom training, as well as annual continuing education. Sherry has her BAS, but not all benefit auctioneers do. It is definitely a good thing to have, but not necessarily a reason to rule out an auctioneer. You should decide how important it is to your organization and go from there.
3. See all your candidates in action! If you can’t do that, request a video showing the auctioneer selling an item from start to finish at an auction.
The video should not be promotional in nature. Actually, the worse the quality the better—it guarantees authenticity! If you can, find a video from an audience member who happened to switch on their iphone and uploaded the video to YouTube. Your goal is to get a feel for what really happens at an event!
For an example, you can check out this video where Sherry grabs the attention of a chatty audience, dodges the wait staff, gets people laughing, and closes a $750 item for nearly $4,000 dollars.
4. Call referrals.
Ask for referrals specifically from benefit auctions. Call all the referrals provided. And have questions prepared to ask each of the referrals so that you can compare answers. Questions may include:
- When was your auction?
- How many people attended?
- What did you expect to raise with the live auction? What was the combined retail value of the items in the live auction? What was actually raised at the live auction?
- How many live auction items did you have?
- What services did the auctioneer provide?
- How many meetings did you have with the auctioneer prior to the event?
- Is this person going to be the auctioneer at your event, this year? Why or why not?
5. Google the auctioneer.
Of course, you can’t believe everything on the internet (With the exception of this blog –all true!). And, you shouldn’t let reports of mild dissatisfaction dissuade you. But, you should definitely investigate to see if there are any scathing complaints or troublesome news stories out there and follow up as you see fit.
Finally, something to think about regarding auctioneer fees.
There is no “right” fee structure to look for. Sherry knows plenty of great auctioneers who charge a flat fee, and plenty of great auctioneers that charge fees tied to the money raised at the event.
In this bloggers opinion, it is best to tie at least a portion of the auctioneer’s compensation to the success of the event. You want all involved to feel the excitement build as more and more money is raised—you, your board members, your audience, and the auctioneer. It is just human nature to perform at your best when you have skin in the game.
To wrap up, it is worth mentioning that watching so many Red Apple Auction videos that you think Sherry is your friend isn't a bad thing! Her content is terrific, and truly only good can come of it! So here is what I recommend...
Coffee and Conversation "with Sherry"
Stop by your favorite local bakery and buy a small box of treats (make sure there is chocolate involved). Invite your best friend on the auction committee over for the afternoon and make a pot of good coffee. Open up YouTube and search on “Sherry Truhlar.” You will have your choice from over 129 well-labeled, three to seven-minute videos on topics you are interested in learning about. Take notes and brainstorm together.
And remember, the Bliss is in the Details!
P.S. Sherry also has a great deal of benefit auction education and instruction available on her website—Free content (Like her What Sold Like Heaven in 2011 Auction Item e-book) as well as very valuable webinars and consultation opportunities! Visit www.RedAppleAuctions.com for more information.This blog is sponsored by FundraisingRides, the division of Soaring Adventures of America, Inc. dedicated to providing non-profit organizations with fundraising opportunities.
“Haven’t I met you before?” That’s all that kept looping through my head when I met Tom Weitbrecht at an event sponsored by The Non-profit ToolBox, just outside Boston, in the Fall of 2010.
With a sparkle in his eye, an endearing “Bah”ston accent, and a handshake that felt like it was from an old friend, Tom said, “Nice to meet you, Jenna!” With a first impression like that, I am pretty sure that everyone thinks they have met Tom before!
It was at that meeting, that I became passionate about the topic that we are discussing today. Honestly, it is a topic that many non-profits put to bed years ago. And because they are occupied with so many other decisions, they simply don’t think to revisit it.
But, it is time to freshen up your due diligence and open up a dialog. Let me help get the ball rolling by giving a shout out to the group: If you don’t use a professional auctioneer for your fundraiser, it is time to RETHINK!
Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Jenna! Auctioneers cost money. They take a cut out of the funds we raise at our events.” Yes, they do. But, let’s take that notion and turn it upside down for a second. What are the costs of not having a professional auctioneer at your event?
What do you hope to bring in at your auction this year.. $10K, $20K…$50K? The auction is likely the single most important hour of your fundraising efforts for the entire year! There are high expectations and high stakes—that makes it high risk! Can you think of any other high risk financial situation where you don’t turn to a professional?
Anything that takes the auction off track--even in the slightest way--could distract bidders or make them lose interest and erode the funds you raise during that crucial hour.
But, the great news is, anything (or, in this case, anyone) that keeps your auction on track—or, better yet, elevates the experience to entertainment and excitement for your guests, will increase the funds you raise during that crucial hour!
So, I have two goals, today. My first goal is to inspire you to revisit the topic of hiring a professional auctioneer. My second goal is to give you the resources you need to make the right decision for your nonprofit. To that end, I am going to make cyber introductions to two auction professionals and their valuable online video content.
Out-of-this-World-Super-Helpful Online How-to Videos from Two Auctioneers
So, let’s circle back to my old friend, Tom (oh wait, he isn’t my old friend, I keep forgetting). Tom is the principal and chief charity auctioneer of The Strategic Auction Alliance and he has helped raise millions of dollars for charity organizations.
Above, is a mini video with a handful of helpful auction tips and a demonstration of Tom’s auctioneering skills. After you check that out, I highly recommend carving out some time to watch his free webinar: Obtaining Quality Auction Items.
The 25-minute seminar is jam-packed with HUGE ideas that you WILL implement. Plus, the recorded 35-minute Q & A session following the formal talk answers all the questions you will have swimming around in your head.
I also want to introduce you to Sherry Truhlar who is the founder Red Apple Auctions. I have never met Sherry, but I am a big fan of her video content. She passionately disseminates massively practical event details that will have a meaningful impact on your auction!
Sherry is dynamic and incredibly energized. She specializes in three to five minute videos that are a slam dunk in addressing, debunking and blowing out auction details. Above is one of my favorite videos where Sherry has a great no-bones-about-it opinion about how to (or more accurately how NOT to) announce the start of the auction! Below are three links to her short auction guides selected from her vault of helpful video content.
How many items should you sell in your benefit auction?
How to design the perfect auction bid paddle number for your event.
How to display silent auction items at your benefit auction fundraiser.
What I like about Sherry and Tom is that they know the best way to build trust is to be open and authentic. And, thank goodness for us, they are skilled in using web-based tools and media channels to cast a wide net and broadcast their good thinking to all of us do-gooders.
Just so you know, I have no affiliation with Tom or Sherry. And, as I publish this post, they have no idea that I am singing their praises.
So, there you go. It is time to RETHINK the auctioneer! Then REACT to these ideas. And, don’t forget to let me know how it all turns out.
Remember, the Bliss is in the Details!
P.S. Do you have great auction tips to share, what to do and what not to do? Submit your ideas and get a chance to win a hot air balloon ride for two people! This blog is sponsored by FundraisingRides, the division of Soaring Adventures of America, Inc. dedicated to providing non-profit organizations with fundraising opportunities.