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 benefit auctioneer.
Here are six steps auction planners can use to not just survive the selection process, but actually enjoy the conversations.
#1: Locate some benefit 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” (Benefit Auctioneer Specialist) credential indicates that he or she has had specific benefit auction training.
A BAS designation should not be your deciding criteria, but at least it gives you good place to start when weeding through the masses.
Similarly, if you research your state auctioneers association, many states also have a similar search tool for finding area auctioneers.
Another great option is to call other nonprofit leaders whom you respect and which are conducting their own charity auctions. Ask them who they use and why.
#2: Research and compare auctioneers by studying websites
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 relevant?
I regularly have auctioneers contacting 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. It tells me a lot about their presentation! 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 benefit auctions than it is on real estate auctions (or auto auctions, consignment auctions, antique auctions, etc.), then the firm probably is more knowledgeable about real estate.
TIP: Do a Google search on “name” and “auctioneer.” Do not search on “name” and “fundraising auctioneer.”
The reason being is that some auctioneers will have two websites — a large one for their primary business (selling real estate, livestock, etc) and a smaller website for their charity auction work.
It’s your decision, but when I’m hiring a professional, I want someone who is doing what I’m paying them to do, day in and day out.
I don’t want to hire someone who is marketing real estate and other assets by day and ‘fitting in’ my job at night. I want them an expert in what I’m paying them to do 24 X 7 — and no one is an expert in everything.
#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 to ask:
- 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, be leery. But then 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?
- Whatever else is relevant for your event (emceeing, for instance).
Don’t begin by asking, “How much do you cost.”
In most cases,the auctioneer will need to know a bit about your event before quoting a price.
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. If not, don’t worry about it.
#4: If the auctioneer has given you referrals, 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 (they are a referral, after all), but we want to find out if the auctioneer’s style would fit in with our guests and organization. Ask questions focused 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, 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.
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 to thank them for their proposal. 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! I knew my courtesy would be remembered.
Good luck on your search!
And if you feel Red Apple Auctions might be a fit for you, I’d enjoy chatting. Set up a meeting here.