How to choose the best charity or fundraising auctioneer

Selecting a professional auctioneer may very well be the most important decision that a board will make regarding fundraising.  The question should be: “What is not having a professional charity auctioneer going to cost?”  Not, “What is a professional auctioneer going to cost?”  Skimping on cost here can be devastating to your final results and make an auction drag on forever.  When an auction has down time and begins to drag you will completely lose the attention of your audience which results in bidding lag and decreased revenue.  Those extra bids that a professional will draw from the crowd will more than pay for the auctioneer’s fee.

All auctioneers will have a different fee structure.  Some charge flat fees, some charge commission based on sale amounts and some charge a combination of both.  I give my clients a different array of choices and let them choose what will work best for them.  All expenditures have to be considered when booking an auctioneer (i.e. travel, lodging, food, first time customer versus long time customer, ringmen, etc.).  If you feel confident with the auctioneer and his integrity, he should be fair with you.  Remember, there’s nothing wrong with a bonus clause in the auctioneer’s contract if he exceeds your expectations.

Five reasons why you should book an experienced auctioneer:

  1. Experienced auctioneers know how to interact with the audience and drive the prices of your items to their full potential.


It is a proven fact that experienced auctioneers can easily attain 15%-50% higher bids for your items.


  1. Experienced auctioneers have a passion for their profession and understand that their performance reflects the quality of their public perception.


Having a volunteer call your auction is like having an accountant work on your car.


  1. Experienced auctioneers understand that the main goal of any event is to raise money, whether it be for a charity, business, or organization.


Auctioneers can make donating money fun, emotional and competitive!


  1. Experienced auctioneers understand that keeping the audience entertained and having fun is the key element to a successful auction event.


According to a National Auctioneers Association survey, FUN is the number one reason why people attend auctions.


  1. Experienced auctioneers have all of the necessary tools to make your event unforgettable.


Good auctioneers are always training and educating themselves about the latest trends in the business.

Successful auctioneers book up quickly so make sure to secure your date as soon as possible.  If you are a repeat customer, book the auctioneer immediately following your event for the next auction.  If you are a new customer try to secure an auctioneer within six months or more prior to the event.  Sign their contract and get it back to them in a timely manner to ensure your date is marked on their calendar.  Charity auctioneers tend to be busiest from October through the beginning of December and from mid January through May.

If you do not have any recommendations from other organizations as to who may be a good selection, here are some simple questions that you can ask an auctioneer when interviewing…

  1. 1.      Do you specialize in charity auctions?

Auctioneers that specialize in charity, benefit and fundraising auctions are going to be best equipped to handle all aspects of your event from the silent auction, to live auction, to “the fund-a-need”.  There are many proven “tricks of the trade” that a professional charity auctioneer will know versus a volunteer or someone that is inexperienced in fundraising.

  1. 2.      Are you bonded as an auctioneer in the State of California?


Auctioneers that conduct business in the State of California are required by law to be bonded by the state.  If the company/auctioneer you are interviewing is not bonded by the State of California be very cautious to proceed with them.


  1. 3.      Are you a member of the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) and your State Auctioneers Association?


It is not mandatory that auctioneers be members of the NAA or their state associations, but all auctioneers that are members of both associations are required to follow a strict code of ethics while practicing as a legitimate auction company.  They will also tend to be more versed on the local and national laws/regulations.  Be cautious hiring auctioneers that aren’t members of both associations because they may not be looking out for your best interests.


  1. 4.      How many successful auctions have you completed and how many years have you been in the business?


Choosing an auctioneer that has not conducted more than 50 successful auctions and/or been in the auction business for at least 5 years may not be in your best interests.  In order for auctions to have a positive outcome, they must be handled by an auctioneer that has the proper knowledge and experience, which can only be gained by conducting a multitude of successful auctions over a legitimate time period.


  1. 5.      Do you have any auction videos that I can view?


An auctioneer should be able to show you videos of him in action.  If he does not have videos, request to attend one of his upcoming auctions so you can see how he works with the crowd to entertain, raise money and if his personality will mesh with your organization.


  1. 6.      Do you charge for your services?


Auctioneers that don’t charge for their services are not going to take your event seriously.  Many times, they are not requiring payment for services because they don’t have the ability to maximize your profit.  Ask the auctioneer what their fees are and use your judgment in determining if their fee is fair.  Remember, good charity auctioneers will pay for themselves with one extra bid that a volunteer would not be able to achieve.  “Having a volunteer or unqualified auctioneer handle your event is like having your accountant work on your car.”

*Remember, a good charity auctioneer has lots of tips that can maximize your event’s profits using a multitude of different techniques.  Auctioneers that have conducted several auctions have seen many different money-making ideas and know what works and what doesn’t work (i.e. timeline, types of auctions, item order, fund-a-need, etc.).  DON’T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR AUCTIONEER’S ADVICE WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING MONEY AT YOUR EVENT… THIS IS WHAT THEY DO FOR A LIVING.