How to hire a professional fundraising auctioneer… What should I ask when determining which auctioneer to hire?

Hiring a professional auctioneer for your charity, benefit or fundraising event is an essential element to maximizing your organization’s profit.
Here are some questions that can be asked to determine whether or not the auctioneer is reputable…
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, live auction and the fund-a-need or appeal.  There are many proven “tricks of the trade” that a professional charity auctioneer will know vs. a volunteer or non-charity auctioneer.
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 you are interviewing is not bonded by the State of California be very cautious to proceed with them.  Check your state laws regarding auctioneers if you are not conducting your auction in California.
3.  Are you a member of the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) and your State Auctioneers Association?
It is not manditory 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 code of ethics while practicing as a legitimate auction company.  Do not do business with auctioneers that aren’t members of both associations because they may not be looking out for your best interests.
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 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.  (Pictured right: Mike Grigg, AARE, BAS of Elite Auctions and Fundraising Services on stage taken by Henry A. Barrios The Californian)
5.  Do you have any auction videos that I can view?
An auctioneer should be able to show you videos of him/her in action.  If he/she does not have videos, request to attend one of his/her upcoming auctions so that you can see how he/she works with the crowd to entertain, raise money and how his/her overall personality will mesh with your organization.
6.  What type of training have you had regarding benefit auctions?
There are several different training courses and designations that an auction can complete.  The National Auctioneers Association has the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) designation that less than 1% of fundraising auctioneers hold.  It would be a huge bonus if your auctioneer had this designation.  Ask them if they attended auction school to learn his or her chant as well.  An auctioneer that is new to benefit auctions or doesn’t have any training might not be the best choice for your event.
7.  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 charging because they don’t value their ability to maximize your profit.  Ask the auctioneer what their fees are and use your judgment in determining if their cost is fair.  Remember, good charity auctioneers are the line item in the budget that make you money… It does not cost, it pays to have a professional benefit auctioneer.  They will pay for themselves with the extra revenue they will achieve vs. a volunteer.  Volunteers, weathermen, comedians, etc. are not trained as auctioneers and will lose thousands of dollars for your cause… they will cost you far more than hiring a professional with their lack of experience and consulting knowledge.  “Having a volunteer or unqualified auctioneer handle your event is like having your accountant work on your car.”

*Remember, a good charity auctioneer has a lot of tips that can maximize your event’s profits using a multitude of different techniques.  Auctioneers that have conducted a lot of auctions have seen many different money-making ideas and know what works and what doesn’t work (i.e. timeline, types of auctions, what order to put your items in, fund-a-need, etc.)