To the Internet!
Start with Google. Unless you know someone who can recommend an amazing charity auctioneer, the best place to start looking is on the internet. Use keywords like “charity auctioneer” or “Fund-A-Need auction” to get you started.
I also recommend looking at YouTube. Many charity auctioneers have videos out there. This is a great way to find auctioneers to interview and to see them in action.
If you want a more thorough search, head over to the National Auctioneers Association website where you can take a look at every registered auctioneer in the country.
And, of course, there’s always Yelp, which will give you a picture of who is available locally.
Interviewing an Auctioneer
Once you have found a charity auctioneer or two that you want to interview, you’re going to need some questions. Lucky for you, I have a list of ten important questions to ask any charity auctioneer before you commit to working together.
1. What do you know about our organization?
Any charity auctioneer you hire should have gone online and learned a little bit about you before your first meeting. This shows you that they are committed to the relationship and are willing to take the time necessary to make your event a success. If they didn’t take the time to visit your website before chatting with you, ask yourself if they are the type of person you want to work with for the next six months.
You did your homework, they should do theirs. If the conversation begins with the charity auctioneer asking you to explain what your nonprofit does, consider that a major red flag.
2. Are you BAS certified?
The Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) certification means the person trained with the National Auctioneers Association. To receive this certification they must do at least six benefit auctions and write a detailed case study on one of those auctions. Only 150 auctioneers around the country have this certification.
3. How many auctions do you do a year?
You will want to know if they are working regularly. Is this a full-time or part-time gig for them? A charity auctioneer who works infrequently may show up a bit rusty on the day of your big event.
4. What differentiates you from other auctioneers?
Every charity auctioneer should be able to tell you what makes them different from all the other charity auctioneers out there. They should also be able to make a case for why you should hire them.
5. Do you have any recent videos I can watch?
Most auctioneers have videos of themselves in action. If they don’t have videos you can watch how are you going to know how they perform on the day? You want to pick an auctioneer with a vibe and style that resonates with you and your audience. The best way to do this is to see them in action.
Be sure to ask for recent videos. If your auctioneer does not have any recent videos and only offers footage from an event over three years ago, consider attending one of their upcoming events to see them in action.
6. Do you have any experience with mobile bidding technology?
Technology is exploding across the fundraising world. If you are planning to utilize any technology, mobile bidding or otherwise, at your event make sure your charity auctioneer has experience with that technology, especially if you are using that technology for the first time. You don’t want to wind up in a situation where both you and your charity auctioneer are learning the technology simultaneously.
Need help figuring out if mobile bidding technology is right for you? Check out my recent article, “Is Mobile Bidding Technology Right for Your Next Nonprofit Fundraising Event?”
7. How much do you charge?
There are five standard ways that charity auctioneers typically structure their fees:
- Flat Fee: One price, generally all-inclusive. Always ask if the price is all-inclusive. This pricing model guarantees there are no surprises or hidden charges for your nonprofit organization.
- Base + Commission: They charge a flat rate plus a percentage of what they raise for you at the event. For example, if you raise $150,000, the auctioneer will take anywhere from 5-20% of the money raised. When using a base+commission model, set a ceiling for the commission portion so that you don’t go over your budget.
- Straight Commission: Auctioneers do the work for free, but they take a larger chunk of the money they raise you on the day.
- Flat Fee + Bonus: You pay a flat fee plus a bonus, or multiple bonuses, for hitting certain fundraising targets and goals.
- Hidden Fees or Extras: Some auctioneers have your nonprofit pay for bid spotters. Some require you to cover their meals or hotel room. Some require you pay for their parking. Factor in any of these extra charges that your auctioneer requires.
8. Do you consult before hand?
Consulting is one of the main benefits you get from working with a seasoned, professional charity auctioneer. They can advise you on your timeline, auction items, and trends. This advice can be invaluable. Some charity auctioneers arrive on the day of your event, grab a program, and bid call from stage.
Other charity auctioneers include consulting services or charge extra for the service. Find out which way your charity auctioneer works. If they offer consultations, they may give you unlimited access or an allotted number of meetings or hours on the phone.
9. Are you going to be the auctioneer?
Many firms have a number of auctioneers working for them, which means you may get a different charity auctioneer on the day. You should know who will be consulting and who will be doing the event.
10. Do you have any questions about us, our organization, or our event?
Similar to getting into any relationship, you need to figure out if your auctioneer is as in to you as you are to them. Are they excited to work with your organization? Do they have any ideas for improving your event?
You will be working with your charity auctioneer for several months, you need to be sure that you get along and are on the same page. Their answer to this question will also show you whether or not they have done research on your organization. Both parties should be interested in working with each other.
Asking these questions, and any others you can think of, will help you make an informed decision when it comes time to hire a charity auctioneer for your next nonprofit event.