Nonprofit fundraisers need NAA benefit auction professionals
Year-over-year results can improve dramatically for your event simply by using a trained NAA BAS professional.
By James Myers
Most nonprofit organizations are in a constant struggle to stay within their budgets as they focus on their cause.
Fundraising events are paramount to the success of most a charity organizations, but is it fiscally responsible to hire someone to organize and manage fundraisers? When partnered with an experienced National Auctioneers Association Benefit Auctioneer Specialist, the answer is a definite “yes.”
Scott Robertson, CAI, BAS, has experience with organizations that aren’t sure if they should bring in an auction professional for their event.
“The primary reason I see charity auctions fail to achieve expectations is they simply refuse to get out of their own way,” Robertson said. “They focus on the costs of hosting the event instead of the return on investment. Also, they are often more concerned with throwing a party than hosting a fundraising event.”
Kathy Kingston, BAS, is also a Benefit Auction Specialist. She knows skilled Benefit Auctioneers add value, but can back it up with facts. An NAA-sponsored study published a few years ago Auctioneers with the BAS designation raise about twice as much money for their clients compared to the auction outcomes where the BAS credential was absent.
“It’s imperative that professional benefit auctioneers not only sell items,” Kingston said, “but they have to sell the mission of the organization.”
The benefit auction, like any other auction, involves strategy. Robertson compares his events to snowflakes – “no two are alike.” He approaches every client with open and honest communication. They work together to establish goals, financial and otherwise, through an auction committee. The committee should also be focused on audience development and quality item procurement, he said.
“Audience development is a 365-day priority for successful not-for-profit organizations,” Robertson said, “not just something to focus on the last 30 days before the auction.”
Furthermore, Robertson said society today is constantly plugged in, always feeling the need to be entertained (“i.e. checking Facebook at a red light”), which is why the auction gala needs to proceed without delays.
“They can never drag,” he said. “So, an efficient timeline is more important than ever.”
Kingston’s strategy these days weighs heavily on something called “fund-a-need.” She refers to it as the “most powerful” way to raise money.
“It’s an opportunity for every single guest to raise their bid card to give a straight donation to the cause at a level that is meaningful to them,” Kingston said.
The fund-a-need portion of the benefit auction has been an “epic success,” Kingston said. However, when it comes to strategy, a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. In some auctions there is no silent or live auction, just a fund-a-need. In others, the fund-a-need will become before the live auction, while in others it comes after. However, one thing she knows no Benefit Auctioneer should do is put the fundraising portion of the event at the end of the night.
“It’s financial suicide,” she said. “Do it much earlier than you’ve ever done it in the past.”
Both Kingston and Robertson agree that becoming literate in the terminology of non-profits is extremely important.
“Learn as much as you possibly can about every charity you work for,” Robertson advises. “So, when you’re on stage, you are the goodwill ambassador for the charity that evening.”
“Work collaboratively with auctioneers who are accomplished Benefit Auctioneers,” Kingston said. “I think it’s one of the most powerful ways they show their leadership skills in the industry.
“Auctioneers are leaders. Here’s another whole facet (of their abilities) that auctioneers can showcase.”
Find an NAA Benefit Auctioneer Specialist to lead your fundraiser! Click the link and search using the BAS designation filter.
*This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2, 2015, issue of USA Today.