Benefit auctions: So, you want to change the world.
Here’s how to get started

You’d like to add benefit auctions to your client services but don’t know how or where to start?
Here are some tips to get you going.

By NAA Staff

A great way to visualize the benefit auction landscape is to think of one of those beautiful, heavy snows where you can hear the big flakes falling to the ground. From a distance, those flakes may look the same, but science has proven that every snowflake is individual, complete with its own layout and design.

Now, imagine a whole sky full of snowflakes. And man, do they look like they would be a whole lot of fun.

But while it might look pretty easy to just jump in the middle of them and play, if you do that without the right preparation and gear, you quickly wind up cold, wet, and wishing you were somewhere else. That’s also true for benefit auctions.
Prepare correctly, though, wrapped in solid education, networking, and a passion to help those who have funding needs, and an auction professional can find great reward in adding benefit auctions to their repertoire.

“It isn’t just getting the agreement to show up, get handed the script, sell, [get a] check, go home,” says Bill Menish, CAI, AARE, BAS. “You’re going to hit more failures doing it that way than if you spend the time to learn what works and become a teacher, a mentor, and, more importantly, a motivator for your clients. They will build a bond with you that will last for many years, and they will thank you every year as you continue to take them to a new level.”

So, how or where does an auction professional start down the benefit auction road?

“The biggest answer here is BAS – the Benefit Auction Specialist course,” says Erin Doherty Ward, CAI, BAS. “It is fantastic.”

After that, Ward adds it is about doing some self-evaluating and figuring out how and where your skill set and skill level fits into the benefit auction environment.Keith McLane, BAS, believes someone new should, as quickly as they can, find a benefit auction friend and team up.

“The number one thing you have to do is partner with somebody,” McLane says. “With all due respect to these folks who do courses on how to start your own auction business, I think that’s a total mistake.

“Find out who the busy Auctioneers are in your town. Call them up and say, ‘hey, I’m a brand new benefit Auctioneer.’ I guarantee on their busy nights, they have smaller events they would love to give you to get started.

“I think working for somebody else is the best way to [get started].”

Bobby D. Ehlert, CAI, AMM, BAS, says regardless of motivation or experience, if an auction professional has a passion for helping change the world in some way, then the rest is details.

“As Auctioneers, whether you are a full-time benefit Auctioneer, or an Auctioneer with some benefit auction experience, you can help make that change in one aspect. Whether you are partnering or you’re going to get the education, you’re going to be able to increase the fundraising at whatever event you’re going to be able to help at.

“If we all did that, and helped our clients raise their fundraising by 10 percent …”

It’s easy to think of the difference that percentage would make or mean in a community, for a client, and for someone’s benefit auction business.

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2017 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips on diversity or hear more regarding this topic? Full audio of the presentation will be available in the NAA Knowledge Center.