Tips for Hiring a Great Auctioneer for Your Charity Auction

So, you have decided to hire an auctioneer for your charity auction. If you haven’t used a professional auctioneer before and are looking to hire one, the first thing we recommend doing is to find some referrals from trusted business associates who have used auctioneers at their events. There is nothing stronger than a personal referral!

Not every auctioneer you will find is an expert in auctioning items to a charity audience—it isn’t the same thing as auctioning cattle, foreclosed real estate or even artwork. Charity auctions, which are known as “benefit auctions” in the auctioneering industry, require some different skills. In fact, the National Association of Auctioneers (the “NAA”) has a special training and certification program for benefit auctioneers. A member of the NAA, with the benefit auctioneer designation will typically have a “BAS” after their name. Here is a link to their website.

There are nuances to charity auctions that make them different.  For example, the audience which is made up of more non-bidders than bidders and they are looking for the entertainment value of the auction. They don’t want to be bored—they want to be entertained! Additionally, the items are varied and the bidders need more seduction. They don’t “need” anything being auctioned and there are no professional bidders. At a real estate auction or cattle auction the audience is dominated by professional buyers that simply won’t bid on something they don’t need. They don’t need to be seduced. It would even come as a surprise that a recent art auction at the venerable auction house of Sotheby’s each lot is auctioned in an average of 45 seconds. Most art sales at art auctions are made up of bidders who are professional buyers—no seduction, or entertainment required.

If you don’t have a referral for an auctioneer, we have two recommendations on finding one. Firstly, contact the development director of a local charity that has recently had an event and find out who they used. There is really no reason why the other charity will keep it a secret. You can get a referral and a reference in one call as they can also tell you the auctioneers strengths and weaknesses and some best practices.

Another way to get the names of local recommended auctioneers is by contacting the state or regional chapter president of the NAA and ask him/her for a referral.  Google “{state name} auctioneer association”. Nearly every state has a state association. Make sure to ask for a BAS certified auctioneer.

With any auctioneer you are introduced to, it is very important to ask for and to check references. When checking references ask about results, of course, but also ask about how easy it was to work with the auctioneer and whether they were helpful in giving advice for organizing the event. Auctioneers who truly have a lot of experience in benefit auctions have been to a lot of charity events and should have a sense of what works and doesn’t work and should be forthcoming about advising you and your team. The auctioneer should be a resource committed to the event’s success, not just a gun for hire to do the auction itself.

Ultimately, you are looking for, not just an auctioneer, but a member of your team. It may be time consuming to get some auctioneer referrals but it won’t be difficult. The difficult part is going to be finding the best auctioneer, not an adequate one easily. Finding the best one is going to be based on checking references and spending the time necessary.