To Get an Auctioneer or Not to Get an Auctioneer…That is the Question!

To use or not use an auctioneer is a catch 22 type of situation.  Should you spend more money to hire a professional auctioneer for your charity auction or just have a board member act as the auctioneer or just have a silent auction?

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.


An Auctioneer vs. No Auctioneer:

Pros:

  • There is no question that an auctioneer can raise more money. They can cajole the audience into getting higher bids and they can “sell” an auction item to the audience to generate more interest.
  • An auctioneer can be entertaining and provide the “life of the party” and a number of laughs at a gala. A live auction and a bidding war can be fun to watch and more fun to participate in.

Cons:

  • Live auctions are time consuming and can easily consume too much time during the charity event.
  • An auctioneer is only helpful if you have the right kind of items. It is a waste to use an auctioneer for auctioning off a dinner for two at a local restaurant or any item with a value of just a few hundred dollars or less.

Best Practices:

Limit the number and type of items. It doesn’t make sense to use an auctioneer on an inexpensive item. Where possible, have the auctioneer sell things multiple times. For items on consignment, this means that more than one bidder can get the item. Imagine auctioning off a consignment trip or a piece of sports memorabilia. Verify if the provider can handle the sale of more than one copy of the item and if the bidding goes high enough offer the top few bidders the opportunity to take the item.


Professional Auctioneer vs. Volunteer/Amateur Auctioneer:

Pros:

  • Charity auctions are known as “benefit auctions” in the auction world and auctioneers that specialize in benefit auctions typically have specialized training and a certification from the National Auctioneer Association.
  • Auctioneers that specialize in charity auctions have a lot of experience in charity auctions and galas and can add great suggestions from things like room layout, item auction order, staffing, catering, etc. and offer the benefit of their contacts to make your event more successful.
  • In all but some exceptional situations, a professional auctioneer will give you better results than an amateur. There are certain skills that auctioneers have and develop over time that an amateur is unlikely to have acquired.

Cons:

  • Professional auctioneers are expensive and the incremental gain that a professional auctioneer provides has to exceed the cost. For example, if you are only auctioning off items that may just generate a few thousand dollars, how much more can a professional auctioneer raise? 50%? 10%? How much is that worth and does it provide a reasonable return on your investment.

Best Practices

The bottom line is that a charity auction has to have the chance to raise a significant amount of money for it to be worth having an auctioneer and more than that for a professional auctioneer. Professional auctioneers add value but they do so at a cost of typically several thousand dollars.