Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Benefit & Fundraising Auctions... An Art Form

Non-profit organizations have always struggled with raising money for their causes. When the economy turns, it gets even harder. They often try a variety of methods to reach their goals. Many organizations choose the Auction as an event to raise money. Many of these same organizations find that it didn't raise nearly as much money as they hoped, and their guests were not very happy when they left. When I hear these stories, my first question is "who was your auctioneer?"

Before I even get the answer, I can pretty much bet on one of the following answers...

  • We had a volunteer do it.
  • The director (coach, priest, chairman) conducted the auction. 
  • We had a "cattle auctioneer" come do it for free. Here's the problem.... although well-meaning, they don't have the training to make the event a success. 

The National Auctioneers Association (NAA), has a training program specifically for Benefit Auctioneers, called surpassingly, the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS). Shannon and I were among the first in the world to attend this class and earn this designation. 

As a matter of fact, Rich is at a conference today (September 17th), in Chicago, learning with 75 of the other best benefit Auctioneers in the world. This simply means we have been trained. It means we know some of the pitfalls and the errors that occur when trying to raise funds. It means that we have seen what works, and what doesn't work, and we can bring that experience to our clients. But to get started, there are 7 Keys to success that all organizers must know. We're sharing it here because it's so important.

  • Right People There are KEY people that MUST be invited to every event to increase your revenues 
  • Right Stuff Auctions are about BUYING. The right number, variety, and quality of things to sell is essential 
  • Right Venue Having the right location and the right amenities available will make your event seamless, fun, and profitable! 
  • Right Agenda The timeline for your event, including when your event is held, can make or break your success 
  • Right Volunteers Your people make the difference, Having the right volunteers and staff, doing the right things, is essential.
  • Right Marketing What you say, how you say it, who you say it to, and when you say it, dramatically impacts your bottom line 
  • Right Professional Benefit Auction Team We, of course, hope you'll choose us as your auctioneers. But this includes your sound and AV folks, clerking and registering team, item supplier, and so much more.   

There is SO MUCH that goes into a fundraising event, often the ONLY fundraising event for the year, that you can't afford to miss any opportunity to be successful. Auctioneers are the ONLY vendor that brings money back to the organization. They are an investment. The better the Auction Professional, the better your return and profit. It's that simple.

If you know someone who needs to raise funds for their non-profit, have them contact a Professional, Benefit Auctioneer Specialist. We'd like that to be us, but if not, we'll be happy to steer them to a fellow professional. For more information, see our website at BenefitAuctioneers.com.

Monday, August 19, 2013

We're a Featured Contributor!

Benefit Auctions are a speciality in the business. Fundraising is very different from liquidating surplus assets, or running self-storage auctions. At Schur Success Auction & Appraisal, we have a division dedicated solely to benefit auctions. It's called Schur Success Benefit Auctions!

Benefit auctions require a whole new level of training, and an entirely different approach on how to help your clients achieve financial success. The National Auctioneer's Association (NAA) offers a special designation known as the Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS). Shannon and I were in the original class and among the first in the country to earn this coveted designation.

Being a BAS Auctioneer means we have the skills and expertise to help our clients truly understand the many facets of fundraising and fundraising auctions. We serve as consultants, coaches, mentors, and sometimes therapists.

There are dozens and dozens of variables that effect an organization's ability to raise awareness for their cause, and to generate both physical support and financial support. We can help guide them through these factors, and make good decisions that will help them with their bottom line. Ultimately, we strive to make a difference not only for their short-term financial goals, but for the long term of their base of support.

Recently, we were honored to be asked to contribute to a new book for Benefit and Fundraising organizers. The book, "Boost Your Benefit Auction, Ton's of Fundraising Tips From Pro Auctioneers" was published last week. The Editor and lead Author, Jenelle Taylor, is not only a Benefit Auction Guru, but a great friend and fellow auctioneer.

The book features tips and ideas from more than 40 Benefit Auction Professionals.

We received high billing, as we have the second chapter in the book, "Making it Personal". We're even mentioned in the acknowledgments!

Our chapter talks about the power of the personal ask, something that many organizations have relegated to email and social media. There's a technique, and a need to the personal ask, and we go over the details.

If you work with or for a non-profit, or have a non-profit that you support, at some point they will conduct fundraising efforts. This book is a MUST HAVE! If you'd like to donate a copy to your favorite organization, or have one for yourself, let us know.

The cost is $29.95 and the shipping is free. We even offer discounts for purchases of 3 or more books. You can call us at (866) 290-2243, or you can email us at BOOK INFO

We're very proud to be part of this great book. We hope you'll give it a read, and learn from the best in the business.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Ethical Auctioneer?

An Ethical Auctioneer?

A strange question. You would think that all auctioneers are ethical. We'd like to think they are, but, like any industry, there are always a few bad apples that ruin it for the rest of us.

When it comes to Self Storage Auctions, there are some things that we believe are necessary to be ethical. In many states, these ethics are spelled out by regulation. In other states that have no license requirement (such as Colorado), there is likely an association of auction professionals that require their members to adhere to a code of ethics.

Unfortunately, some auctioneers will intentionally engage in unethical behavior until they are caught. Some times, the auctioneer simply doesn't realize they are doing something wrong.

As far as we're concerned at the Storage Auction Kings, there are some basic rules that we require all of our auctioneers to follow:

Auctioneers bidding on the units they are selling

There is typically nothing illegal or unethical about this practice, as long as the bidders are told the auctioneer is bidding. But even though this is legal and ethical, we don't believe it is good business. It's our opinion that competing with the people we are selling to will always leave a little doubt in their minds, and it's not something we are willing to do. If one of our auctioneers really, really wants something from a unit, they are free to make an offer to the buyer once the unit is sold. But not before.

Getting bids from the Rafter Brothers

This is also known as "ghost bids". A ghost bid is one in which the auctioneer acts like he received a bid, but no one actually was bidding. There are many bidders who are convinced the auctioneer is "catching ghost bids" simply because they didn't see someone else bidding. If this were true, then catching their "ghost bid" would be unethical.

Usually, even though a bidder may think something funny is going on, they simply didn't see or hear the other bidders. Auctioneers work in a fast-paced environment, and are trained to see all and hear all. The "ghost bid" may actually be another bidder who is using very subtle or slight motions to indicate a bid. Sometimes it's just a wink or even a slight nod. Some bidders just don't want others to know they're bidding. Even though you didn't hear a loud "yuuuup", there could still be someone bidding against you.

Getting every penny from you...

That's the auctioneers job. The auctioneer works for the seller. Period. If she sells out too quickly, leaving money on the table, she's failing in her fiduciary responsibility to the seller, her client. But don't confuse this responsibility with strategy. There are times when it seems like we're not accepting bids to sell to someone cheaper. "You were at $800, and I offered $805"...."You should have taken my bid because it was more money!"
No. If we're at $800, our next increment will likely be $825, $850, or even $900. By taking your bid advance of only $5, we're telling all the bidders it's time to "nickel and dime" us. The better strategy is to wait for the higher increment, or sell the unit at $800 and keep the pace of the auction moving. Slowing down, taking such small increments (even though it's more money than the last bid), might cause the auction to drag, ultimately driving some bidders away or stopping them from bidding. At the end of the day, the smaller increment, although a higher bid, could actually lead to lower overall sales. It's strategy, not personal.

But it's an absolute auction, and you HAVE to take my bid!

No I don't, unless the auction was specifically and clearly advertised as "absolute". By law, in almost all cases, all auctions are "with reserve" unless otherwise advertised. A reserve auction means that the seller can have a minimum bid they are willing to accept, and has the right to accept or reject ANY bid. It's their choice. This is what gives the auctioneer the right to say "I'm not selling because we're not high enough" or to refuse to take your advance of a smaller increment than what he's asking for.

Why can't we go in the unit? Why can't we look at the stuff?

Simple. It's not yours, and in fact, it still belongs to the renter until it has been paid for (even though the facility has a lien on the contents). Simply put, once it's sold and paid for, then you can go through it all you want. But not until then.

But it looks like the Manager has been through the unit!

There's nothing in the law that says they can't. But the industry frowns on the practice, and so do we. By entering the unit in any way, management opens themselves to liability and claims of theft or damage if they touched anything.

I can't speak for other companies, but if we find out that a manager has been in the unit, and we were not told in advance that they did (and they had better have a darn good reason), then we won't sell the unit.

If we think for a moment that the manager was "cherry picking", or taking things from the unit, we'll close the door, cancel the auction, and void our contract. We just won't play that game. For many of our clients, we are the ones who actually cut off the tenant's lock and witness the inventory process to make sure no one went into the unit.

There are rare occasions when a manager should enter the unit... to verify that it's not just trash; to see if there is anything illegal or dangerous (think meth lab); or to see if there is something of such extreme value that a storage auction might not be the best way to sell the contents. But for our company, they need to tell us in advance of their plans to enter a unit.

There are many other things that could be considered ethical or unethical practices, and we will likely address them in future posts. For now, this should give you something to chew on.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Schur Success Auction & Appraisal is the home of the Storage Auction Kings, an industry leader in self storage auctions.

Join our conversations and fun on our Facebook page, or simply call us if you have any questions... (866) 290-2243.

Rich Schur, Champion Auctioneer

Chief Operating Officer, Schur Success Auction & Appraisal
Chairman of the Board, Colorado Auctioneer's Association
Director, National Auctioneers Association

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Absolute or Reserve? What's the difference?

There's a BIG difference... but let's start with the laws. The UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code specifies what an auction is, what auctioneers can do, and in some cases, what they can't. It clearly defines how auctions work. In 2-328(3), the law spells out that all auctions are "with reserve", unless specifically advertised as "absolute". Simply put, that means all auctions have a minimum price, even if not published or announced. That also means that the auctioneer can accept or reject any bid at his or the seller's discretion. This also means the auctioneer can determine what bid increments he or she is using or willing to accept. For example, if the auctioneer is calling for $1,000 and then $1,100, it's perfectly acceptable to reject a bid at $1,025. However, an absolute auction means the auctioneer MUST sell the item once the bids are opened. There can be no restrictions, no minimums, and no option to reject bids. (There is some question as to the bid increments, and if auctioneers have the right to choose the increment at all). An auctioneer can cancel an absolute auction before it starts, but once the bids open it must sell, regardless of price. That means if the auction brings a really poor crowd, and the bidding is really low, it will have to sell anyway. There is an advantage to using absolute auctions: The guaranty that the asset will sell. This means buyers know they won't be wasting their time. They know their efforts to bid will be worthwhile if they have the high bid. In general, absolute auctions seem to bring higher prices. This also represents a risk to the seller... not getting their expected price. There is a consumer caution we'd like you to know about. Some auctioneers try to get around the rules by saying that the auction is "Absolute, IF...." If we reach a certain bid, if the seller agrees, if, if, if. There are no "if's" in an absolute auction. It MUST sell. Some auctioneers try to be creative and say "ABSOLUTELY will sell if the minimum is met. In our opinion, this is unethical and deceiving. An absolute auction is just that, absolute. At Schur Success, we'll never try to deceive. Almost all of our auctions are reserve, including storage auctions. When we do run absolute auctions, we're very clear. We won't deceive. There won't be any fine print. We'll simply tell you up front. Questions? Give us a call ay (866) 290-2243. We want you to be informed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Auctioneers, the Original Recyclers

Earth Day is coming in April.

When you think Earth Day, you think Recycle. When you think Recycle, think Auctions!

Auctioneers have been recycling goods for centuries. During the Roman Empire, soldiers would auction the spoils of war to help fund the war effort. More modern auction houses have been around since the late 1600’s. Word famous Southerby’s was established in 1744, and Christie’s in 1766.

At the close of the American Civil War, auctions were used extensively to dispose of surplus assets as well as war spoils. Only officers ranked Colonel and above could serve as an auctioneer.

Most Colonels, having better things to do, would often give spot promotions to subordinates to the rank of Colonel, so they could conduct the auction, and then immediately demoted them when the auction ended. The title of Colonel has been used by Auctioneers ever since.

Over the centuries, auctioneers have been called on to sell just about everything. Buyers and sellers alike enjoy the rapid nature of auctions that gets assets sold quickly through competitive bidding.

In today’s economy, auctioneers tend to specialize in either markets or assets. For example, you’ll find auctioneers specializing in fine art, livestock, collectibles, coins, guns, household property, heavy equipment, and so much more. Even junk and scrap cars are sold at auction, with prices based on the current scrap metal market.

Real estate has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the auction industry. Rather than waiting for someone to present an offer, many sellers like knowing their property will sell on a specific auction date, and that they are likely to benefit from having multiple bidders fighting for the property.

What better way to recycle, than to have an auctioneer sell your unwanted goods, to someone who readily wants them and is willing to pay top dollar! And by some strange coincidence, we can help you do that!

Schur Success Auction & Appraisal. Recyclers!