The idea behind a benefit/charity auction is to raise money for an organization, usually a non-profit. Most people, even non-auction goers, are familiar with and, probably have even attended one. Typically, these auctions have a silent bid component as well as a live bid portion conducted by a professional auctioneer.
Anytime the word “auction” is in the news or community events I take interest. Each year, countless organizations run benefit auctions. Nearly all seem to have one thing in common. You can learn all about the organization; after all, the event is all about raising money. You can find out how wonderful the place is, where the event is being held; how delicious the food is that you might be served and how wonderful the items up for auction are; but most fail to mention the important ingredient…. The auctioneer!
The auctioneer’s job is to cajole and coax, to make you laugh and cry but most of all to get you to spend money; and all for a worthy cause! In fact, the auctioneer is usually given the task of selling the high end items, the pieces that will generate the most money. Not just any auctioneer can achieve the desired results, it takes an experienced professional auctioneer.
Why is it, then, that mentioning the auctioneering is nearly always forgotten?
This summer I was at a Harrisburg Senators baseball game and between the innings the announcer was encouraging fans to participate in the silent auction and to stay after the game for the live bidding. During each announcement, I seemed to miss exactly what was being said. I became extremely curious as to who might be the auctioneer. When I could no longer contain myself, I headed to the silent bid area and asked. No one knew. At my raised eyebrow, one of the worker bees contacted the event coordinator, who also didn’t know the answer. I was dumb founded. So I waited.
Night fell and the live auction began. Outside. In the stadium. With the lights turned down. David Birmingham was the auctioneer. If you don’t know or haven’t had the opportunity to see David in action, you’re missing out. I’ve always thought he was a fine auctioneer, but that night I realized he is better than that. No one introduced him. He was placed at home plate and had to look up at the fans throughout the stadium. The whole stadium. And catch their bids – basically in the dark. He did a fantastic job and raised good money. So, I checked over the next few days on the charity’s website to see if there was any public mention to thank him for his services. Not a peep, for shame
As so it goes for the unknown auctioneer. You’ve donated your time and talent to countless organizations throughout the years. You’ve loaned equipment, trained volunteers, given free appraisals, helped with organizing and much more. You don’t ask to be reimbursed, and you’d never ask to be recognized. Perhaps, that’s why you’re not.
So, I encourage those involved in with benefit auctions to acknowledge the services of the auctioneer. To mention him/her in the advertising and press releases; to take the time to introduce him to the bidders and to publicly thank him for his efforts. Not because the auctioneer is asking for it or wants “free advertising” out of it but simply because it’s the right thing to do.