I am often asked about my recommendations to find and book high profit, high fundraising benefit auction clients. I have one special phrase for everyone listening. Fish where the fish are. So let’s talk about a couple critical aspects. The most important thing to know is who your final decision maker is to retain you as a professional benefit auctioneer. My mentor, Alan Weiss, calls this person the economic buyer. In plain English, who is the person that signs the check? This could typically be the executive director/the board. Gala committees/auction committees may make a strong recommendation, but they are typically not the person who makes the final decision. The most important thing is to get in touch with and discuss your services and how you can create greater value with the main person who makes the decision or the economic buyer.
So, how do you fish where the fish are? First of all, you must get in front of groups in situations where you can meet the decision makers. So that means positioning yourself in places where the key leaders in your area gather, listen, and read. Here’s three hints for you.
- Do your research. There are national chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, often called AFP or the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy Professionals. There are groups of local fundraising associations, local groups of nonprofits, trade groups. There are over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in theUnited States, now this is according to last year’s data with theNationalCenterfor Charitable Statistics. So there are more than ample opportunities for every single auctioneer who would like to specialize in benefit auctions. So, one, do your research.
- Be visible. Remember all the organizations we just talked about? Go to their meetings, go to their brown bag lunches, go to Philanthropy Day. Do you have a local chamber? Go to their business networking After Hours. Typical leaders are found in these types of organizations – for example, Rotary, Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, different service groups – and be present and engage in those audiences at those different conferences and service groups. Even think about speaking to those groups. You can speak about auctioneering in general. You can speak about how benefit auctions are raising record amounts of money even in this challenging economy. You may have a special expertise that you can offer to be seen as a leader in your area to find those decision makers.
- My third tip, and I think this is so critical – is always, always deliver your top performance at every auction. Now why is that? Even at the tiniest little auction you may have someone in the audience who is an influence leader, a president of a board, someone who is on an auction committee that will see you. So I would always say do your very best and treat every single nonprofit with your top consulting advice, your planning, support, and your professional auctioneering skills because many, many of your bookings will come from that word of mouth of guests who have seen you at auctions and they pass that along as a reference to their friends and colleagues because they are so impressed with your work.
So, do your research, be visible and speak to groups where leaders gather, and always deliver your top performance – and that is where you will fish where the fish are.