I am a professional fundraising auctioneer. My clients are the boss. End of story. They are the ones that agree to my rate, the ones who give me the product to sell or the fundraising goal for the evening and they are the ones who put ink on the contract.
I am hired to make the most money for the client as possible within the given parameters (time, date, place, timeline, number of items, etcetera). My joke when I talk with groups is, “my job is to not let a dollar leave the room.”.
Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer at Sotheby’s who sold Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’, said it best in a Wall Street Journal interview, “I am hired at that moment to make the work as expensive as possible.”. Thus the job of the auctioneer.
A true auctioneer has his client’s best interests in mind – within the letter of the law – and is hired to make every item in the auction as expensive as possible. This is the case with nonprofits where the goal of the evening is X amount of dollars to keep the doors open… it could be the youth group needing X amount of dollars to go on a retreat. It could be a myriad of things.
The auctioneer with knowledge of the product (Meyer has a master’s degree in art history from the University of Vienna) will command the most money from those in the room… thereby raising as much money as possible for the client. This correlates to the professional fundraising auctioneers who work six to nine months with their clients to learn about the cause AND the items being auctioned at the event.
Those ‘hit it and quit it’ auctioneers that chase a dollar – those hired guns who run in and call a few bids and leave – are not doing their boss, their client, justice.
There are plenty of fundraising auctioneers in the United States who will agree with me. If you are part of a group raising money for a cause, on a nonprofit board or someone just curious about this segment of the auction profession, do your homework. Ask questions. Interview the auctioneer you choose to represent the organization.
I’ll leave you with with 12 words: You get what you pay for and pay for what you get.