An Auctioneer’s Perspective
You have been there before. A non-profit Organization contracts a well-known person, to create an urgency to attend an event. You are excited at the talent and the intimacy of the occasion. But is this the only reason why this A-lister is there?
Nearly twenty years ago, I formed a non-profit, Special Kids Network, in honor of my nephew who suffers with severe challenges. The goal of SKN was to provide funding for programs that help children and young adults with special needs. We started with the usual path, to find a celebrity to get more attendance and publicity. This cause was very near and dear me, and I needed to raise the most money I could.
Local celebrity, Chicago Blackhawks’ Jeremy Roenick has participated in our Special Kids Network golf outing for years. While his presence has helped us gain notoriety, it is what he does at the event that helps SKN raise more funding. Mr. Roenick is known to bring items to bid on and since he is very inbred in our cause and an inherent giver, he also bids on items as well.
As an auctioneer, I enjoy leveraging celebrities and am proud to say SKN has raised over 4 million dollars to date! While most organizations book celebrities to build greater attendance or publicity, by getting to know them as people, I now have an iron bullet in my pocket to help raise more money.
Cubs owner Tom Rickets and news anchor Janet Davies worked with me engaging in fun banter and jokes. Tom was energized and donated four tickets behind home plate to be auctioned off. In the end, he and Janet’s antics combined with my auctioneering ended up raising $26,000.
John Paxson of Chicago Bulls fame signed a $1 bill at the event selling for hundreds of dollars.
Oftentimes, celebrities work with agents whom, while looking out for the best interests of their clients, do not always see past the contracts. They are not always likely to commit their talent to going above and beyond. For example, I worked for an organization that booked Jay Leno. The contract was riddled with fine print. Once I met Jay Leno and he understood the cause, he helped me foster an environment of excitement using his star power by offering a visit to his personal car museum. It brought in a lot of money.
Dana Carvey, of Saturday Night Live fame, recently worked an event where I was scheduled to be the auctioneer. Again, I did not have prior contact with him, and I l got to know him as a person at the event. I asked him to sign a few $1 bills to be framed and given to big donors and sponsors. He graciously complied and also engaged the attendees of the event even more after his bit, signing his guitar and co-auctioning it with me, selling it for $9,000.
Other examples of celebrity generosity at the event:
- Styx donated 2 signed sticks by the band for auction
- Billie Jean King signed a tennis racket to be auctioned off. After realizing how much money was generated, she signed a second one and asked to participate in the selling of other live items.
- Archie Manning donated 2 signed footballs. Each brought in $11,000
- Erik Wahl, a professional speaker motivator and graffiti artist, painted two pictures. The auction escalated quickly to $15,000 each, ending with a new bidder coming in at $16,000. Within minutes, we raised over $30,000!
Conclusion: The Sky is The Limit
Once I realized the potential of combining my auctioneering talents, my love of people and my out of the box thinking, I realized the sky is the limit and I can help organizations exceed their financial goals.