Questions you NEED to ask your potential benefit auctioneer.


  • How experienced are you in non-profit or school fund-raising auctions?
  • How many fund-raising auctions do you conduct each year?
  • What percentage of your business is fund-raising auctions?
  • Do you have the BAS (Benefit Auctioneer Specialist) professional designation?
  • How would you describe your bid-calling technique?
  • What was one of the toughest situations you have encountered as an auctioneer – and how was it resolved?
  • How do you interact with the crowd?
  • What is your Raise The Paddle / Fund-An-Item / Special Appeal strategy?
  • Other than night-of auctioneering, what other services do you provide?
  • What value can you bring to our event?
  • Tell us why your style would be a good fit for our organization.

You may also want to give them some information about a situation that occurred at your event and see how the potential auctioneer would have handled it differently.


Expect MORE from your Auctioneer

Sometimes the cost of a professional auctioneer can be daunting.  However, a pro will usually make back their fee with just one idea at a pre-planning meeting.  If you aren’t getting fresh ideas and consulting from your auctioneer… you need a new auctioneer.  Even if you an event planner / consultant working with your group, you still need input from your auctioneer, and your auctioneer needs input from you.  There are LOTS of things you should EXPECT from your professional benefit auctioneer.  Here are just three of those things…

The professional auctioneer you hire for your fundraising event should…

  • Know what they are raising money for!  The auctioneer should have enough knowledge about your organization to be able to talk about your group throughout the live auction.  If your auctioneer isn’t visiting your location, or hasn’t offered to attended a board meeting, or hasn’t asked questions about what the money raised is being used for… you need a new auctioneer.
  • Be introduced at the event. For years I didn’t do this… but I have learned it is an important part of the auction.  An executive director or PTA president introducing the auctioneer with a hand-shake on stage is an endorsement of the auctioneer.
  • Be at your event before doors open. I have heard stories about auctioneers who come to just call the auction.  That means they haven’t put the time in to get to know your group.  I am always at the auction about an hour before doors open.  You should have all of the details (timeline, sound check, etc.) done before any guests arrive.

How Did The Virtual Live Go?

Since the end of February when we all started having to think about this reality, I have been studying and researching all sorts of ways to continue raising money for you all.  There are so many different options, and so many different ways to do it.  I will continue perfecting this format until we are back on stage in front of your guests.

Picture of our home studio….


Hopefully you had a chance to tune in for our virtual event Friday night.  We learned a lot!  I will detail some thoughts below, based on some questions I have been receiving from clients.


– I am excited, because the client is ecstatic.  We raised more money for the SnoValley Chamber this year, than during our in-person event in 2019, and surpassed their realistic goal they had set for the evening.
– We had 1,600 pop in to watch the show on Facebook.  We had 168 bidders log in.  And although some things didn’t sell during our live show they did end up selling once everything was closed at 9p.  All items (except for the 2 high priced trips) sold at or above value.
– Honestly, Chamber organizations are hard sells even in the best of times.  There really isn’t a compelling ask like most other organizations.  I can’t wait to see the flurry of bidding at our next Virtual Event for a private school with a strong community.
– Many auctioneers across the country have been doing this solo.  I don’t get it.  You always need a great MC / Co-Host for your event.  Especially without having a crowd to respond to you.  You need someone to play off of.
– We have two options in how to produce the event.  Both cost about the same.
– The May 1 event was in my living room.  A crew brought over cameras, lights, monitors, computers, etc.  The set up was amazing, hopefully you saw the picture on my social media.  The great thing about this crew is, they are mobile.  We could set it up at any location you choose.
– The May 15 event for St. Joseph Parish School – Issaquah, will be at Canvas Event Space in Seattle.  This is a stationary set with multiple cameras, a huge stage and a staff of 4 or 5 that produce your event.  Check out www.virtuallivegala.com for details.
– The client doesn’t even need to be with us in the same room.  At the May 1 event our data entry / banking person was at their own home, as you may have heard when we were drawing the raffle, etc.
– We had a technical issue, and in our playback monitor I couldn’t see the bidders, or the amount that the item was at – that is why the co-host had her laptop.
– The May 1 event was only on Facebook Live.  That is NOT how you want to do it.  I would suggest embedding a Vimeo, Twitch or YouTube live stream onto your organization’s website or you could use a link on my website.  Once you embed a video, you can then share it to Facebook, but your main platform should not be Facebook.
– So why did we use Facebook Live?  The client wanted to.  It was a community based event, and because of all the tagging, and sharing it was thought more eyes would be on it.  And they were right with 1600 people popping in.  But in the future Facebook should be the secondary viewing spot and not the primary.
– Every event will be different, and there are many ways to “close” live items during the event.  The way we did it on May 1 honestly wasn’t the greatest because of Facebook Live lag time.  As you saw above – Facebook Live is not the best place to hold an event.
– Some groups will sell items in sections, and some will try and do it like a real auction, and others will talk about the items as Jessica and I did, and then just leave them open until a specific time.  That last option is how we should have done it last night.
– The group on May 1 had a “dream” goal of $50k… I would have advised them to use the realistic goal mentioned above.  I think when setting a goal it should be attainable so the thermometer on the software can actually reach the top.
– I would advise clients to create a powerpoint of the auction items as they would if it were an in-person event.  We were pulling up the Auctria page that had each live item on it.  That was not ideal.
– I would create more graphics/slides and intersperse them throughout the event explaining to people how to bid and where to log-on, etc.  Truth is not everybody was with us at the beginning of the show.  We need to continue re-setting the mission, and re-setting the “How-to.”
– I think we should incorporate video / music and more still shots during the event.  Those could be part of the powerpoint.
– It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to pre-record the entire event.  That way it can be edited together perfectly.

PROFILE #9 – Camp Gallagher

As fundraising auctioneers, we get to work with some amazing non-profit organizations.  From time to time we are going to highlight some of those organizations and the amazing work they do.  The best part of our job is raising much needed funds for great organizations like: Camp Gallagher


Camp Gallagher, a place for discovery and adventure, provides opportunities for personal growth in a safe environment through challenge and exploration on land and water, giving campers improved self-confidence, life-long friendships, and an appreciation of their environment.


Gallagher is a place where campers live in simplicity and community, discovering and exploring the environment around them.



Campers will:
Embrace and observe the beauty of the world that surrounds them. Gain self-esteem by learning new skills in cooperation with others.  Build confidence through group activities such as the challenge and ropes course and overnight adventures.  Show courage by sharing ideas and taking risks to challenge themselves and others to push beyond their comfort level to learn and explore.  Unwind and unplug while living each day from sun-up to sundown. Be empowered when learning to do something they never thought they could.  Observe how the moon affects the ebb and flow of the tides.  Learn competence in new situations.   Gain an appreciation of the out-of-doors through experiences in the forest and on the beach.


Campers will:
Persevere and problem solve. Build: sand castles, forts in the woods and campfires, meals.  Keep an open mind and listen to other ideas. Develop friendships and lasting memories while sharing daily experiences with friends. Create community while playing, boating and spending time on overnights cooking with their lodge.  Nurture creativity, curiosity and critical thinking while planning daily activities. Foster an environment that will show others social responsibility while living in a community.


Campers will:
Gain respect for the environment and learn how they impact the land they live on.  Gain navigation and water safety skills during two or three day overnights while sailing, canoeing or kayaking in the south Puget Sound. Play wide games and strategize with their fellow team members.  Hike in a pristine, yet rustic outdoor setting on South Puget Sound.  Acquire boating skills while kayaking and canoeing on the south Puget Sound. Learn to be resourceful and grow and stretch as they tackle and problem solve new situations.


Campers will:
Share, reflect and build new friendships while telling stories and singing songs at sundown and campfire at the end of each day.  Care for others and discover their personal strengths.  Respect others and the environment and gain an understanding of their impact upon the land they live on.  Share ideas and work together to create community.




CRAFTS – Get creative with help from our craft specialist and many fantastic craft supplies. We encourage campers to create a unique craft for a fellow camper in our end-of-session potlatch ceremony.


GAMES – Gals vs. Guys? Campers vs. Staff? It’s on! We take ‘Capture the Flag’ to a new level with our beach version of the game: Styx. And don’t forget about the most beloved Gallagher pastime of all, kickball before sundown.

THEMES – Each session of Camp Gallagher centers around a theme, culminating in an exciting ‘theme night’ at the end of the session. Past theme nights include a Gallagher Circus, a Haunted Halloween in July, Casino Night and Gallagher Prom Night.

SUNDOWN – The most iconic Gallagher tradition of all, Sundown is a chance for campers to gather, sing songs, share their thoughts with each other and bask in the unparalleled beauty of the Camp Gallagher sunset.


CAMPFIRE – What’s camping without a real, roaring campfire? We end every night (other than ‘theme night’) with a campfire on the beach. Campers lead songs, from feet-stompin’ favorites like ‘Flea’ to softer tunes like ‘Ripple’  played on the acoustic guitar.


CANOEING – Navigating the Puget Sound by canoe is a fantastic way to take in the area’s natural beauty, bond with fellow campers and travel to charming overnight spots on neighboring shores.


SAILING – Sailing has a big role at Camp Gallagher, with campers navigating the waterfront on small Sunfish, larger sailboats and even building their own rafts with tarp sails!

KAYAKING – Whether you’re heading out for a picnic lunch or a two-night overnight, kayaks are a pretty spectacular way to travel (not to mention a great way to buff up those biceps). Just don’t forget the sunscreen!


SWIMMING – It may be chilly, it may be salty, but there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a swim in the Puget Sound. From early-morning lemming runs to afternoon wading, campers are invited to enjoy the sparkling Gallagher waters under the supervision of our lifeguards.

OVERNIGHTS – Explore the Puget Sound like Peter Puget! For one or two nights, we set course for campsites across the south Puget Sound, sleeping under the stars and cooking meals over an open campfire.




Sound Experience

Athletes For Kids

Friendship Circle

Camp Rosenbaum

Growing Veterans


Center for Human Services

Do you publicize the value of your auction items?

Do you publicize the value of your auction items?


This is a topic I have struggled with for years.  Should FMV (Fair Market Value) be listed in the catalog or not?  MY ANSWER – NO.  I don’t think values should be listed on the powerpoint, or in the catalog.  The listing of a FMV in the catalog or on the powerpoint could limit the amount of money you make on a live auction item.  People are generous for sure, but they may not be willing to pay 3x the amount of something, especially if they know the true FMV value.

The only time you need to add FMV to a catalog or powerpoint is when the value will help sell an item.  For instance if an item has a high value but your guests don’t realize how special and how valuable it is – I think you should let them know, just so they understand what they are bidding on.


1) Your auctioneer needs to know the FMV of items.  It is crucial for her or him to be able to know where to start the bid.  And for them to know the true value of the items they are selling.

2) FMV’s need to be listed on receipts you give your guests at the end of the night for tax purposes.

3) The only items that should be listed as priceless, are items that are truly priceless.  Principal for a Day for instance, or class art projects.  But most everything in your auction has a true FMV.

4) You can promote the value of your auction on social media, etc.  “Come bid and be part of over $30,000 worth of fabulous live auction items.”

5) FMV’s on silent items should be listed.  This is the one place in the auction where it is OK for someone to get a deal.  Typically your silent auction return should be about 70% of value.

Another note: One of the most important questions we ask clients is not “how much did you make at your last live auction,” but “how much was the return of value of your live auction items.”  That information is how the auctioneer knows how spendy your crowd is.  If you earned $100,000 in your live auction and the value of the items was $50,000… that’s 200% of value, and that is awesome.  However if the value was $200,000 and you earned $100,000 that is a 50% return.  Big difference on the spending habits and spending capacity of your guests.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know: stephen@kilbreathauctions.com