How to Hire the Right Auctioneer for Your Benefit Event

Are you running a charity gala and need the help of a benefit auctioneer? Hiring an auctioneer can seem daunting, particularly if it’s your first time as the auction chair.

Not to fear! Regardless of whether you’re running a small live auction, a big gala or perhaps even a virtual gala, this post will teach you how to hire an auctioneer for your benefit event.

The Three Options for Hiring an Auctioneer

To start, you generally have three main options for obtaining an auctioneer.

Volunteer Auctioneers

First, there’s the volunteer auctioneer. As the name suggests, the volunteer auctioneer is your “free” option, where a celebrity, parent, or other person close to the cause shows up and takes bids.

Volunteer auctioneers (especially first-timers) should only be considered for small events, where there is a relatively low ceiling on the funds that could be raised during the live auction. While the volunteer auctioneer is “free”, you will “pay” in foregone revenue.

Commercial Auctioneers

Next, there are commercial auctioneers. Commercial auctioneers are seasoned bid takers, but they don’t specialize in fundraisers. For example, a commercial auctioneer could be a local real estate auctioneer who moonlights at benefit galas.

Hiring a commercial auctioneer lowers your risk that a volunteer will totally tank on stage. However, a commercial auctioneer may lack fundraising expertise, like how to entertain an audience or craft a fund-a-need presentation.

Benefit Auctioneers

Finally, there are professional benefit auctioneers who exclusively serve fundraisers. In addition to taking bids, they consult on procurement, audience development, event planning, storytelling and other key aspects of your gala.

Any gala seeking to raise above $60k in revenue should strongly consider a benefit auctioneer, as your expense will be a drop in the bucket relative to your total proceeds.

Hiring a Benefit Auctioneer

So how do you go about hiring a benefit auctioneer?

Step 1: Create a List of Candidates

The first thing you will need to do is create a list of eligible candidates. Two places to start are:

  • The National Auctioneers Association’s list of Benefit Auction Specialists. The Benefit Auction Specialist, or BAS, designation is awarded to auctioneers who complete a course in benefit auction fundraising.
  • The second place to look is TravelPledge’s Directory of Certified Professionals. Each TravelPledge Certified Professional agrees to operate in a financially transparent way and coach key strategies to maximize donations.

Narrow your list based on auctioneers who serve your region and who are available on your preferred event date. Most benefit auctioneers work regionally, though some top professionals travel cross country to present at big events.

Step 2: Conduct Interviews

Interview each eligible auctioneer, review their credentials, and follow up with references. Most established benefit auctioneers have a highlight video showcasing their talents that can be useful in your evaluation.

When interviewing an auctioneer, you should:

  • Learn the auctioneer’s style. Would they be a good brand ambassador for your organization?
  • Verify the benefit auctioneer has conducted many fundraising auctions similar to your planned event.
  • Ask for data on success conducting the fund-a-need.
  • Describe a tough situation your organization had in a previous event and ask how the auctioneer would’ve handled it.
  • Learn what other services the auctioneer provides besides bid-taking.
Step 3: Analyze Costs and Benefits

The final step to hiring a benefit auctioneer is to analyze which auctioneer will get you the most bang for your buck.

The compensation structures for auctioneers vary significantly. You will find a mix of flat fee, commission, bonuses and services premiums.

The optimal structure will depend on your organizational preferences and the size of your event. Though, if your auctioneer works on a commission basis, ask for a cap on the total compensation.

Weigh the cost information against your expected benefits from the candidates you interviewed and identify the best fit!

Keep careful notes about the performance of your benefit auctioneer so next year’s committee can decide to sign them again to start a new search. This a a good practice not only for your auctioneer, but also for any other vendor you hire.


Al McDonald is the Chief Product Officer for TravelPledge and author of the e-book “The Definitive Guide to Silent Auction Fundraisers.” Al has helped thousands of nonprofits exceed their auction goals through auction item procurement and advice. Al understands that successful auctions are hard work and is committed to delivering practical advice that will move the needle for you today.