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charityauctionThe benefit auction business in the United States (and around the world) is big business.

Currently in the United States, there are over 1.5 Million nonprofit organizations.

About half of these nonprofits (charitable organizations) are exempt under IRS Section 501(c)(3). This status permits donations to those charities to be tax-deductible to the donor.

Some estimate that there are over 200,000 benefit auctions annually raising over 20 Billion dollars. These benefit auctions raise money for a myriad of causes including — but not limited to — scholarships, training, campaigns, research and health care.

These auctions typically involve food, music and entertainment which the charity must account for in their budget. Of course, these events also often require an auctioneer who some argue shouldn’t be compensated — in other words, the benefit auctioneer shouldn’t charge.

First, who’s decision is it that the auctioneer get paid or not? It is the auctioneer and the charity who must decide. If those parties decide no compensation will be paid, then fine. If those parties decide the auctioneer should be paid, then that’s fine also.

However, there seems to be an argument that the benefit auctioneer (in general) shouldn’t charge. That view is often coupled with the impression that the auctioneer will gain notoriety and publicity (and maybe a free meal) thus no further compensation is appropriate.

I would offer that any auctioneer can charge (and determine that fee) and it’s not for any other auctioneer to dictate charging or not, or any certain fee. No different than one auctioneer telling another that he has to charge (or shouldn’t charge) a buyer’s premium, or a certain commission; each auctioneer gets to decide for himself or herself.

It’s obvious that many auctioneers do charge for benefit auctions (we have since 1990, and benefit auctions constitute a substantial amount of our annual income.) In fact, our most notable clients have suggested we are compensated in this fashion without us even broaching the subject.

Many auctioneers make a considerable income from benefit auctions, and many auctioneers offer their services free of charge for a variety of reasons … either because they feel it may likely lead to further business and/or they feel especially connected to the benefiting party.

That’s exactly how it should be.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Adjunct Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.