Birmingham's "Bob Barker"
Birmingham, Alabama has a Bob Barker. He is not as tall as the one most folks know, or as thin, for that matter. He has the same hair color as the T.V. icon, yet is younger. Both begin their show by saying " what is your bid?" And both are very good at what they do. The one in Birmingham does not have a bevy of beauties like the one on the Price is Right, but he does have a staff of bid assistants that put on a good show for charity fundraisers.
B'ham's Bob is Jack Granger of Granger, Thagard Auctioneers.
This past fall, I attended two charity fundraisers, one for Children's Hospital and the other for the Birmingham Museum. My significant other had purchased the tickets and convinced me that a good time was to be had. I was not so sure. It was cold and besides football was on TV.
The food was good at both events though I couldn't tell you what I ate. However, I do remember watching some great entertainment as highly charged bidders tried to prove they could outbid the other. I was experiencing a professionally conducted charity auction fundraiser. B'ham Bob was in charge and he was "the barker".
Last week I called Jack to ask him a few questions as I prepared this article. When asked about putting on the auction show, he quickly told me that he has the best seat in the house because he is watching the bidders and that's where the action really takes place.
"For the last eighteen years, we have helped quite a few charities raise some significant funds. The past five years we have created seminars and "boot camps" for the staffs of the charities to help them learn more about auction psychology and therefore make more money at their events. Some groups catch on faster than others and follow our lead on helping orchestrate the silent and live auctions. Those groups that will accept that leadership seem to move their event to the next level", Granger stated.
"Our auction company sells millions of dollars of real estate and significant assets each year. We are trained at selling in a very short time frame and maximizing buyer's egos, testosterone/estrogen, and competitive juices. Many well-intentioned charities still look at the auction part of the night as a place for a good-natured volunteer to stand up and attempt to run the auction. It amazes me that the food at these events is prepared by a pro and the event is held in a professionally run ballroom, but the true business of the night, the fund raising auction can be left to "hit or miss".
"I suppose it's a good thing that our staff makes it look easy," he continued.
Charity function attendees in this area get an education on the difference between a well run silent auction and an entertaining live auction. Auctions are the staple of raising much needed money.
"We got Tiger Woods laughing so hard at his auction here in Birmingham a few years back, that his dad invited us to Vegas for his big event at Mandalay Bay. His dad told us that our floor show would play well for the auction at Tiger's event."
"We do charge an honorarium for our service, but it is minimal. Often the budget for the floral arrangements is many times the cost of our service and floral arrangements, as nice as they may look, do not make money for the event. The auctioneer is the only part of the evening that more than pays for itself."
"Amateur efforts at conducting the auctions may actually cost the charities. The missed opportunities to maximize through professional recruitment of bids, can diminish the months hard work by the charities' staff. The real success comes from the boot camps that erase myths on how auctions are conducted and a chance to break the bad habits that get repeated in an annual event. Most groups do an event once a year and can be subject to "reinvent the wheel" every year. This past year we did twenty-four events and have averaged 12 to 20 events for many years. It gets easy to diagnose the problems after a while."
"Our staff knows that helping at these events is giving back to the community. It is a good proposition for the non-profits to have our service and the public relations is good for our firm."
As we hung up from the call, Jack told me he would be watching for me at the next auction. He said, "You put your hand up (to bid), I'll tell you when to put it down. Bring the checkbook."
When told that his article was about Bob Barker, Jack said that his high school yearbook had him as "Most Likely" to be a game show host and that he had gotten an autographed picture of Bob Barker years ago.
Bob Barker, your replacement is in Birmingham. I think Jack will bid for your job and I am pretty sure he will trade his staff for yours.