On Saturday, June 22, at the Southampton Arts Center, celebrity benefit auctioneer, Erin Ward will lead fundraising for the annual American Heart Association’s Hamptons Heart Ball. This famous third-generation auctioneer is known for producing over one million dollars during the LGBTQ GLAAD Media Awards. Additionally, she is the president of the New York City Auctioneering Association.
Now on her way to Southampton, Ward hopes to eliminate heart disease and stroke by raising money for the American Heart Association.
“As a Long Island resident who began my career in the nonprofit world before becoming an auctioneer, I am especially excited to lead the bidding at the American Heart Association’s annual charity event in Southampton,” said Ward. “Heart disease and strokes affect millions, and only through a dedicated effort can we find the best possible treatments and preventions.”
Can you tell us a little about your background in the non-profit world, how did you get into auctioneering?
EW: I was naturally drawn to the world of nonprofits as a young adult, as I wanted to be able to make an impact on the betterment of society directly through my work. However, as a third-generation auctioneer – my mother is an award-winning auctioneer, one of the few women of her day, and my grandfather was also an auctioneer – I also thought about continuing the family business, but wasn’t sold on the idea. The day I realized I could combine the two career paths – philanthropy and auctioneering – a light bulb went off. I had found my calling and true career path – being able to use fundraising and auctioneering skills to help nonprofits raise money for worthy causes really spoke to sense of purpose. I immediately signed up for auctioneering school, and the rest is history!
You have “made it your mission to help the less fortunate,” all while “rising to the top of a traditionally male dominated field.” What do you think sets you apart from other auctioneers?
EW: All auctioneers specialize in their area of sales. They sell what they know the best or what they love, be it wine, cars, cows, real estate, art or in my case, helping others in need. I focus on nonprofits, as I take pleasure in bringing people together to support one another and a greater good. I don’t think the auctions I lead are about me; instead, they are about making the world a better place and bringing people together to laugh, smile and feel good about helping the world.
Do you have an amount of money in mind that you would like to raise for the American Heart Association at the Heart Ball?
EW: A million dollars or more would be great. Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. This is not acceptable; we need all the help we can get fixing this.
Is there any cause that you have not auctioneered for yet that you would like to lead an auction for?
EW: Sure, so many! I would love to work for Planned Parenthood, especially right now, as well as the Surfrider Foundation and the Tony Hawk Foundation. Women’s empowerment is my biggest passion – it is in large part responsible for getting me to where I am today and I want to give back as much as possible in order to empower future generations of women.
You are the president of the New York City Auctioneering Association; what does it entail?
EW: One of the hot topics right now is legal changes affecting our industry. Every city and state has different regulations for auctioneers; and NYC has a number of licensing laws, some in place since the 1800’s and others that are brand new. It is my job and role of the NYC Auctioneering Association to help educate and inform members about this legislation, and how it impacts them.
You have been described as a performer, how do you get people to “dig deep into their pockets”?
EW: (Laughs) As a performer, I suppose I feel similar to a musician taking the stage. People come to an event to have fun and feel good about themselves. My job is to make them enjoy themselves, and be inspired to donate. I am always so excited to hear feedback such as, “Woah, you got me to spend more than I expected, that was awesome!” It’s important to stay on point with the message and the mission, reminding attendees why they are there. I never make fun of people or make it about me. Charity auctions offer a moment in time that can make or break the success of an organization and its ability to support a cause. There is a lot riding on my shoulders but I remind myself that I just need to make the guests feel my excitement about the possibilities!
For more information about the Hamptons Heart Ball, visit ahalongisland.org.