19 February 2019

Calling for a cause

The auctioneer of choice for charities big and small, Edward Riley conducts between 30 and 50 auctions each year for a range of charities, institutions and local community clubs and schools.

Donating his time and expertise, he’s worked at in excess of 500 charity and fundraising events over the last 15 years. So prolific is his work, Riley’s dedication was acknowledged last year when he was recognised as a finalist in the John Grieg OAM Community Service category of the REINSW Awards for Excellence.

“There’s a Winston Churchill quote that’s always resonated with me,” Riley says. “He said: ‘You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.’

“Some people give by donating money, but I decided that the best way I can give back to the community is through my skills as an auctioneer.”

Riley’s natural gift for auctioneering was first noticed in 2001 when he was named the REINSW Novice Auctioneers Competition State Champion. Since then, he’s represented NSW at the Australasian Real Estate Institute's Auctioneering Championships on three occasions.

Saying ‘yes’

Riley’s auctions have seen a diverse range of participants including Oscar-winning actors, past Prime Ministers and even the odd billionaire.

“I enjoy being able to help charities raise as much money as possible, so that those who are less fortunate than the rest of us receive the assistance they need,” he explains.

“In terms of choosing the causes I’m involved with, it's more about them choosing me than me choosing them.

“Because of my profile, I constantly receive requests from organisations asking me to donate my skills as an auctioneer to conduct their fundraising auctions. I made a conscious decision many years ago to always say ‘yes’ whenever I’m available.

“I haven’t kept a running tally of exactly how much I’ve raised over the last 12 months – or indeed over the last 15 years – but, on average, each auction can often raise anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000.”

I constantly receive requests from organisations asking me to donate my skills as an auctioneer to conduct their fundraising auctions. I made a conscious decision many years ago to always say ‘yes’ whenever I’m available.

All manner of auction lots

Far from the world of property auctions, Riley’s charity work can see him auctioning off everything from the weird to the wonderful.

“I once auctioned a vasectomy to rugby player Phil Kearns,” he recalls. “But my most successful event to date saw the late Paul Ramsay of Ramsay Health Care raise the bidding from $6000 to $200,000 for tickets to a stage show. He then went on to successfully bid on a second item that night for a further $100,000.

“It was an extraordinary evening and one I’ll always remember.”

Every last dollar

With more than 50,000 registered charities in Australia, it’s never been harder and more competitive for charities to raise money.

“A lot of these organisations receive no or very little financial support from the government, so they rely heavily on grassroots funding to stay alive,” Riley says.

“Each charity or organisation has their own reason for fundraising, whether it be a local school looking for money to upgrade infrastructure or a medical-related charity wanting to raise money to fund research and development.

“They organise charity luncheons, dinners and gala balls, and the main fundraising at these events is often done through live auctions.

“By donating my services as a professional auctioneer, I can ensure their fundraising efforts are maximised and every last dollar is extracted from those in attendance.”

He’s that good!

Tour de Cure raises money to fund cancer research, support and prevention programs across a range of cancers. Since its inception in 2007, Tour de Cure has raised more than $40 million and funded 322 projects, which have contributed to 24 cancer research breakthroughs.

Tour de Cure Gala Events Director Cassandra Prothero, who was responsible for organising the 2018 Tour de Cure Spring Lunch charity event in September, says Riley played a key role in raising more money than the charity’s goal.

“Our aim was to raise $500,000 and, with Edward’s support, we raised $820,000 – with more than half the total made up from the live auctions he called and pledges he secured,” Prothero says.

“We had a big room at the Hyatt Regency, with over 680 people in attendance and a large number of prizes. Edward made it look easy, clearly pointing out to our volunteers who was bidding or interested in pledging, which contributed to the financial success of the evening.

“With just a 30-minute briefing he walked into the room like he knew everything. We plan to use him for our 2019 gala event – he was that good.”

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