Fast talker reaps benefits as charity auctioneer

Everyone probably has one fast-talking friend, one with a gift of gab so pronounced that subtitles are nearly required. One Carmel Valley woman has parlayed her fast-talking flair into a successful career as a professional auctioneer.

Cheryl Parker, the one-woman show of her company Partager Auction, has been a pro for 15 years and recently received a benefit auctioneer specialist designation from the National Auctioneers Association. Parker is among small company as there are only 67 auctioneers in the country that hold this designation.

Parker is coming up upon one of the biggest seasons for live auctions - fall. It is a time when many organizations are holding benefits and auctions have become a popular feature at charity events. In 2007, over $16.2 billion was raised nationally using live and silent auctions according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Parker gets a big thrill out of helping nonprofits reach their fundraising goals.

“I love raising money for people,” Parker said. “I really get a sense that I can make a difference for these people.”

Most recently, she had a very fulfilling experience working as the auctioneer at the Miracle League’s fundraiser at Carmel Valley’s Pacific Athletic Club. It’s a cause dear to her heart and she said she put everything in to making sure the league, which serves mentally and physically challenged athletes, walked away with a ton of money.

While the economy has taken a hit and attendance is lower at benefits, Parker said the people who do attend still appear to be spending money.

“I’m hoping that trend continues in the fall because I know it’s going to be challenging,” Parker said.

Sold on the auction life

Parker’s road to being a professional auctioneer is an interesting one. Out of college, she put her communications degree to work as a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times.

She used her art history minor and her love of art to get into galleries, working as a gallery director. Seeking a change, she started looking into doing art auctions.

In 1993 she went to the Indiana College of Auctioneers. She found the auction business was a mostly male environment, with lots of men in cowboy hats looking to specialize in cattle, car and firearm auctions. In a class of 60, she was one of two women. When she got her license in a room of 500 people, there were less than 10 women.

While she started out doing solely art auctions, people were always asking if she did private charity events.

“I realized there was a lot of need for that kind of expertise in a city like San Diego,” Parker said.

And once the bottom dropped out of the art market, it made more sense to go the popular charity auction route she said.

Parker notes that there is still some resistance with organizations about paying a professional auctioneer - some like to rely on “celebrity” auctioneers.

“We can bring in more money as a professional auctioneer,” said Parker. “We talk fast for a reason, you have to keep the flow going and keep the momentum in the room”

It’s a challenging gig. In addition to keeping things moving, Parker has to do fast math, remembering numbers and increments. Also, she never knows what kinds of auction items people will throw at her but she finds it fun to come up with ways to sell interesting lots. She once auctioned off the opportunity to name a new species discovered by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography for $34,000.

Her least favorite is auctioning off people, which she said can sometimes be awkward or embarrassing if they don’t fetch a big price or any bids at all.

The next generation

While live and silent auctions are always popular, Parker said that organizations should be looking at online auctions as a way to make money.

“If they’re not looking to do online auctions right now, they’re not in the 21st century of fundraising,” Parker said.

There are many advantages to online auction - people can be bidding on items in weeks leading up to event and those who are unable to attend the actual event can bid. It also serves the portion of society that just gets a kick out of doing online bidding, like Parker’s mom, who puts a bid in on almost every auction on her website.

Parker said it’s worth a try, especially as her company offers the service for free.

To find out more Partager Auction, go to

or call (858) 793-7671.