Champion Auctioneer Jason Lamoreaux does it all, from cattle calls to charity balls.
By NANCY BETTER
The Greenwich Hyatt Regency ballroom is buzzing as Jason Lamoreaux, clad in a conservative navy suit and yellow tie, struts across the stage. “Raise your paddle if you want to find a cure!” he cries. “Who will give me $10,000? Let’s see those paddles in the air!”
Hands shoot up as Lamoreaux continues a steady stream of banter, stopping only when his goal — $300,000 for the Global Lyme Alliance – is reached. He thanks the 450 guests for their generosity, flashes a smile, and vanishes into the crowd.
It’s a performance Lamoreaux will repeat dozens of times this year, all around the country. As founder and president of Belding, Mich.-based Lamoreaux Auction & Appraisal LLC, he and his team of eight staffers conduct several hundred auctions annually. Locally, he has worked with organizations including the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation.
“There’s a huge, huge need out there for nonprofits to raise money through these events,” Lamoreaux explains. “We take a strategic approach, focused on the needs of our clients. We want to be their trusted partner and deliver the best results.”
Lamoreaux got into the business as the tender age of 15, when he apprenticed with his father’s company, which conducted agricultural auctions throughout the Midwest. The following summer, he persuaded his parents to send him to Kansas City, to be certified by the Missouri Auction School.
“I got on a plane by myself and flew out there,” he recalls. “There were people from every walk of life: young, old, male, female. Some wanted to sell cars, some wanted to sell livestock. The instructor said 5 to 10 percent of you will actually sell things at auction, but only 1 percent of you will be able to make this a full time career.”
Undeterred, Lamoreaux obtained a BA and an MBA from Western Michigan University, and continued training as an auctioneer. After graduating, he launched his own firm, selling everything from cattle to antiques. By chance, he was asked to lead a benefit auction – and he was hooked. “At traditional auctions, you’re selling assets,” he explains. “At benefit auctions, you’re selling goodwill, so you have to be able to embrace an organization’s mission and articulate its message.”
Lamoreaux’s services don’t come cheap; he charges up to $6,000 per event, including consultations and follow up meetings. Some organizations prefer to use celebrities, newscasters, or local community leaders, who charge lower fees or even volunteer their services. “These folks can be great emcees, and we can have great camaraderie working together,” he says. “But if you decide to use them as auctioneers you’re going to leave money in the room, and you won’t reach your potential. The greatest success is achieved by making the investment in a proven professional.”
Lately, a new trend has surfaced: the paddle raise, where everyone at an event is encouraged to participate. Prices might start at $10,000, then deescalate to $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500, and $250. Before a paddle raise, Lamoreaux works on connecting the audience to the cause, through a video and/or testimonial speeches. “We try to gather the energy, and make people feel like part of a cohesive group. Raising your paddle is invigorating, and a tangible show of support. It’s often the emotional high point of the evening, when people are most engaged and most excited.”
Married with a five-year-daughter, Lamoreaux lives outside Grand Rapids, Mich., and enjoys training for marathons in his free time. He also works on honing his craft, and has won awards – including the 2011 Michigan State Auctioneers Championship – for his efforts.
Going forward, Lamoreaux plans to continue his focus on charity events. “When people show up that night, I’m the face of the organization,” he says. “I have to make a direct effort to engage their constituents and I take that very seriously. But I also want to make people feel good while they give.”