Auctioneer Duo Team Up To Form Inspire Hearts Fundraising

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Auctioneer Duo Team Up To Form Inspire Hearts Fundraising

Give celebrity benefit auctioneers Erin Ward and Bobby D. Ehlert 15 minutes in a room and they can make hundreds of thousands of dollars "magically" appear. The duo are experienced fundraising professionals who have shared the stage with Whoopi Goldberg, Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford, Zac Brown and Michael Ian Black, and together have raised hundreds of millions for charities around the world.

The power fundraisers have now announced the creation of Inspire Hearts Fundraising, the nation's first and only live fundraising event firm specializing solely in the gala paddle raise, which encourages entire rooms of patrons to donate by raising a numbered paddle or card. Ward and Ehlert call this "onsite crowdsourcing."

The twosome, who each own benefit auction companies - Ward's Star Benefit Auctions and Ehlert's Call to Auction, respectively - were encouraged by a trend of silent and live auctions shrinking while the income generated by paddle raises skyrocketed. Together they formed Inspire Hearts Fundraising to help clients increase their donations.

"People are sick of accumulating stuff, and no one is sicker of it than the development directors and event chairs tasked with the time-consuming jobs of securing auction items," said Ehlert. "Auctions are exclusive, allowing only one winner to donate for an item. As paddle raises open up the giving to every attendee, creating an exponentially larger donor base, we see these as the wave of the future."

A team on and off the stage, Ward and Ehlert met at a fundraising convention when both were going through difficult times in their personal lives. Soon they noticed similarities not only in their tastes in music, food and recreation, but also in their love of charity fundraising and their calling to take the stage in order to help those less fortunate. On New Year's Eve 2018, in Times Square as the ball dropped, they became engaged. Both have auctioneering in their blood: Ehlert is a world champion auctioneer and second-generation auto auctioneer and Ward is a New York State champion, third-generation auctioneer, and daughter to the award-winning international auctioneering champion Jill Doherty.

"Helping those who are working to create a better world makes us feel that we are making a significant impact on society," said Ward, who serves as president of the NYC Auctioneers Association Inc. "Our aim is not just to create a great event but to build community and an organization."

For up to a year before the event, the two work with the client, gaining expertise in their mission and designing a fundraising experience for the evening. Equal parts storytellers and motivational speakers, onstage they enlighten attendees on the mission of the organization, build the energy in the room and gain support, securing donors on the spot.

Inspire Hearts Fundraising also trains nonprofits on how to execute successful paddle raises.

The New York couple has a full dance card this fall, when they will be leading fundraising efforts at galas up and down the East Coast for the Design Trust for Public Space, Overlook (Medical Center) Foundation, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, American Heart Association, Association of Black Cardiologists, National Children's Chorus, Pace Women's Justice Center, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Pacific House homeless men's shelter, Ekal Vidyalaya Indian education organization, and more.

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