7 Questions with Rick Gallo, Benefit Auctioneer

Rick Gallo could be called an “accidental auctioneer,” stumbling upon this secondary (and mostly unpaid) career after stepping up to the mic for a March of Dimes auction in 2003. He and his wife, Barb, have owned and operated CloseWatch Services for almost 25 years and give back to the community in the form of calling benefit auctions. Over the years, Gallo has helped to raise “tens of millions of dollars” for numerous charitable organizations.

Just how many auctions has Gallo presided over? “I’ve lost cost…at least 200,” he says. Thankfully, Estero Life Magazine caught up with this busy auctioneer during the off-season, when Gallo takes a brief respite to visit his granddaughters in Washington, D.C. He will be back home in Estero to call an auction for Golisano Children’s Hospital in August.

  1. How many auctions did you do last season, and how much was raised in total donations?

I look at my season as starting in September and running through May. During the 2018-19 season, I have called 47 auctions and raised in excess of $14 million.

  1. Tell us about your path into auctioneering.

In 2003, I was on the State Board for the March of Dimes serving as Revenue Development Chair, and a directive was sent down from the national office that we could no longer hire an auctioneer for the Signature Chef’s Auction Gala, so I volunteered. I discovered I really enjoyed it, and, in fact, was pretty good at it. That evening, I was asked to call two other auctions. The rest is history. I will call my 66th Signature Chef’s Auction this fall in Manchester, NH.

  1. How is your auction business different from others?

There are “auctioneers” and then there are “benefit auctioneers.” The difference is like night and day. Granted, it takes talent to develop that fast chant of, for instance, a car auctioneer, but it takes an entirely different talent to be able to connect your audience to a certain mission and, rather than just sell them something, provide them with an opportunity to support the organization. Being a successful benefit auctioneer takes three things: understanding and believing in the mission you are raising money for; knowing your audience and their potential for giving without coming off as being pushy; and, finally, you have to be entertaining.

  1. Why is it important to volunteer in your community?

Barb and I volunteer quite a bit and friends will ask us why. I just look at them and ask them why they aren’t. When you give of yourself, most times you come away feeling as good, if not better than, the people you are helping. So why wouldn’t you do it?

  1. What kinds of charity events do you most enjoy working?

That’s a tough question. I get just as energized doing an event that has 900 people and raises $1.5 million as I do for an event with less than 100 people raising $30,000. I feel very fortunate to be in a profession that gives me the opportunity to help so many worthwhile charities.

  1. What might people be surprised to learn about you?

Maybe that I worked on a tobacco farm from the age of 12 until I was 18. And that I’ve had no college education. I started in sales shortly after high school and sold everything from bulldozers to baby clothes. Prior to moving to Florida, I was the vice president of sales and marketing for a large bottled water company. If that’s boring, then how about this: I grew up around the race track and my father built modified stock cars. I still have a love of cars, having just restored a 1979 MGB Roadster.

  1. What is your personal motto, or source of inspiration?

My inspiration is and always has been family. Their love and support is what drives me. I’ve always admired something said by Mahatma Ghandi: “We must become the change we wish to see in this world.” My motto is kind of like that but very simple: “Do something good…make a difference.”