A radio DJ turns her gift for gab toward good deeds

From the Mixing Board to the Auction Block

A radio DJ turns her gift for gab toward good turns

As part of the morning team at KFOG radio, DJ Renee Richardson and her on-air partners would occasionally get requests to emcee a charity auction for various worthy causes around the San Francisco Bay Area. “There was not a whole lot of expectation of what they were going to get out of us,” Richardson told Good Turns recently. “They were excited to meet us, and knew we could speak in front of an audience. It was all in good fun and part of what you do as a radio person, you show up and you do things.”

But somewhere along the way, Richardson started to get hooked, not just by the role of “celebrity” auctioneer (air quotes hers), but by the desire to do more than just show up for the schools and other institutions that were raising money with their auctions. “About the tenth auction in, I realized, I really like this. I want to keep doing this and become a better auctioneer. I want to know more about what i’m doing and actually do good for these places that have asked me to come help.”

So Richardson went back to school, enrolling in a six-day course at the Missouri Auction School, the “World’s Oldest and Largest Auction School,” about 25 miles outside of St. Louis. The course itself was “a wonderful experience,” Richardson says. “There are families that for generation after generation are auctioneers, and it’s a skill that is passed down and it is their bread and butter.”

The course, held in a Holiday on historic Route 66, was pitched to a certain clientele. “As you waked into the conference room, there was a sign that asked people to please remove your cowboy hats so everyone could see,” Richardson recalls. “There were all kinds of wonderful people there. I got to be friends with some cowboys and some ex-Marines. Being the only person from San Francisco was great too, because some of these farmboys really have never gotten off the farm, and they just hear about places like SF and think we’re just crazy out here.”

More importantly, the experience has helped her raise more money for the organizations to which she lends her skills. “I have a lot more confidence now,” she says. “I’ve never been a numbers gal. Math, time, it all eludes me. But I grew to understand how to best do the increments, and how to value something, just basic stuff that an auctioneer would know. You have to exude confidence and know you’re going to get the money you’re aiming for. Knowing that you have the background and you have the skills and you’re not just blowing smoke, that really helps you do a better job and get the higher bids.”

“A lot of people can’t stand on a stage and talk in front of people. If that has value to somebody, I’m happy to do it.”

Richardson got the chance to devote more time to her particular style of good deed after a round of layoffs last year left her out of a job after 17 years at KFOG. She is now development director at the Blue Bear School of Music, San Francisco’s original school of rock. And she and her former co-host, “Irish Greg” McQuaid, also record a live podcast, Renee and Irish Greg’s Pop UP!, twice a month at Amado’s, a club on San Francisco’s hipster-heavy Valencia Street.

She may be busy, but she says yes whenever she’s asked to lend her well trained auctioneering skills to charity, and she always does so for free. “I don’t know where I got this giving nature. I don’t recall being raised to give back to the community,” she recalled after a recent school auction. “My parents always did through their church, but I’m not a very religious person. You get a lot of gratification knowing you’ve just helped this school or that organization. It can be kind of a major expense to hire a professional auctioneer. And sometimes there’s a time and a place for a more warm and fuzzy person who’s there to hang out and become friends of the group.”

“I don’t know what it is, I just get that thing that you get when you give back, whatever that is. I know a lot of people can’t stand on a stage and talk in front of people, and don’t have the skills of connecting to other people that I happen to have. So if I can use that, if that has value to somebody, I’m happy to do it.”

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