How auctioneer’s helping charities fund raise virtually

Season may be shorter with some charity fundraisers postponed. But not missing a beat, nonprofit fundraising is morphing online and already started.

Auctioneer Neil Saffer is known for raising thousands with live auctions and his “from the heart” donation requests. Here’s how he’s keeping charity fundraising going now.

Q: At what point did you realize there had to be a change?

A: By March 1, organizations were calling. They desperately needed the revenue these events generated. So, I got on the phone with friends around the country, other auctioneers. I knew their clients would be in the same situation.

Q: How long did it take to come up with a plan?

A: In eight weeks we figured out how to integrate video production, online auction software to bid and participating in real time. How to make an online virtual event feel as exciting as you can.

Q: Do you have a playbook?

A: We create a one-hour show with 2 ½- to 3-minute segments with live segments. We integrate either live or remote interviews about the organization or PowerPoints. We integrate entertainment like a singer or a painter. It’s like the old Jerry Lewis telethon on steroids.

Q: That sounds like a lot of preparation.

A: It takes 10 times the effort as a live auction.

Q: Is it working?

A: Beyond our expectations with the number of people watching and participating. It keeps the charity’s name and mission and needs in front of the community in front of donors and sponsors.

Q: Is there an upside?

A: There are a lot less expenses. Challenging times call for creative solutions.

Q: What will you do next?

A: Phase 1 is all remote. In Phase 2, some percentage will be comfortable going out with CDC guidelines. We still want to have charities’ donors, so we can do a virtual wine-tasting fundraiser and have wine and a cheese platter delivered to your home.

By Marci Shatzman

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