We have the best job in the world. Every night we get to go out on a stage, have fun, entertain crowds and raise money for organizations that we love and believe in, and that we are passionate about,” said Neil Saffer of Saffer and Company Benefit Auctions. Neil and his wife, Trisha, have been working as professional Charity and Benefit Auctioneers for 32 years and have conducted more than 4,000 benefit auctions that have raised over $400 million. With their endless excitement and energy, they create and exude a vital spirit of giving that inspires huge theaters, ballrooms, auditoriums and convention centers full of guests to open their hearts and their wallets. They let their message be known that their goal is not only to feed, clothe or provide shelter to those in need but to help lift their spirits, too.
Together they travel the country, having conducted auctions all over Florida as well as New York, California, DC, Indiana, Georgia, Utah, Park City Mexico and Toronto. Neil usually visits first, prior to an auction, to check out those who have reached out to him since, “I am putting my reputation on the line, I have to believe in the people and organizations we represent” he explained. He traveled more prior to Covid for committee and board meetings but for the past two years, 80% of the planning meetings have been on Zoom.
The ultimate showman, at an event, Neil cruises about the room calling out, “$25,000, $30,000, $35,000” as he stirs and inspires a crowd to donate more and more. He says he makes the donors feel thrilled that they’ve won a grand prize while all the while they are giving to a hospital, a school or a camp for kids with cancer. His many causes are endless, and he can quickly cite a list that includes animal rescue, foster kids, environmental issues, hospitals, schools, churches and synagogues.
Neil grew up going to auctions with his dad and bought his first auction item at age 8. Now he and Trisha work together on stage, and sometimes with one or two of their four grown kids. At first, auctions were the couple’s hobby and date night activity but then it became their business and their life. His first auction was in 1991 for the Boys and Girls Club of Boca Raton and his second auction was for The Florence Fuller Child Development Center (now The Fuller Center) , and both are still his clients today. Neil and Trisha have five Auctioneers with whom they work since many of their dates are double and triple booked but their work requires a team of event planners, audio-visual experts, grant writers and additional staff in order to be properly prepared. Neil said, “We have never advertised or solicited anyone. Our reputations are our currency and non-profits seek us out. We only choose those organizations we believe in.” It’s obvious that Neil loves what he does. He added, “We meet great people and help organizations in a way we never dreamed of. We’re better than anybody at this, because we work harder than anybody at this and we help to raise significant funds for our non profit partners.”
Last month, as part of the Boca Chamber of Commerce Festival Days occurring every August, Neil hosted a “Boca Celebrity Cook Off” that benefited the Hanley Foundation whose mission is to eliminate addiction through prevention, advocacy, treatment, and recovery support. In addition, the foundation provides financial aid scholarships for individuals who could not otherwise afford addiction treatment. The event featured local Boca Celebs but Neil also shares the stage with world renown figures such as Jay Leno, Chuck Norris, Jon Bon Jovi and tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, and Chris Evert whose auction he had conducted for 23 years.
Neil is proud to have held positions such as past president of the Rotary Club of Boca Raton where each year as co-chair of the annual OPAL awards, he helps to raise over $250,000 in academic scholarship funds for local students. Neil and Trisha also proudly serve as board members of the Chiera Family Foundation, one of the largest fundraising efforts designed to help kids and young adults battling cancer. The organization helps send 150 kids for five days to a special summer camp in Florida, provides scholarships for college age students who have beaten cancer, and teaches the game of golf and other life lessons to kids who are currently undergoing cancer treatments. Neil and Trisha’s most recent event was at TAG Ranch in Park City, Utah, a working ranch whose mission is to provide a safe, educational and life-enhancing environment for underprivileged youth. He said, “It was an incredible night with 160 donors at an elegant outdoor dinner, under the stars, surrounded by the picture-perfect paradise of the Wasatch Mountains.” Besides Benefit Auctions, Neil has been honored with officiating at over 40 weddings for friends and family as well as been asked to honor those who have passed away with “Celebrations of Life” ceremonies. Neil said, “I spend weeks writing for these occasions in the same way that I prepare to represent an organization, its history, mission and the items to be auctioned.” He feels that whether it’s for a fun school auction, collector car auction or a $150,000 a week auction item on a private boat, it takes planning. “You can’t fake it,” he said; “I spend days preparing and I’m very passionate about what I sell and who I represent. You can’t do this if you don’t love it, and we love it.”