Photo courtesy of Israel Schachter
Israel Schachter of Charity Bids boasts a celebrity roster of clients, including the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Elton John, Drake, Jamie Foxx, and Usher. He specializes in curating one-of-a-kind experiences in celebrity interactions, boutique parties, and high-end travel — all for good causes.
And what kind of experiences? Driving an Aston Martin across a frozen lake in Iceland; travelling to the bottom of the ocean to see the Titanic wreckage; a trip to an exotic private island; meeting the Pope; golfing with a US president; and that’s not all.
“What I love about this business is that I am always up for a challenge. I love being creative and thinking outside the box — especially in this space when so much money is being raised for good. Your crazy idea is our Tuesday afternoon,” Schachter said.
At age 19, Schachter planned a concert for United Hatzalah of Israel (volunteer medical responders) that continues to this day. Much later, friends asked him if he’d help them with a golf tournament and auction for Zareinu (now called Kayla’s Children’s Center.) In a matter of two weeks, they solicited over $200,000 worth of product.
“That set off a light bulb in my head. I was like, ‘Hey, people are willing to give products and services a lot more than money sometimes.’ So, the organization was ecstatic, and we packaged things together to make them worth even more.”
They raised more than $52,000, and the organization was thrilled it was the most they’ve made in an auction. Yet, they couldn’t understand how there was so much still left on the auction table. Part of the reason, they figured, was that 140 people at an event could only buy so much.
“There is never a way for something like this to be truly successful when the success of the event is limited to the people in the room,” Schachter said. There were thousands of people in the database that could have been tapped, if the auction had been online.
With an eye for entering a new frontier, he hired a full-time programmer in 2008 and spent a year building a platform. Soon enough, charities hopped on board.
“We were there at perfect timing [during the recession] because so many people who were otherwise supporting organizations by giving them money were now giving ‘in kind’ donations, and many organizations were cancelling their scheduled galas and events and were moving to online fundraising initiatives instead. We were right there, at the right time, to help,” he noted.
The site got the attention of Bob Johnson, who left a voicemail asking for a meeting in New York. It was that Bob Johnson — the first Black billionaire in America who founded BET and sold it to Viacom for $3 billion.
Johnson had memorabilia that he accumulated from his celebrity friends over the years and didn’t want anymore. He gave his son the task to figure out what to do with all this material, and having looked at various platforms, was impressed with what Israel and Ronen had put together.
They created a new brand and new website: Club Charity. Then, in came their next clients who hitched a ride on the idea — Michael Jordan, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Dallas Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith.
The auctions were taking place on their own websites and within their Facebook fan pages. “We were actually the first ones that I know of to build a Facebook app that allowed transactions to take place within the Facebook platform. So, on celebrities’ fan pages, they were able — using our app — to have their auctions for their charity only, and you didn’t have to leave Facebook to complete a transaction.”
Interestingly, Joe Green — Mark Zuckerberg’s former roommate and, at that time, Facebook’s head of their online “Causes” section — told Israel in a meeting that this idea wouldn’t go anywhere. “We were five years ahead of our time,” shrugged Schachter.
Schachter continued his assistance in the charity space when he and his wife Shoshana started Chai Lifeline — a charity for ill children — in Toronto. It was a small operation at the time (one staff member), sharing office space with someone who fought speeding tickets. Schachter had an idea; rather than take decades to build the brand — “Do something so freaking big and let people know you are here, and here to stay.”
That event took place at Roy Thomson Hall with a 65-piece orchestra, a world-famous cantor, and a 50-piece choir. “Overnight, the Chai Lifeline brand and the event were everywhere.” They raised three-quarters of a million dollars. “It put the organization on the map,” he said.
Whenever Schachter hears of a potential opportunity to brighten the lives of sick children, he jumps at the chance. One example is when Will Smith was in Toronto filming Suicide Squad, and Schachter arranged for some kids to see the set. Another huge treat for the kids is hobnobbing with Drake each year at his concerts: the kids ride in a limo, have a dinner, go to the concert, and meet him backstage.
Then the pandemic hit, and like most companies, Schachter was knocked off kilter. To pivot, his team began planning virtual parties, the first one being a snap online event where, in under a week, they brought in Jay Leno, Jennifer Hudson, Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and cast members of Saturday Night Live doing a custom-written segment.
“What we did as a team during COVID just trumped everything we’ve done in the past 10 years collectively,” he says of the $100 million he helped raise during the pandemic.
These virtual events garnered his company some serious visibility. The driving force behind the success of countless great causes is Israel Schachter’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and industriousness. “I’ve always been proud of what we’ve done in the non-profit space,” he noted, “how we’ve helped put very important charities on the map and helped them raise a lot of money.”
Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer