From his home in East Hampton, auction site CharityBuzz founder Coppy Holzman looks back on how the idea of bringing incomparable experiences online could raise extraordinary amounts of money for charity.
Coppy Holzman relaxing at home.
Charitybuzz founder Coppy Holzman has a painting in the reception area of his office that reads, “Do good, live well.” It’s a fitting wall hanging for a man who is redefining what it means to raise money and give back. “If you’re nice to people, do good for people, have a positive attitude, and just do it because it’s the right thing to do, I think good things come your way,” says Holzman, who spends his summers in East Hampton, with his three kids, sons Sloan and Ian and daughter Logan, and 15-year-old dog, Biggie (after rapper The Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls). “It gives you a nice positive energy.”
With the goal of helping organizations raise funds by tapping in to the power of pop culture and technology, Holzman founded Charitybuzz out of his Connecticut home in 2005. The idea for the auction site arose following a backyard fundraiser he helped organize for a neighbor, attended by President Bill Clinton and one of the honored guests, actor Chevy Chase, to benefit The William J. Clinton Presidential Library. During a conversation with the actor, Holzman joked about auctioning off a Caddy Shack experience with Bill Murray. Within a few months, the auction was the first one ever on the site.
Hamptons magazine collaborated with nine artists, who designed surfboards. The boards were on auction via Charitybuzz and on display here at Southampton Hospital’s Endless Summer gala.
Now the site hosts a vast auction list of experiences and luxury goods to benefit charity. This past summer, Charitybuzz auctioned off incredible experiences like a workout opportunity with Gwyneth Paltrow and her trainer, Tracy Anderson; one-of-a-kind artist-designed surfboards; and city-specific art by Peter Max to benefit more than 2,500 charities, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and The Humane Society of the United States. The organization is also building its Dream Big program, offline sales that allow people to customize once-in-a-lifetime fantasy experiences for a sizable donation to charity.
Chevy Chase, Coppy Holzman, and Ted Danson at Christie’s in NYC.
Golf packages in the Hamptons are especially popular as well as meet-and-greets with business leaders—more so than encounters with celebrities. “Warren Buffett will get more than Reese Witherspoon; former Mayor Bloomberg went for more than George Clooney,” says Holzman, whose site has helped raise funds for Hamptons-based philanthropies including Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, Ross School’s Live @Club Starlight, and Southampton Hospital. “One of the benefits of Charitybuzz is that prior to us getting started, if you did an auction it was confined to just the people in that room. What we do is expand it to a global audience.”
Holzman poses with one of artist Peter Tunney’s infamous pieces up for auction on Charitybuzz.com.
Some items auctioned off on Charitybuzz for various nonprofits include a private audience with the Pope, having an exclusive song written for you by Emmy Award-winning composer Michael John LaChiusa, and tickets to a Weinstein-sponsored Oscar party. “We haven’t had anything with Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] yet—that would be great,” says Holzman of Charitybuzz, which broke its milestone of raising $100 million for charity last October. Raising one billion dollars is, of course, on Holzman’s short list of over-achiever goals, but in the meantime, he’s making Charitybuzz accessible on the go, so it’s easier than ever to give back to your favorite cause. “What motivates me is, if we can do cool things you can access where you want, when you want it, with new technology, and it’s very easy, very user friendly,” says Holzman. “I’m really lucky that I get [to combine] what I like to do socially with what we do professionally."